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The Scene
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Brian Williams

Modern Fiction


He was sitting in his study reading the paper when the storm struck. The first signs were the sounds of wheels on the gravel, then car doors opening and slamming shut again, raised voices, kids complaining, adults cajoling and arguing. The noise made its way to the front door and into the house as he sighed and turned back to his paper.

The door to the study swung open and his daughter came in. He looked at her over the top of his paper and she looked at him, both daring the other to speak first. In the end, he gave in.

"Well?" he asked, putting down the paper.

"He made a scene in the middle of Mass," she said, his question triggering a long rant. He tuned the rest out: he had heard it many times before. Although the details were different, the rant was always the same, whether it was the cinema, the beach, the zoo, or this time, Mass.

He pictured it in his mind's eye: his son-in-law had made some inappropriate comment, spoken his mind when it would have been better left unspoken, committed an indiscretion or failed to act when required to. She in turn had over-reacted. There had been a row. He had "spoiled it all". She had demanded that they leave and created an even bigger scene. The first would have been noticed only by her or those around her, the last by everyone there as she marshalled the unwilling children ("we don't want to go"), put on coats and hats and marched everyone out of the church, probably (judging by the time of their return) right in the middle of the service. He felt sorry for the children, his grandchildren, who were only there for the spectacle, but in this case he felt particularly sorry for his wife, the only devout one in the family.

He waited for his daughter to finish, sighed again and asked once more:


"Why does he do it, Dad? Why does he spoil everything?" she demanded.

"Because he always does," he replied. "You knew that when you married him."

"But I thought I could change him."

"Then you're a fool," he said quietly, with a feeling of relief. It had finally been said, after many years of biting his tongue and after many imagined tellings.

"I beg your pardon?"

"You're a fool," he said, louder this time, so there could be no doubt. "You should always love a person for who they are, not who you want them to be."

She turned on her heel and walked out of the room, pausing only to slam the door. He sighed again and went back to his paper. 

© Brian Williams

©, 2010