How did it come to this? Is it your fault? You're cooped up in a crappy motel, with nothing but your cane and your thoughts. You grab your cane, that's laying on the bed. It's a black cane with several large grooves just before the silver head on the top. The Initials 'B.D.' are etched into the top from when you were a kid. Your dad wasn't happy that you were playing with the cane, but he was amused and surprised that you managed to etch his initials. Even if it did scratch up the handle. Your smile is quickly replaced with grief and anger as memories flood back. You throw the cane across the room and stare at the floor holding your head.
Kinsale, Ireland 2018.
"Go on. We'll be fine. After all, it is your birthday." said Bree. She was standing in the kitchen with her white tank top and Levi's hanging over her bare feet. Her brown hair was up in a pony tail with her ocean blue eyes sparkling and her never ending smile. If she was smiling, and shuffling you out the door, she was up to something. Ciara comes running in, in her leprechaun footies, clutching her teddy bear. Her brown hair also tied back in a pony tail. She always followed Bree, whether it was looks or the way she did things. You pick her up smiling.
"Mommy wants me to go. Should I go?" Ciara smiles and looks back at Bree who nods.
"We'll be ok." she said throwing her arms around you.
"Be safe daddy." she said. You put her down and your dad comes in. His hair is already starting to grey. He's twirling his cane in his right hand, with a leather jacket over top a white v-neck and faded jeans over his boots.
"You heard her, boy. Don't do anything stupid. Johnson always was an idiot." You smile, and kiss Bree goodbye before heading for the door.
"This may be important." he said handing you your rifle.
"Gonna be a bit hard to go hunting without a rifle." You smile and take the rifle waving goodbye as you walk out the door. Johnson is already waiting for you outside and sticks out his hand smiling.
"Happy Birthday little brother." You shake his hand and get in the truck. It's just as run down and dirty as it was the last time you went hunting. Gatorade bottles rolling around the floor, the bumper is rusting, both doors are creaking, as if you're stepping on a creaky wooden step, the seats still smell of who knows what, and the dash is filled with trash.
"You gotta clean this out Johnson." Johnson puts the keys in the ignition and keeps trying until it starts and smiles at you.
"See, everything's fine." You look at him with an idiotic expression.
"Mhm. Sure it is." You start down the dark, dirt, pothole covered road as he puts in a disk of Jason Byrne. It'd be good to have something funny this early in the morning. An hour or two later he pulls off to the side of the road and smiles.
"This is good hunting here." he said. He gets out of the truck and grabs his rifle from the bed and heads into the woods. You've never been to this part of the woods, but he was a good tracker. He had horrible aim, but he could track anything. A few hours later you had rounded up a handful of deer and decided that it was time to head home. After getting the last deer in the truck, you close the bed of the truck and climb back in smiling.
"You got more than two this time Johnson." He gives you a look of annoyance but smiles as he tries and starts the truck again.
"Yea, yea, 'Mr. Professional'."
"More professional than you." You two laugh when the truck finally starts. By this time its 10-10:30.
"If we hurry we'll be able to catch them setting up the surprise party." Johnson turns to you trying to act confused.
"What makes you think that?" he asked. You smile and gesture to the direction of the house.
"You know Bree is horrible at keeping secrets. Her face gives it away every time." Johnson sighs and looks over at you.
"Tell ya what. Let's do breakfast, and then we'll go back. At least try to act surprised." he said annoyed.
"Alright, alright fine." You drive into town to 'Sam's'. It's your favorite Pub in Kinsale. It's a 24-hour pub, so there's already a handful of people in there. You walk in and are welcomed by everyone with a 'Happy Birthday'. They wouldn't know unless someone told them. You turn to Johnson smiling.
"You're such a pain." He smiles and you two sit at the bar. After breakfast, or what Johnson calls 'breakfast.' it's now 1 in the afternoon. You get back in the truck and make your way back toward the farm.
"Your neighbors are burning something again." said Johnson pointing toward the smoke. You look carefully and realize that the smoke is coming from your property, not the neighbors.
"That's my property! Not theirs!" Johnson slams the gas to floor as you fly back against the seat trying to keep an eye on the smoke. As you get closer, the smoke gets thicker and darker. You round the corner of your property to find your home and barn up in flames. Johnson slams on the brakes right next to the house.
You charge into the kitchen with Johnson. Smoke hits you like a hammer as you fall to the ground. The kitchen is engulfed with flames and smoke, as you crawl toward the stairs. All you can hope is that they made it out.
"Bree! Ciara!" you crawl up the stairs into the thick smoke when you hear a voice shouting.
"Daddy! Where are you?!" she shouted. You look around through the fire trying to find the voice.
"Keep talking!" Another voice comes out of the smoke as Bree is shouting from the opposite direction.
"Here! I'm over here!"the constant shouting, makes it difficult to determine the location of each of them. You go left toward Ciara's room, since that's the closest.
"Follow my voice! I'm coming!" The voices become less and less and eventually stop. You find her on the floor in the hallway, still in her footies. You pick her up and go toward the stairs as fast as you can and meet up with Johnson.
"Take her outside. I'm gonna try to find Bree and dad." Johnson rubs his burning eyes and takes Ciara, disappearing into the thick smoke.
You crawl toward where you heard her voice, when an arm grabs you and begins pulling you back toward the stairs. A firefighter had made his way up the stairs and is dragging you out. You fight him trying to get free, but the overwhelming smoke and flames has taken away your strength. The firefighter picks you up and takes you outside. Other firefighters are going inside while two others are preparing the hose to put out the fire. You charge back toward the house when Johnson grabs you.
"Give it up! They'll be able to help more than we can!" he pushes you back as you fall down next to Ciara where an EMT is examining her. He looks up at you with sorrowful eyes and slightly shakes his head before standing up. You stand up and follow him angrily.
"Are you going to do anything?!" He turns toward you and looks at Ciara.
"There's nothing to do. The smoke got to her. There's nothing we can do for that. Not at this point." You look back at Ciara with tear filled eyes and clenched fists as they begin spraying water over the house. As time passes and the fire dims down one of the firefighters walks out with a long stick wrapped up and covered in ash.
"I believe this is for you." he said holding it out to you. You wipe the ash away and find a note stuck to it.
We, love you. Happy Birthday. :)
-Bree, Ciara, and dad.
You unwrap it and find dad's cane. He said he'd pass it down, but never said when. It just shouldn't have been today. The fire is out and you wait quietly sitting on the edge of the ambulance praying that somehow they got out. Black clouds have moved in and rain begins to fall. A firefighter comes over and sits next to you.
"The woman was found in the bedroom, and the man in the living room. The flames were too high and there wasn't a chance of getting out." He turns to you silent and stands up.
"I'm sorry." he walks around the ambulance and toward the truck. Johnson sits down next to you.
"They're gone." Johnson sits quietly looking toward the ground nodding slightly.
"I'll be here for as long as you need me."