Tea for Two

Submitted into Contest #160 in response to: Start your story with the whistle of a kettle.... view prompt

5 comments

Contemporary Sad Fiction

The kettle turns itself off with a decisive clunk and John pours boiling water onto the teabags in the mugs.

           ‘Dad!...you wanna cup of tea?’ No answer. John doesn’t think his father can hear him anymore. It’s either that or plain ignorance. Whatever! He takes one of the mugs through to the shadowy living room and places it on the occasional table next to where the old man sits in his riser recliner chair.

           ‘We’re nearly out of milk…I’m gonna pop out to Tesco’s in a minute and get some…You’ll be alright won’t you?’ And then picking up the remote control from the small table John flicks the TV into life, and starts cruising through the channels.

           ‘I’ll leave the tele on for you…Look, Olympic diving…You’ll like that won’t you?’ John drops the remote back beside the mug and walks over to the closed curtains.

           ‘Gonna be a hot one today…I’ll only open these curtains a bit…Otherwise, there’ll be too much glare on the screen.’ With a swish, John parts the curtains about a foot, and a stream of sunlight falls onto the faded carpet. He reaches up and pushes the fanlight slightly open.

           ‘Let a bit of air in…Not too much, don’t want you catching cold, do we?’

Three hours later PC Berriman pulls up outside 25 Avon Road. She picks up her hat from the passenger seat and arranges it carefully on her head. Her mousy hair has been pulled severely back into a tight bun and her makeup is deceptively natural. She’s only been in the force for fourteen months and likes to look the part. Picking up the clipboard from the seat beside her, she checks the facts before she exits the patrol car. She steps out into the bright sunshine and immediately feels a slight dampness begin under her arms. She scans the front of the house: neat hedge and lawn, well-trimmed, no flower beds, yellowing net curtains, gently moving in the hint of the breeze. No hint of a woman’s touch here. She sighs, pulls her back up straight, bracing herself for whatever is about to come. Up the concrete path to the front door, she uses the speckled chrome knocker to knock. The entire door is covered in a fine film of dust, confirming her original assumption that this is an all-male household.

           There is no answer despite rapping with increasing ferocity three times on the door. Yvonne steps off the step and peers in the front window. The curtains are only partially open and the room beyond is in semi-darkness. She can hear a man talking and at first thinks that Mr. Wilson has a visitor, and then she realises it’s the TV. She can see its flickering light in the room beyond. As her eyes adjust to the shade, she can make out the outline of a man sitting in the corner in the gloom. She bangs on the window.

           ‘Mr Wilson!...Mr Wilson!’ Nothing. Continuing to peer in, she thinks and decides to see what she can find out from the neighbours. The house is a semi, and next door is quite different. The garden is a bright array of begonias and marigolds neatly arranged in rows in weedless flower beds. There are numerous pots and hanging baskets filled with colourful petunias and salvias. Pressing the doorbell, the sounds of Big Ben ring stridently out, summoning the occupant to open the door. She is a young woman who is rigorously drying her hands on a tea towel as she pulls the door open. She pales when she sees PC Berriman. Yvonne is used to this; people always expect the worst when they see a police officer on their doorstep. She flashes her id.

           ‘Sorry to bother you Ma’am…I’m trying to get in contact with Mr. Wilson, next door…and I can’t seem to get any answer.’

           ‘John’s probably gone out…He won’t be long he never leaves his dad for long.’

           ‘I can see Mr. Wilson sitting there, but…he’s not answering the door.’

           ‘Probably can’t hear you…Not even sure how steady he is on his feet anymore…Is something wrong?’

           ‘Sorry, can’t tell you… It’s confidential…don’t suppose you’ve got a spare key?’

           ‘No…they’re not that kind of people…keep themselves to themselves.’

           ‘Thank you…Sorry to bother you.’ As the neighbour closes her door, Yvonne pauses again and then decides to go up the Wilson’s drive and try their back gate. It’s rickety but firmly locked.

           Back in the patrol car, she radios headquarters.

