Not What You Think...

Submitted into Contest #57 in response to: Write a story about someone breaking a long family tradition.... view prompt


Funny Fantasy Holiday

We enter a living room through double French doors, satin curtains billowing in the ocean breeze. The beach is like a mural painting through the tall windows, framed by clear blue skies and palm trees. Inside, everything is white fabric and woven bamboo. Bright-orange, tropical-afternoon sunshine engulfs the space.

A smartphone lies face up on the coffee table. A tinny voice, irritant like a flying mosquito, fills the room, the words indiscernible. A young man sits on the plump sofa, hands in fists as his excitement mounts. A low-volume football match is unfolding on the flat screen mounted on the wall opposite him.

The mosquito-sounding voice stops suddenly and the young man reaches for the phone, fumbling in slight panic. He catches the end of a question.

“Of course I’m listening, Mum.”

He grabs a handful of popcorn from the bowl next to him, throws it at the TV as the referee rules against the team he’s supporting.

“Hang on, I need to feed Reaper.”

He puts the phone back down. The black cat sprawled on the rug shots his head up at the combined mentions of food and his name, then goes back to sleep realising the ruse.

On the screen, a white-clad athlete pierces through a red defence. Past the forwards. Past the midfielders. With every yard the footballer covers, the young man rises an inch from the couch. His mouth opens in slow motion.

Now past the backs. Only two between him and the goalkeeper. He takes a shot—

And hits the crossbar.

The young man falls back on the sofa. One hand clamps his mouth shut and the other punches a cushion. Feet kick the air. The furniture rattles and Reaper jerks awake, paws braced against the perceived earthquake.

Limbs relax in defeat as the succession of three whistles ends the game. Numbers count down the time before the next recording begins.

The young man picks the phone up again.

“I’m back… No, once every hour is not too much. He exercises a lot… Well, you know, doing cat stuff.”

Another match starts. He takes a swig of beer.

“What trip?”

He wedges the bottle back into the ice-full bucket he took it from.

“I can’t remember everything you say, Mum… Yeah, I know you’ve ju— Yes, I’m listening! The trip, sure… to…?”

A new action begins on the screen, but it’s short-lived. An opponent tackles successfully and the ball rolls past the sideline.

“Venice, of course. No, how can I forget? Same as every year. But I don’t think I can make it this time.”

He lays the phone beside him. The sound coming from it is like the screeching of fingernails on a chalkboard.

The young man hunches forward, on the edge of his seat. “Come on come on come on…” he whispers at the screen. A goal, a victory lap, and he punches the air twice before grabbing back the phone.

“Sorry, you got cut off there for a sec... Bad weather, pissing it down out there… What voices? Oh you know, the neighbours… partying in the hurricane, as locals do.”

Aims the remote at the screen. The mute icon appears in the corner and silence falls.

“There, I closed the window. You were saying? No, I know it’s tradition, but we’ve being doing it since, what—1910?… 1912, sure, my bad. Couple of years make all the difference. No, I’m not being sarcastic, just an observation.”

He pauses the recording and stands up. Through the corridor, followed by Reaper with his tail up. Into the laundry, and Reaper sits down outside, disappointed. Into the bathroom. Phone sandwiched between shoulder and ear.

“Look, nobody ever gets the joke. Not your book club ladies, nor Dad’s Facebook pals… Every year he posts the picture of us in front of Saint Mark with the title as caption and not one—Trickling? I’m getting a glass of water, ignore it…”

He flushes and washes his hands. “As I was saying, not one single person ever— Oh, for—! It’s the dishwasher, Mum… Well, it’s… one that flushes, alright? Yep, self-cleaning, there you go... I’m sure you’re about to tell me all about whatever Barbara paid for hers...”

Almost trips over Reaper still waiting outside the laundry. He studies the cat for a moment, holds the phone against his chest.

“I suppose you actually want food now, don’t you?”

They both enter the kitchen.

“Of course I miss you, Mum. And Dad, too. But I want to hang out with the lads. Watch some football. A good curry and a few pints… I am 20!… What do you mean ‘since when’? I’ve been 20 for forty years now!”

He fills Reaper’s bowls with dry and wet food. The cat purrs and meows, and dives in with appreciative slurping noises.

“I told you, he exercises a lot… Look, it’s just a tired old joke. Besides, Dad’s the only one who really needs to be there for it to work. It’s ‘Death in Venice’, not ‘Death and Family in Venice’… not sarcasm, Mum, observation!”

He plunges back into the sofa. The recording resumes.

“Why are you so desperate for family activities anyway? It’s not like we’re going to run out of time… I’m sorry, sure, your friends are, I didn’t mean to say— Of course I want you to be proud of me, and show me off to a bunch of old lady knitters before Dad’s call of duty, but can’t we do it in a different way this year? Please?”

He eats a few popcorns, kernels cracking under his teeth. Jumps up as his team scores again. Almost sends the phone flying across the room in his excitement.

“What did you say? No, I'm not eating... It’s static Mum… Well, that’s what static sounds like, munching crackers… You’ve got a rotary dial, I have a smartphone, you want to argue technology?… I told you, I’m not doing Venice this year. Been there, done that. New plan.”

He fast-forwards through the half-time commercial break.

“I don’t know… Death Metal concert?… Maybe not your ladies, but what about their grandchildren?… Fine, sorry, children… I don’t know what age you’re giving yourself these days! Last time we spoke you were 80!… Two weeks ago!… Oh sure, and I’m supposed to know it was your lawn bowls phase?”

He freezes the frame as the second half is about to start. Pulls up the menu. The second file from the top is highlighted, five more follow.

“Listen, I’ll think about it and call you back, I’m afraid the hurricane is about to hit for real and we won’t be able to speak— No, Dad won’t have to work overtime, they’re pretty good at dealing with that sort of thing here… Yes, they’re used to it, hardly any casualties at all… just a lot of… water, yes, and destroyed buildings. It won't even make the news... Yes... Yes... I’ll pass the message to the ‘squishy ball of black fur’… He’s not going to get fat, Mum, trust me. Yes. Love you too. Ye—”

He dumps the phone inside the bowl of popcorns. Shakes it around for a few seconds, then hangs up.

August 29, 2020 03:08

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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