Phil and his new wife Suzie were speaking in hushed tones. They spoke in hushed tones a lot these days but the house was old, the walls paper thin and so naturally he heard them. He could hear everything. It was Suzie’s turn to speak. William hated her dark shrill voice and when she whispered it could sound almost menacing. But she was Phil’s new wife and from what he could see a pretty good mother to his two grandchildren, a tiny boy and girl.
“I’m so tired of this shit Phil!” She yelled, quickly lowering her voice to a menacing rasp. “Listen to me. I’m sick and tired of picking up after him, sick of washing his same goddamned two T- shirts and sick of him leaving his goddamned cigar butts all over the house for the kids to find. I’m tired of exposing our children to his crap Phil, his damn ways. I hate the condescending way he talks to me when no one’s around. Pretty soon it’s gonna come down to him or me unless we think about putting him somewhere….and I really mean it this time Phillip, I’m talking sooner than later.”
Phillip hated these confrontations, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that they were occurring more frequently and with more regularity from Suzie. His reply sounded too soft, too distant and anemic although you could hear him as clearly as if he was standing a few feet away. “He’s a human being and my father. I’d hate to stick him in somewhere with a bunch of strangers. He’s not that old and he belongs here, at home, with his family. Or at least what’s left of them. I looked into his retirement account recently, he can’t afford an alternative situation and neither can we at the moment. You know that, we talked about this.”
After another awkward pause the conversation died down and they both fell silent. Will Turner knew what the silence meant. It portended a storm of resentment in the form of brooding and intense quiet, which Suzie would inflict on Phillip for the remaining few days of their long weekend together.
Of their two small children Sam, the boy, didn’t take after anyone. He didn’t even resemble a single member of the family. Sarah, on the other hand…ah Sarah, the darling, ruthless daughter and real love of Will Turner’s life, who often appeared to him like a rubberized, miniature version of his ex-daughter in law. She was the personal favorite of his son’s two children. He respected her. She was bold and brave and fearless. He never forgot the day this tiny blonde, unassuming granddaughter of his chose to stand in the middle of a shopping mall and scream “Will somebody please love my daddy!” It was an impression too vivid for Turner not to carry around, trapped somewhere deep within the recesses of his brain and yet accessible at the oddest moments.
He heard a machine like roll of thin rubber wheels on the berber carpet behind him. Gus’s way of announcing himself. “Mr. Turner ?” asked Apple’s new, digitally enhanced 1700 series house bot in a stilted monotone. “Mr. Turner?” Gus said again, “Can I get you anything? Something to drink?” A familiar holographic face peered out of the digitally enhaced L.E.D. screen, fitted inside the top of the new bot series’ head. The face’s questioning eyebrows were raised in combination with a blank stare. One of the attempts at a humanoid facial expression programmed into it.
William, Will or Bill Turner, depending on which of his family members or friends were addressing him other than Gus, would be turning seventy six this year. That precarious, divider line age, from which there was no turning back and no conceivable way to even entertain the possibility of doubling it in some future fantasy scenario. Turner had long ago reconciled himself to the facts. Yes, he was seventy six years old. No he really didn’t care. Yes he’d had a full life, with plenty of regret. But how did the saying go? “If you haven’t had any regrets you haven’t lived.” The fact was that life was still being good to him most of the time and he found himself loving every second of it, which came as sort of a surprise. In earlier times he imagined life at this stage to be gloomy and dreary and that he would be fully prepared to leave it behind but instead he found each day increasing in depth, color and meaning, fully gratifying to the senses and as entertaining as a ten ring circus.
Here he was, finding himself paradoxically getting old when the favorite song during his heyday was “Old Man” by Neil Young. From time to time the lyrics of that song turned on him.”...old man, look at my life I’m a lot like…” You are, he’d finish under his breath with a smirk. Will Turner was ex military, an army sniper with two tours in special ops under his belt. He was stationed in and around areas of Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam. Regions which were labeled “hot” at the time and his platoons encountered plenty of hostile fire on a regular basis when their lives weren’t filled with seemingly endless and uneventful patrols into the hot jungles by day and night. The enemy in those surrounding areas were known to strike unexpectedly and with deadly force, after which they completely disappeared, making fast retreats into impossible hideouts. But Bill was tough in his early twenties and a survivor. He could easily turn a gun muzzle on himself with deadly accuracy of course and thought about it many times, especially lately, whenever Suzie had been acting up but he couldn’t bear the thought of dying at gunpoint, the way he killed countless others. He also thought of his son’s family, the two kids, there was no way in hell he was going to put them through that. If one of the kids happened to find him…or even heard about it. No, he couldn’t bring himself to even think about that. Will was diagnosed in early September of having “mild depression” and was becoming forgetful. Up until that point he thought of himself as a young frog, carelessly skipping across the stones of time, intent on a feast of fresh insects to quench his raging hunger for life.
He’d always been a hard bitten, rugged figure, with car mechanic fingers from which black, oily substances oozed between the ridges of his knuckles if he forgot to wipe them. Which was often. The children noticed, without a mention, that he had deep yellow callouses like corn rows jutting out from where his fingers met his palms. These were acquired laboriously from “shovel ready” jobs Vietnam vets fell into early on after the war either just to keep themselves busy or because they were some of the only ones available.