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Contemporary Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

***themes of violence***


Ron’s knee bounced up and down, banging against the small antique desk over and over. The once orderly desk had papers torn and disheveled, drawers yawning open as if screaming at the assault.


'What's that noise, is someone at the door?”  The small voice behind Ron added to his impatience.


“No Ma, it's just Dad’s stupid desk. God, what’s the last time you logged into this thing?”


He looked again at the ancient computer, reloading software updates to the current decade.  The hourglass graphic mocked him, the digital sand dropping over and over, with nothing happening. The beige plastic computer behemoth in front of him might as well be a locked vault with 10 foot thick steel walls.

He had to get into this computer, had to find the bank account log-in!

Ron would get the answer to his question or would die trying.


“You sure don’t have a list of passwords written anywhere? So I can get into the photographs of course-” Ron looked back at his Mom, her face, tired and wrinkled with age, scared him. Her eyes were blank and empty, he didn't need to bother lying. This frail person was no longer his Mom, he didn’t recognized her, just as she didn’t recognize him. She looked back at him as if he was a stranger, hugging her blanket around her for protection.


He remembered his Dad’s office as so much bigger, something out of an English country mansion. He used to play just outside the closed door, wishing to be let in, but he knew his Dad was too busy, too important to play with just a kid.  

When he married, he had demanded a room in the house to make his own home office. He had spent a small fortune on the oxblood leather couch and chairs, a dark mahogany desk even installing a gas fireplace. He did the brick work himself. He would have bet a thousand dollars his Dad’s office had a fireplace. 


Not that anything in this tired room had changed. His Dad could have stepped out 5 minutes ago, instead of 21 years; his Mom hadn’t moved anything since his death. The small yellow couch, the desk, even the smell of mold and tobacco brought him back in a snap to living in this house as a kid, scared of this room, of the man who stalked it like a bear.

 He knew his mom had used this computer, had sat at this desk, but he couldn’t find a sign of her. Just his Dad. The only memory in this room lay hidden in this computer. 


“Maria, Maria! “His Mom called out. “Is there someone at the door? Oh dear, I’m not even dressed. Oh I need to go get it-”


Maria walked quickly in the room, her small hands pressed lightly into the old woman’s shoulder assuring her to stay on the couch. “Joanne, you’re fine. No one is at the door. See Ron’s here to visit with you.” Maria continued. Ron felt her hard stare into his back as he ignored them both.


He gritted his teeth. “Thanks Maria. I thought this would be quicker, this computer is so slow! Would it be better if you took Mom to the kitchen, or her room?”


“Oh Ron. She wants to see you.” Maria nodded, treating him like a patient too. “She can’t make new memories, but everything from her past is still there, like it just happened. Can’t she sit here? She rarely gets to see you.”


The guilt, a sharp blade, stabbed into his stomach. He rarely visited because he hated seeing his Mom like this, hated being reminded of how he had failed her in his own life.   


“Maybe next time you could bring the girls, your mother would love to see her grandchildren, it's been so long…” Maria continued.


“I told you it’s not my weekend.” He left out that neither of his teenage daughters would even talk to him, and he no longer had any ‘weekends’.  He tried not to think about that, how he was re-living the script his Dad had written. The fights back then he blamed on his Dad, just as his daughters blamed him now.   He had left this house at 18 to escape his Dad in the Army, and never to return. He could never be good enough for his Dad. They couldn’t be under the same roof then, let alone in the same room.


Another sharp stab of guilt. ‘I hate you’ were the last words he spoke to his Dad in a fiery rage. How could he know he would die the next week? A heart attack, at 40! 

An age only two years away. Time slipped by fast, slamming him about like a man falling down stairs.  “God this computer is slow!” He slapped it again.


The damn lawyers shafted him in the divorce, the alimony and child support payments took almost all of his salary. He needed this inheritance, and he needed it now. In her right mind he knew he could convince his Mom to give him some of it. She would listen to him, unlike the damn neighbor who had power of attorney. The account must be huge, his Dad had money, lots he assumed from all his talk of his financial prowess. And this house, run down, but in a good neighborhood, must be worth a ton.  

Once he found the account information he would make the transfer. Then he could pay his rent, and the bills that were piling up like bricks on his grave. 


He needed to find it quick, Maria buzzed around, already suspicious of his visit. He knew the bank records were here, if only he could get into this damn computer.  


“Damn it.” He pounded the desk with a clenched fist. He breathed out, his breath forming a cloud in the ice cold room.


“Are you Ok?” His Mom asked. 


“Mom, why don’t you turn the heat on in this house!”  He looked back again to see his Mom’s concerned look, buried in several heavy sweaters, and a blanket on her lap.


“Maria, can you turn the heat up!” He shouted.

A thick, black sweater hung against the wall. He remembered that sweater, his Dad put it on in the evenings, never allowing the heater to turn above 65 degrees even in the winter.


