Bad Timing.

Submitted into Contest #166 in response to: Start your story with someone saying “I quit!” ... view prompt

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Drama


‘¡Lo dejo! I quit!’

‘Please Rosa, you’re all I have!’ Claire begged the tornado of Latina fury as she whirled around the house gathering her things. ‘I’ll pay you double!’

‘¡No!’ 

Rosa snatched up her bag and strode to the front door.

‘I know my father can be difficult...’

Rosa pointed a finger to her temple.

‘¡Tu padre está loco!’

With that she slammed the door behind her. Claire put her head in her hands. That was the second carer in as many months. At this rate the agency would stop sending anyone. 


She marched into her father’s bedroom. Discreet medical equipment flashed and hummed in the darkness. 

‘What did you do to Rosa?’

‘She can’t take a joke.’ replied the old man in bed.

‘Dad!’ 

‘Open the curtains will you?’ he wheezed, attempting to pull himself up on his pillows.

Claire walked to the window and yanked the curtains aside with unnecessary vigor. Sun reflected off the ocean like a million cameras flashing, broken occasionally by a yacht sailing by. The sweet scent of the climbing jasmine her mother planted floated into the room. Claire noticed one of the window panels was ajar and went to close it. 

‘Leave it open.’ her father ordered.

‘You’ll get cold overnight.’

‘I said leave it open!’ he barked. 

‘Fine!’ she shot back and looked at her watch. ‘I have to go to work. I’ll call the agency and see if they’ll send you another carer.’

He waved her away dismissively.

‘Tell them not to worry. It won’t be long.’

He chuckled darkly.

‘Jesus, Dad. Why do you have to make this so goddamn difficult?’

He coughed and she handed him the glass of water on his bedside table.

‘What do you care?’ he asked accusingly.

He was right. What did she care? They had barely spoken in years. This was all just a major inconvenience for her. Bad timing. She had so many other things she needed to do, most of all get to work before she got fired.

He took a sip of water and Claire placed the glass back on the bedside table. Next to it sat a small vase filled with jasmine flowers. She muttered something.

‘What was that?’ the old man demanded.

‘Nothing.’

‘What did you say?’ he pressed.

I promised Mom I’d look after you. Ok?’’

He leant back on his pillows.

‘There you have it. I knew it had to be something like that. God bless your mother, a saint to the very end.’

‘For some reason she still loved you, Dad. Despite everything you put her through.’

He eyed the vase of jasmine by his bed.

‘You never understood, Claire. Your mother and I had...an agreement.’

You had an agreement. So you could chase anything in a skirt. She never did.’

‘People love in different ways, kid. I loved your mother very much.’ 

Now it was Claire’s turn to chuckle darkly.

‘Oh, please. I watched you two all my life. That wasn’t love.’

Silence settled between them.

’I guess we need to talk about arrangements.’ Claire said eventually.

He picked up on her awkwardness.

‘You mean, what I want you to do with my dead ass?’ 

He meant to shock her, but she wasn’t having it.

‘Yes. What do you want me to do with your dead ass?’

He gazed out the window. The bright sails of a large yacht cruised by.

‘I want to be cremated. Put me with your Mom.’

‘What? Under the jasmine bush?’

‘Yeah, under the jasmine.’

Claire was surprised. She’d imagined more of a Hunter S. Thompson, shot out of a cannon with fireworks and Spirit in the Sky blaring, kind of scene. Something for his friends to talk about for years. This was unexpected.

‘Ok.’

They were quiet again. Claire pointed to the vase of jasmine by his bed. 

‘Rosa put that there for you?’ 

‘I asked her to.’ he grunted.

‘Why?’

He’d never struck her as a flowers kind of guy. 

‘Reminds me of your mother.’ he wheezed, noticing her surprised expression. ‘I told you, kid. People love in different ways. Now it’s time for me to ask you an awkward question.’

‘What?’

‘Everything goes to you in my will. Question is, do you want it?’

It had never occurred to Claire that his substantial wealth would come to her. There had always been too many variables, too many other women desperately grabbing at his final years in the hopes of a payout. 

‘What about, what’s-her-name?’

‘Who? Diana?’

‘Yeah, Diana. I figured it’d all go to her.’

He shook his head.

‘No.’

‘Where is she by the way?’ Claire asked.

‘In Tuscany. With her husband.’ he said wryly. ‘Nursing and old man’s not her thing anyway.’

He shifted awkwardly in bed, wincing at some unidentified pain and Claire realised that she wasn’t dealing with the strong, imposing man of her youth, she was dealing with the shell of him. The sad, lonely result of years of bad decisions. Despite herself, she felt compassion creeping in. Even pity.

‘Anyway,’ his growly voice went on. ‘I could die any minute, so we need to sort it out. Do you want my estate? Or am I going to have to donate it to some charity?’

‘I don’t want anything.'

‘What about the house?’ he gestured to the room at large with its modern architecture and bespoke furniture.

‘I have a house.’ she replied.

‘That tiny fleapit is not a house.’

‘It’s all I need.’

He was visibly irritated.

‘You know how hard I worked for all this? I’ve got no one else to give it to.’

‘Not my style.’

‘Why are you so goddamn stubborn?’

‘Where do you think I got it from?’

Angry silence.

‘Huh.’ he said after a while. ‘Never realized we were so alike.’

Neither had she.

‘Your mother,’ he started, ‘she made me promise to look after you. Financially, I mean.’

'When?'

'At the hospice.'

'I never knew you went to visit her.'

'Of course I did!' he barked, defensively.

‘I can’t…I can't go until I’ve done right by her.'

Claire eyed him suspiciously. Who was this man? She’d never seen him concerned about her mother’s wishes before, quite the opposite. Certainly when it came to their marriage.

‘Ok. I’ll take it.’ she said. 

Thank you.’ he said, sarcasm in his voice.

‘...and donate it to charity.’ she added quickly.

She had expected him to yell, but to her surprise, he just laughed. 

‘Ok, kid,’ he wheezed. ‘You win.’

The wheezing laugh turned into a coughing fit and he reached for the water glass on his bedside table, knocking it over.

‘I’ll get you some more.’ she said.

He nodded in between spasms and Claire ran to the bathroom. She turned on the tap and let the glass fill.

Today had been… surprising. Perhaps the man she’d thought she’d known her whole life had been a creation in her own mind? A two dimensional picture pieced together from snippets of arguments witnessed in her childhood, but not fully understood; from blaming him on some level for her mother’s illness and hating him for his perceived disregard of her death. She felt an unexpected grief that they had never taken the time to truly understand each other. Had they always just been passing ships like the boats sailing in the harbour outside?

She resolved to make some sort of peace.


The coughing coming from his room stopped as abruptly as it had begun and she was glad he had some respite, even if it was only for a few moments. She took the glass back into his room and saw that the vase of jasmine had been knocked onto the floor. Ivory petals floated across the floorboards.

‘Don’t worry I’ll clean that up.’ she said.

The figure on the bed didn’t reply. Carefully, she placed the glass down on the table.

‘Dad... Dad?’


October 04, 2022 10:19

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4 comments

Jaanshvi S
18:20 Oct 14, 2022

Thanks for this. Such a bittersweet story of loss - the actual death and the loss of time for repairing a relationship that was troubled.

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Mel Dingwall
10:23 Oct 16, 2022

Thanks for reading Jaanshvi, I was aiming to link those two concepts in the story, so I really appreciate your feedback 😊

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Delbert Griffith
21:49 Oct 12, 2022

Nice literature. You have style!

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Mel Dingwall
00:10 Oct 13, 2022

Thanks Delbert. I really enjoyed your submission too!

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