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Drama Fiction Sad


‘This building was designed, built and loved by my father,’ Hector tried to keep the adoration from his voice but didn’t quite make it. ‘Lionel Brent built half of this city but this is the building he was most proud of.’ He paused for effect, something he had learned from his late father.

‘Don’t rush what you have to say, son, make them hang on your words.‘ He could hear his father’s voice as he stared at the gathering in the foyer of the old building. Amongst the crowd facing Hector, were faces he recognised, people he had grown up with so he felt safe and comfortable addressing them. Today was the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of this first city library. He had just been a child when he’d stood outside and watched his beloved father preparing to cut the ribbon with a pair of golden sheers. Now, it seemed like just yesterday, but he knew that the time had passed quickly and taken its toll on him too. 

‘Pass me those sheers, Hector. Stop staring around and get on with it.’ Lionel Brent held out his hands impatiently and his son placed the implements in them. Outside, the crowds were beginning to gather. People spilled from the pavement and on to the road, they had begun to interfere with the traffic flow outside. The blaring of car horns and shouted insults were suddenly the backdrop of the event. The people had been promised their own library for years and so now they had what they wanted, they wished to see what all the fuss was about. Only local councillors and dignitaries had been invited but many more had turned up to witness the unveiling of the building.

‘Stop those people trying to get in here,’ Lionel called out but nobody seemed to be taking any notice of his words. 

‘Get on with it,’ shouted a voice from the back of the crowd. ‘We want to see the inside, we’ve seen the outside being built,’ the voice continued. People laughed and the crowd began to surge forward, pushing the celebrities closer to the tape. Hector was lost in the sea of legs around him and was losing sight of his father. Scuffles broke out at the rear of the crowd as the unruly element tried to push past the ceremony and get inside the library.

‘You can’t come in here yet. I haven’t made my speech or cut the tape.’ He was ignored again and people began tearing at the tape, soon they were past him and already inside the new building. Hector could see the staff trying hard to contain the crowd and to place them into some semblance of order. They were failing, as one after another walked back out of the library with books under their arms. His dream unveiling had turned into a disaster. He witnessed his father slumped against the wall, his body defeated and mind dispirited. Hector went over to him and held his hand. He had never seen his father distraught like this. People continued to push past them, the golden sheers discarded on the floor with the ribbon still twisted around them. 

*

‘All those years ago, my father gave a tremendous speech and, don’t worry, I don’t intend to repeat it here today.’ Hector paused again, waiting for the ripple of applause he was sure would come, but didn’t. 

‘He spoke of his wish to bring knowledge and education to the masses and this was his gift to the city.’

‘He was well paid for it too,’ a voice at the back called out and others sniggered. Hector ignored the comment and ploughed on.

‘So, as a mark of his contribution to the library the council have agreed to rename this building “Brent Chambers” after him.’ With that, he pulled on a small white rope and the silk cover on the wall behind him slipped to the floor. A ripple of applause rang out with increasing fervour. Hector clapped with the others, a broad grin on his face, his work done. The small blue plaque gave the date of the original opening and his father’s name in small letters beneath. Hector had expected something grander to commemorate the occasion but he kept it to himself as people came up to him with their congratulations. 

*

The library recovered from the theft of its books quickly as Lionel, feeling some responsibility for their loss, paid for them from his own pocket. The building came to be a major socialising spot and also became the landmark for meetings, committees and conferences. Proud of his building and it’s worth to the community Lionel spent more and more time there. He studied many subjects that, as a young man, had interested him but didn’t have the time to explore. His new interests soon overshadowed his day to day business, which took a steep decline without his drive and vision. Staff and customers alike took advantage of his lapse in focus and found various ways to siphon away his money. His once keen hand on the tiller, now pursuing other things, allowed those unscrupulous members of his team to take advantage of his wanderings. Slowly, he lost his prosperity as others snapped up the lucrative contracts that he would previously have enjoyed. His family, concerned by what was happening to their lifestyle, tried to reason with him to no avail. They were becoming destitute and he paid them no heed.

*

After the ceremony, Hector continued to receive compliments and tributes as the dignitaries left and went about their businesses, mostly made on the back of his father’s decline. When they were finally gone, leaving him alone, he stood and looked at the blue plaque. It was too small, he thought, after all his father had done and the family had sacrificed. Just a line on a plaque that most people won’t look at as they hurry about their business, he thought. Tears began to dampen his eyes as he recalled his father’s futile attempt to turn the opening into a grand and solemn affair. His shouting when being jostled by the surging crowd and Hector’s own fears as he watched his father silenced and heckled by the mob. His father, he knew, was never the same again. The strong, confident man was reduced to a shell of his former self. He turned and walked away, vowing he would never return to the building now bearing his family name.

March 19, 2021 13:38

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