Ron stood to take it off the hanger. The smell of stale cigarettes, and the leathery smell of his Dad, even after all the years, teleported him back in time to his childhood, sitting next to him on the living room couch. Baseball played on the TV set while his dad whooped and hollered. Ron remembered the excitement when their team hit a homerun, or won the game and he jumped around the room in leaps of pure joy. 


Ron played a game with his Dad, fetching beers from the refrigerator in the garage, a high five for each one. Glorious afternoons, unless his Dad’s team lost, or a bad call by the umpire, then all hell would break loose.


He put the sweater on, the material bagged in all the right places fitting him well. The same height as his dad, he looked just like him too, his ex-wife used to say when she wanted to piss him off.


He turned back around and sat down at the computer monitor. It must be here!

He had filed through every drawer, every folder. Papers with his Dad's illegible scrawl filled the old folders. Then, finally a post-it with his Mom's perfect penmanship.


The password. He laughed out loud when he read it, Perfect!


“I’m in!” The screen displayed old, dated graphics, an AOL icon of all things! 

He typed ‘bank’ into the search bar, then ‘financial’, ‘money’, ‘cash’, ‘nest egg’, but nothing, no files, no documents. He clicked on the AOL icon for his Mom’s email account. 3,689 unread emails.


The AOL interface made no sense, he couldn’t find a search bar so he began scrolling, scrolling. Nothing from a bank, nothing but spam. Where could the bank records be?

Maybe she would remember.

“Mom, where are the bank records? You kept them on the computer, but do you remember where…”


His Mom blinked once, then twice.

“Ron?" Her voice creaked. "I don’t know about bank records. You only gave me an allowance, I couldn't touch... why are you asking me?”


“Mom!” He shouted, frustration exploding out through his arms as they flew up in the air.

 “I asked for the bank information, years ago, before you brought in that neighbor of yours. You said you didn’t trust me. Me, you’re only son- Come on!” He stood up, moving toward her, to plead, to explain his need. 

At the fear in her face, he stopped.


“I’m sorry Mom for yelling. Everything's OK, I’m sorry. Damn!”


Finally he got past the unread emails and into useful information.


An email from a police officer caught his attention, and then another, a string of emails he read through quickly, skimming. About his Dads death, questions and a sentence that jumped out at him, tingling the skin on the back of his neck.

Accidental death by blunt force trauma to the head while gardening.

Gardening? 


He kept reading but none of it made sense. Ron’s Dad would no more work in the garden, then put on a dress. He refused manual labor, only his Mom worked in the garden.   How did he end up hitting his head on a rock?


“Mom,” Ron asked over his shoulder, “when Dad died, how come you told me it was a heart attack. This says he hit his head?”


Ron turned around to see his Mom staring at him. Anger flashed in her eyes.

“Mom?”


Ron went back to the emails. Should he even keep reading these? His Dad was an asshole, and both their lives were better with him gone. He ignored it, leaving the past alone. It couldn’t affect him anymore.  


 He looked further down the pages of emails. “Bank, bank, bank…” He muttered under his breath. “Come on-”


Then he saw an email from hospital, asking about injuries suffered by a Joanne from a fall down a flight of stairs.


 In their single level house. 


What?  More emails from nurses regarding other injuries, some of them dated when he was still living here, still in high school.

Ron looked up, trying to remember his Mom being hurt, going to the hospital, but nothing.


Back then he put all his effort to be a success, to get his Dad’s attention at school or sports. And when he realized it was impossible, he could never be good enough, he played his Dad's game, fetching his own beers. Rage overwhelmed him then at both his parents for thinking they could involve themselves in his business, control him. Ron heard every word as a slight, every look he took as disapproval. 


“Mom, did Dad hit you?” Ron read off from the computer screen, the list went on and on.

“They’re reports from injuries, broken wrist, cut forearm- I didn’t know…”


Ron turned around again, but she was gone, only the blanket left on the old couch.


“Maria, is Mom with you?” He yelled. Ron thought back to those days, what else did he miss? He had been oblivious to what his Mom had gone through. His mind spun, re-living his life, confused about what he remembered. Ron had to grab the desk as he felt unbalanced.


He saw the words ‘bank’ in an email and forgot everything else. 

It didn’t have what he needed, but it had the name of the bank- getting close.


He kept searching page after page and then he saw an email titled ‘Nest Egg’, his Mom had emailed it to herself. He breathed out, his whole body hurt from the tension.

He clicked it open and there it was , bank account log-in information.

In his best handwriting, just how his Mom taught him, he copied it down. He logged in quickly, hoping to see a six figure number, could it be seven?


 Ron laughed at the small number, because otherwise he would have yelled. The payments were clearing out the account fast, the little there wouldn’t last much longer. 


But then, neither would his Mom. One of the line items made him catch his breath, ‘Rent’

His fingers hovered over the keyboard, hesitating , then made his decision.


He had hoped for so much more, enough extra to cover the flight to Jamaica with his new girl Lily, but now…

He looked round the tired old office, the avocado carpet, the yellow walls. He never wanted to come back here again.


