Leg twists under me. Grab the banister to stay upright. Take a deep breath. Must be nerves. Been telling myself that for a while now. Gatto got MS last year, started with him losing his balance. Hope it’s not…no, just nerves. Strung up too tight.
Straighten my tie. Look the part. Old man won’t take me seriously if I don’t. Forlorn hope but have to tell myself something or I’ll never do this. Damn that door’s heavy. Don’t remember it being that hard.
“Morning, Mrs−” Wonder where the old bat is? Strange her not being at her desk. Whole place is quiet. Too quiet for a Tuesday. Odd. Is it a public holiday I don’t know about?
It shouldn’t be too difficult, this meeting with the old man. Knows I don’t want the Company. Follow in his footsteps? Rather shoot myself. That threat of his, to cut me out of the will. Oooh, so scared. Don’t want his Company or his money. Sick of being a so-called ‘trust fund brat’. Don’t know why he won’t cut me loose, he started from nothing when he was younger than me. Should want me to stand on my own two feet. Should be proud I want to be my own man. Real man, as he puts it.
Should knock, but won’t.
“You’re late. As always. Don’t bother, you’ll only lie. Sit down.”
Well, that was predictable. Never a good word to say, that’s his trouble. You want someone to hang around, you can’t get grumpy about childhood pranks. Never forgiven me for running away from school with Wickers. Long memory he has, very long.
“So, what do you want?”
Well, finally. Keep me waiting to put me in my place. Fat chance. Bit difficult to start, thought I had the right approach, doesn’t seem feasible now.
“Come on, I haven’t got all day. You asked for this meeting.”
“You know what I’m going to say. I don’t want to be tied to this place any longer.” Try to not slouch, sit up, make an impression, have some backbone.
“So you’ve said. And how are you going to support yourself?”
“I’ll think of something.” Bastard. Thinks ties to his money are all that keep me going.
“Really? And just what do you have against working here with me anyway? Burratino’s is the largest toy manufacturer in Italy. It’s a good company, a good living. When I was your age, it wasn’t all wishing on a star, you know. I worked damn hard−”
“Please! I can’t bear it. I’ve heard this story a million times.”
“An exaggeration is as bad as a lie. You know that.” He’s going red in the face. Muscles clenching in his jaw. Don’t care. Have to get out of here. “If you would just settle down−”
“Put my nose to the grindstone, you mean.”
“It’s better than sticking your nose into other people’s affairs!” Yes, that’s right, slam your fist on the table. Predictable isn’t the word. Now you’re going to tell me you’re my father.
“I’m your father!” And there it is. “I created this, all this, you!”
“No! I really don’t want to hear about the moment of my birth and how it made you think you’d been given a second chance. It’s nauseating. One thing I do know is I am no fruit of your old loins! I’m nothing to you, anyway, just a damn puppet you think you can jerk around whenever you want.” That should give him an apoplectic fit if nothing else.
Or not. Why so quiet, old man? You must have put on some weight, the chair never squeaked like that before when you lean back. Don’t like the way you’re looking at me.
“You’re right. Who you are…yes, you’re my son, and yes, in name only. What you are, that’s another story. That I did create. Perhaps I have done you disservice by keeping you tied to me all these years. Perhaps it is time you tried to stand on your own two feet. You may not have realised, but I actually have been…what’s the phrase, cutting the apron strings recently. Trying to bring you to your senses. But obviously, it’s not working. I don’t think you’ve ever really grasped what it would mean for you. So, understand this, if you truly want to go, then go. But if you do, I will cut all ties to you at once, and forever. There’s no going back. There will be nothing you can say or do that will make me change my mind. Understand?”
You think I’ll come back? Are you insane. You’re as thick as the planks the Company makes the toys from. “I won’t change my mind.”
You going to say anything or just sit there looking at me. Perhaps now wouldn’t be a good time…hell, why not. “Before I leave, I need−”
Best just to shrug and smile. Okaaay, perhaps not. That was pretty nimble for an old fart. Shouldn’t have sat down, if he leans any closer our noses will touch. That vein under his eye is jumping. “Hey, Pops, ease up.”
I’ve never seen him do that before. The edge of one hand slamming down into the palm of the other. Oh, I get it. Cutting the strings. “Just because you’re Italian, doesn’t mean you have to be so theatrical, you know. Just say goodbye.”
What the hell? Why am I on the floor? Legs don’t bend like that. Bit disturbing. More disturbingly it doesn’t hurt. Can’t lift my hand. So stiff. Must have been an accident. Can’t remember anything. Head feels like it’s stuffed with sawdust.
Someone at the door, thank goodness, help me. Help me. Can’t feel my mouth. Am I talking? HELP ME! Can’t see anything. Why’s it so dark?
“Ah, Rufus, take this away. Burn it.”
“Where did you get this old puppet?”
“It’s the first one I ever made. And I’ve told you before, call me Gepetto.”
WRITER'S WRITE have issued a challenge: 12 Short Stories in 12 Months. Each story must conform to the prompt, word count and deadline given. It began in February 2017. I've accepted the challenge. Originally, once my story had been on the challenge's Facebook page for a day or so, I'd post them here. No though I am putting them into an anthology which I hope to self-publish early in 2019.