           ‘Sarge, I can’t get any answer from 25 Avon Road…I can see the old boy sitting there, but he’s not responding.’

           ‘Give us a sec.’ Yvonne can hear the clicking of keys as Sargent Blackman consults his computer. ‘The deceased was sixty-one…means that Mr. Wilson senior must be well into his eighties…reckon that gives us section17 rights – ‘

           ‘Right, I’ll – ‘

           ‘’Ang on, ‘ang on…’old yer ‘orses Berriman…sit tight…I’m going to ring the ‘ospital.’ Yvonne stares at the silent radio and then out of the windscreen, along the glaringly bright road. She hates waiting for anything, idly she pulls her notebook from her pocket and begins flicking through it, pausing every now and then to read a note from a week or two ago. The radio crackles back into life.

           ‘Get yerself down to the ‘ospital mortuary…ask for Ben…’e’ll give you a set of keys from the deceased’s personal effects.’    

It takes Yvonne under an hour to collect the keys and return to Avon Road. She tries knocking again – just in case Mr. Wilson senior’s hearing has suddenly improved. No answer. Peers through the window. Yep, he’s still sitting there and then finally selects a likely-looking key from the weighty collection in her hand. The door swings open, and PC Berriman coughs and chokes as it does so. The stench is horrendous, it invades and burns her throat. My God, she’s never smelt anything like it. Returning to the car, she hastily pulls out a plastic bag containing surgical masks and gloves and puts a set on. Back at the front door, she enters the gloomy hallway and then turns right into the living room.

           ‘Sarge, best get forensics down here.’

           ‘First things first, Berriman…ambulance service first.’

           ‘Seriously…it’s way too late for that…it’s more a skeleton than a body.’

‘Team’s on its way. Sit tight till they get there.’

The pathologist estimated that Mr. Wilson senior had been dead for around three years. It appeared that he had died in the chair where PC Berriman found him. Initial examination revealed no signs of foul play. The current theory being that when he died, his son left him there and continued to draw his pension. As John had financial power of attorney this would have been an easy thing to do. Mr. Wilson had been virtually housebound for some time, and John had always been anti-social, so no-one noticed any difference when the old man wasn’t seen. Had it not been for John collapsing and dying from a massive heart attack outside Tesco’s who knows how long this situation would have continued?

Back at head-quarters PC Berriman and Sargent Blackman are sitting at a Formica table sipping mugs of tea.

           ‘You alright?’

           ‘Yes…was just a bit of a shock…I go out on a house call…expecting to tell an elderly man that his son has dropped dead…when I finally get into the premises …psyching myself up to having to get social services involved…instead…I find a rotting corpse.’

           ‘All in a day’s work, Berriman…all in a day’s work!’    

August 22, 2022 17:43

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5 comments

Eshawnial Lowry
20:32 Sep 01, 2022

Thanks for your kind words on my submission Death has a Price. Your story Tea for Two seems to be missing an interesting protagonist, is it John as the beginning of the story hints or Berriman who just happens to be the officer who had to respond? In either case what was the moment of growth for either character? Having said that I did enjoy the story. Each voice is unique, keep honing your craft, and keep writing. I will check out some of your other stories. Good luck... Happy writting Shawn Lowry

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Sharon Williams
20:59 Sep 01, 2022

Thank you for your insightful comments. In truth, the inspiration for the story came from a news item. No real protagonist, the real-life story intrigued me. I think if it was a longer piece I'd go for John and write about how he decided to leave his deceased father sitting in a chair for three years! lol.

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Eshawnial Lowry
12:36 Sep 02, 2022

That would make a good story. I heard or read about the real life story some time ago also. Very interesting. Thanks again for sharing.

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Susan Williams
02:26 Sep 01, 2022

Good writing Sharon. Your use of present tense helped to keep the momentum and tension moving and building thoroughout.

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Sharon Williams
06:27 Sep 01, 2022

Thank you for your kind comments Susan. I'll have a look at yours later and critique it. Kind regards Sharon.

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