A matter of perception. (flash fiction)

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insurance

Steve had often told him he should’ve paid into some kind of pension plan, have bought property, made provision. His executive son was embarrassed by him and rarely invited him to his barbeques and house parties. John was always clean and tidy but his clothes were not name brand and he had no conception of style. He lived alone on his pension in his little council flat his past deeds mostly forgotten, his wife long ago moved on to the arms of a better provider.

John had never really considered he’d live this long. He’d seen too much death and suffering to expect it. He stroked Felix’s ears, his only companion now his legs had given out. Felix rubbed his body against his arm purring softly in utter contentment. John had a way with folks, cats too, they appreciated his gentle, caring nature. Long ago John had worked in troubled areas, a volunteer helping hand out food and supplies but adding something all his own, a calm and confidence that went far beyond filling an empty belly.

He looked fondly at the photos adorning the old dresser the sea of smiling black faces where he’d once belonged, before his son’s insistence that he return to the UK, before his legs gave out. Perhaps he should have stayed there, have lived out his life among those he loved and who loved him, but you can’t use a walking frame in the African bush, he’d just be a burden, that’s why he’d come back. Now his days seemed empty, he wasn’t used to not being of service.

He went to make a cup of tea, Felix following. It happened just as he was pouring the kettle. Felix had to spring aside to avoid the scalding water, but John never felt it, the pain shooting down his arm and through his chest was far too intense.

It was next day when Felix’s plaintive mewing alerted a neighbor that something was wrong. Steve was horrified. Why hadn’t dad gone into the nursing home he’d suggested, didn’t want his charity, stubborn to the end…

“It wouldn’t have made a difference,” the doctor later told him, “He had a massive strove, must have died in seconds, better that way he didn’t suffer.”

“Didn’t suffer,” Steve thought angrily. What kind of life had dad had, he was glad he’d gotten out when he could, made something of himself. A slight pang of guilt touched his heart. He could have done more, could have been there for him, but dad was always a bit of an embarrassment, didn’t fit in so well with his Tory friends. None the less he’d loved him and it was with teary eyes that he ordered the best teak wood coffin for his earthly remains topping up his meager insurance claim with extra cash. Dad had never wanted a fancy funeral but he got one.

John meanwhile looked down at his son. They hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but it was clear Steve loved him. He’d take care of him when he came. Steve didn’t have much of an insurance policy after all. He’d be lucky to get a shack up here, but that didn’t matter John had plenty of space now and his legs once more cooperated, he’d build a special house where Steve and family could stay in the grounds. They wouldn’t be comfortable with all the African refugees crowding his mansion, but perhaps they’d come to a barbecue …

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