Fiction: Twenty Per Cent

By

Clive Aaron Gill

 

 

 

I received a phone call from my 21-year-old daughter.

“Dad,” she said when she stopped crying, “the doctor told me I have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. It’s incurable.”

I tried to console my daughter and hide my depression.

A week later, I sat on a bench in Santa Monica, facing the Pacific Ocean.

A blond-bearded man wearing ragged jeans and flip-flops sat beside me.

“Another beautiful, winter day in Southern California,” he said in a modest, hoarse voice.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” I said, my eyes traveling to his thin frame, his frayed denim shirt and his hairy ears. “I get to wear shorts most of the year.”

I watched the waves plunge onto the broad, white beach and breathed the salty air.

I turned to him. “I’m Adam.”

He extended his hand. “Pete.”

“I got sad news last week,” I said.

Pete rubbed his chin. “Ah… what news?”

“My daughter has a terminal disease.”

“Oh. That’s too bad,” Pete said.

“Things will be difficult for me now.”

“Is her mother able to help?”

“No. My ex acts like a child, asking my kids for advice.”

“That’s… that’s sad,” Pete said. “Sometimes life takes us on rocky paths.”

“I know. My daughter’s lipstick paintings are in a New York art show.”

“Wow! She must be talented,” Pete said. “My son is an executive in a financial management company.”

“You’re proud of him.”

“Yup. He has a gorgeous wife.” Pete’s broad smile showed a missing front tooth. “She organizes fund-raising for the San Diego Wild Animal Park.”

“She sounds like a honey. Do they have children?”

“Yeah. Two boys. They go to La Jolla High School. Both are sharp as… as a tack.”

“Where do they live?”

“In, you know, an upscale area. They got a two-story house with a four-car garage. A gated community. My son plays golf there twice a week.”

“Must be nice,” I said, in an indifferent tone,

Pete shrugged. “Never cared for golf. Too expensive. I don’t see my son or his family much.”

His words reminded me of my father who worked five and a half days a week. On Saturday afternoons he played golf with his friend. He went to his office every Sunday morning to write to his brother who lived in England. On Sunday afternoons he took my mother to visit relatives.

Pete said, “My son called me a few months ago. He said, ‘Everything would be perfect, if only my income was 20 per cent more.’”

“Can I be honest?”

Pete nodded.

“Your son is not doing badly.”

“Ah… you’re right,” Pete said, and gave a hollow laugh. “He’s a… greedy young man who doesn’t have time for his old Pops.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

clive-aaron-gill

Clive Aaron Gill

Clive Aaron Gill’s short stories have appeared in numerous Internet magazines. Born in Zimbabwe, Clive has lived and worked in Southern Africa, North America and Europe. He received a degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and lives in San Diego.

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