We used to go on grand adventures.
“So you keep telling me,” the young man said as he helped the old man into his bed.
I fought a Dragon for the hand of a fair maiden once.
“Of course you did,” he whispered as he searched for the pills and glass of water. “Here, you’re supposed to take these.”
I don’t want to.
“Why not, Dad,” he said with exasperation. “Dr. Simmons said that you had to take the medicine so you could remember what’s going on and who you’re talking to.”
They make me forget the adventures, he said as he began to pace about the room.
“When you don’t take them you forget me entirely.”
The old man stopped his pacing and climbed onto the bed. I don’t really forget you, you know? I could never forget you. It’s just that when I don’t take that medicine I can remember what it was like to ride a horse with the wind in my hair – back when I had hair. And I can remember the feel of a sword in my hands and the feel of the sun on my face.
The young man pursed his lips for a moment as he thought of all that his father had once been and how this was but the first step towards the end before he said, “I can take you to the park tomorrow if you’d like.”
, the old man said waving him off. The park is where you take old men and children so they can forget who they are and pretend to be wild things! I have no need for pretending when I have my memories.
He was practically screaming that last bit. The nurses would be coming soon.
“Dad, if you can remember my name I won’t make you take the medicine.”
What’s that? You’re testing me?
“I won’t have you forgetting me. I can’t face that yet.”
William, he said in a whisper. We named you William after my father’s, father’s, father so that you would remember that our names mattered. That you mattered more than all the pain and suffering that this life could throw at you; that you could be great when the world wanted you to be small and insignificant.
“Thank you, Dad,” William said as he slipped the pills into his coat pocket.
Then you had to go and become an accountant. Shamed the whole family you did with that one boy.
“I love you too, Dad,” he said as he put on his coat. “Don’t tell the nurses that I didn’t make you take your pills.”
Wait, son, the old man said as he rose out of bed, wait. There’s something I want you to do for me. Call it one last favor.
“You’re not going anywhere, Dad.”
The old man smiled, Oh but I am. I’m going to die tonight.
Don’t go poo-pooing me now, Will. This isn’t a sad day; nor is it the end of my story. But I want you to promise me that you’ll go down to the docks in the morning and see Captain Thomas. He has something for you – your inheritance.
“Dad, you know all of this is just non-sense, right?”
Then humor me. Go to the docks in the morning and see Captain Thomas. Tell him your name is William Krutch and that you’re the son of Arthur Krutch come for your inheritance.
“That’s not our last name.”
It was mine, once, long ago. He looked past William and smiled. Well it seems that our visit is over William. Time for you to go.
William looked back into the empty hallway, “Dad, are feeling alright?”
Quite alright, he said as he climbed back into the bed. In fact I feel like I could peacefully sleep forever.
“Okay Dad,” William said as he watched his father lay down.
Remember what you promised me Will. First thing in the morning.
“First thing, Dad. I promise.”
John Atkinson Grimshaw Paintings, Salthouse Docks, Liverpool 02
The next morning came far too quickly for William’s liking, but then since his father had started having these spells he’d been spending his nights struggling to get him to take his medicine. Some nights he could; others, like last night, were nothing more than an exercise in futility. Rising out of bed and stretching he found himself wondering about his dad’s request last night. It’s always something, he whispered to himself. One minute dad’s out fighting dragonflies and the next he’s telling me to go see some sailor for my inheritance. It’s always something.
Shower, shave, and dress.
He wore blue today because his mother always told him that blue was a promise to the world that only good things came from you. His mother had been funny like that. She always had some little saying for luck or the warding off of evil spirits. It didn’t save her from wagon that crushed her. They still didn’t know how it rolled so far down the hill and got her.
Strange thoughts to occupy your mind, William mused. Stranger still that you would think of her today.
Stepping out into the morning air William Hamby made his way through the crowded streets and past the car jam that perennially clogged Fourth St. while angry commuters shouted at each other and blew their horns at the injustice of having to wait – they were far to important for such things, after all. His pace quickened as he crossed the tea houses and coffee shops on Ninth. He found himself sprinting down Baker’s St. and practically running as fast as he could down Henley Bridge and to the docks.
What the hell’s gotten into me, he wondered as he nearly collapsed from exhaustion. Why did I run?
Looking back up the hill and towards Henley Bridge he couldn’t place his finger on it. People, just normal everyday people, still milled about and none of them seemed to even notice him. Even the dockworkers were too busy with their own affairs to pay him any mind. Why did I run?
He took some time to rearrange himself and began to quietly recite the song his mother used to sing when he was scared.
Children dance when the ogres come to play,
Giants race against the waning of the day.
Fear is for those who’ve never swam the Lorang
Or chased the dragons from their holds.
Funny little song, he thought as his nerves settled. I wish I could ask her the rest of it.
He made his way through the docks asking those he met along the way where he could find Captain Thomas. He was directed along the docks to an old, rickety ship that seemed content to deny the laws of gravity and buoyancy as it bobbed along. Boards stuck out everywhere and it was so covered in barnacles and seaweed that it looked as though the sea were trying to claim it here and now.
Captain Thomas? William called out. Captain Thomas, I’m William Krutch, son of Arthur Krutch. He said you had something for me? No answer came. Captain Thomas? Are you there?