He stepped into the hall. 

“Mom? I’m done. I found the- pictures- I was looking for on the old computer. So goodbye.”


He heard a scuffle in the kitchen and stopped. The stab of guilt, the paper he had in his hand, he should at least see her again, one last time.


He turned and walked into the kitchen. Maria, bent over his Mom, turned her head, worry stitched across her face. “Mr. Ron, you should go-”


“Mom- I found it! I’m going to leave now-” Ron took two steps toward his mom, his arms raised, to give her a hug.


“No! His Mom uncoiled, her thin body lunging from around Maria.


“You bastard- you will never hurt me again Ron!”


He didn’t see more than a flash, the flicker off the knife's edge before the pain ripped through him.  The large kitchen knife was in his gut up to the handle, and his Mom’s eyes seemed so clear, so bright, just inches from his face.


“Never again Ron!” She twisted the knife in her hand, with a smile. 


Ron didn’t know what to say, his last thought passed through his lips.


“The password, you used my name- RonJunior.” 

February 09, 2024 19:38

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20 comments

Kailani B.
19:11 Feb 16, 2024

I suspected this wouldn't have a happy ending, but I wasn't expecting such a brutal one. Good job!

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Marty B
00:27 Feb 18, 2024

Yes it turned dark at the end, but violence breeds violence throughout generations

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Helen A Smith
10:16 Feb 15, 2024

What a gripping story! With each sentence the tension built up with and kept developing. Complex emotions here. You had me invested from start to finish. Like father like son, but in spite of everything I felt the son was a victim too. He may not have consciously known what had been going on as a child, but he must have sensed something was deeply amiss and had a need to escape from it, whatever the cost. Dramatic twist at the end. The dysfunctional past held held them all in its grip. Well told.

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Marty B
18:04 Feb 15, 2024

Agreed- Ron Junior was a victim too, suffering by verbal abuse by his alcoholic father. Generational trauma is terrible. Thanks

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Helen A Smith
21:06 Feb 15, 2024

It is indeed terrible and it’s so hard to break the cycle.

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Michał Przywara
21:39 Feb 13, 2024

There's a good mystery here, for sure. It starts off with the skeezy son trying to defraud his befuddled mother, but of course we learn there's more to the story. We can't really blame him for having missed these things when he was a kid, since it sounds like he had his own crap to deal with from his father. The ending, naturally, is tragic. Not only is it mistaken identity, but it seemed like she liked her son. Alas, ironically, he turned out to be quite similar to his old man. Very much a troubled family. Thanks for sharing!

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Marty B
05:25 Feb 14, 2024

'he turned out to be quite similar to his old man' Is exactly right, unfortunately, and then suffered the consequences.

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John Rutherford
06:45 Feb 13, 2024

A good twist at the end. Good read.

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Marty B
16:39 Feb 13, 2024

A twist of the knife, so to speak ;) Thanks!

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Trudy Jas
23:28 Feb 12, 2024

His own office, as he imagined his dad's is. But dad's is pedestrian, cold, at best. Dad's underlying anger (team losing) has repeated itself between Ron and his daughters. Mom is not huddling under blankets but hiding from her cold memories. Excellent!

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Marty B
01:00 Feb 13, 2024

Those memories are cold and haunt her still, like it happened yesterday. Thanks!

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Trudy Jas
01:33 Feb 13, 2024

They always do. Sad but true. Most of us have some. They may or may not seem bad to the outsider, but they are bad to the one holding on to them. Thanks for sharing.

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Alexis Araneta
02:28 Feb 12, 2024

What an ending ! Very gripping story, Marty !

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Marty B
05:08 Feb 12, 2024

Thanks! I appreciate the good words.

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Mary Bendickson
18:52 Feb 11, 2024

Hard too kill the past. Thanks for liking my Sixties Teen

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Marty B
05:08 Feb 12, 2024

Great point! The past comes back to haunt us.

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Belladona Vulpa
07:00 Feb 11, 2024

Great writing in this story! The characters and their relationship so lively, I love how you interchange internal thoughts and dialogue, I was at the edge of my seat, piecing together the background of this family. Ron sure had lots of things he needed to work on himself, nice touch the details of his dysfuctional adult life as a husband and a father himself, by the way. But damn, the thing turned out to be more complicated, and realistically so. The moment his father's sports team would lose and "hell would break lose" we have some clu...

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Marty B
05:12 Feb 12, 2024

I like that phrase - 'Past is leaking from every place in that house...' The memories in the house, in the family can not stay contained in the office, in the computer and escape to cause destruction to all their lives. Thanks!

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Tom Skye
15:25 Feb 10, 2024

This story unfolded in a very unpredictable way. And the ending was a real shock. A really imaginative take on domestic violence. Nice work. Enjoyed this a lot

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Marty B
18:00 Feb 10, 2024

The past is not dead, its not even past... Thanks!

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