Dark Short Story
‘Let’s go for a walk, son. I need to talk to you.’
‘Sure, dad, what do you want?’
‘It’s not what I want. There is something I need to explain to you.’
Father and son clad in warm winter jackets and their walking boots. The sun was glistening from the ice-covered puddles. Further on, ducks quacked, frozen in the pond. The pair walked in that direction. Birds swooped and called, and a wolf howled deep in the forest. But not a sign of human life; that was the idea. Duncan Blower had bought the cabin fifty years ago. Nobody lived near them, and they still don’t.
‘What can you remember about your mum?’
‘Not much, she disappeared when I was, what four?’
‘Do you know why the family’s company is called what it is?’
‘I’ve asked you many times. You always wormed your way out of answering. So tell me, what does “Bedswerver” mean?’
‘Our company has nothing to do with furniture—so, a good question. Also, the name has served us well over the years. People may decide to go elsewhere for investment advice but rarely forget our company name, and they often come back to us.’
‘Okay, but how many ask what it means?’
‘No one has asked to my face. I guess that their education concerned business, not literature.’
‘Dad, what are you going on about? My degree was in accounts, as you know, so what has it got to do with stories?’
‘And as you know, my education was taught on the streets.’
‘I was a bad lad. Stealing and fighting were all I knew until my two years behind bars; when I started to read, boy, did I read. Beginning with novels, but then I fell in love with Shakespeare’s work.’
‘Where is all this leading to, and for that matter, where are we going?’
‘Do you mind if we stop for a minute or two? I’m not as fit as I once was.’
Duncan Blower puffed and reached inside his jacket. ‘Here, son, have a slug of that.’
The antique flask, battered and bruised, contained Seven Star Brandy; the men shared it. Getting lost in their thoughts, they were both thinking about the same woman.
Duncan senior wiped his lips with the back of his hand and Duncan junior used a handkerchief. It was quiet; birds had landed home. Then the wolf howled again; Duncan junior jumped and grabbed his father’s forearm.
‘Don’t worry, son, he is miles away.’
‘I hope he is not hungry,’ he laughed.
One man sprung to his feet. The other struggled to place the flask in his pocket and groaned as he stood. ‘Come on. We still have some walking to do.’
They were rounding the lake. ‘It is lovely out here. But, pity, it’s so damn cold.’
‘When I take a long weekend, this is where I come.’
‘That’s new to me, dad. I thought you went to Bermuda?’
‘My secretary tells the staff that. She knows where to find me if needed.’
‘Is that the secret you wanted to tell me?’
‘I thought you asked about the company name?’
‘What is going on? You invited me up here, you are the one with all the questions, and you were the one who offered to “tell me all”. Was it not?’
‘Yes, I suppose you are correct.’
‘Are we going somewhere particular or walking around the oversized pond?’
‘There is a fallen tree trunk; I need another rest.’
They sat on the frozen wood.
‘Let’s stop playing about. Tell me why the company is called Bedswerver Co Ltd?’
The father smiled and quoted, “He told me weeping and groaning that thou art a bedswerver.” Duncan senior studied his son’s face.
‘Yes, and what does that mean? Am I supposed to know?’
‘In Shakespeare’s day, a bedswerver was a woman who slept in other beds, i.e. not her own.’
‘So, I named the company after your mother’s antics with some men I knew and had business dealings with.’
‘What are you saying? Did mum play around?’
The older man pushed himself up and continued around the water’s edge.
‘Dad, wait, I’ve asked you a question.’
‘Yes, she slept with numerous colleagues.’
‘Is that why she ran away?’
‘She didn’t run away.’
‘So what happened to her?’
‘She was of no use to me.’
‘So you kicked her out?’
‘No, you don’t understand. She slept with men on my instructions.’
‘What? What do you mean?’
‘I needed a lift in the world of business. Company owners, wealthy investors and even bank managers fell for your mum. So, naturally, they aided her “poor” husband on his way up the ladder.’
‘You mean you agreed to all that?’
‘No, I didn’t agree. I set it all up.’
Duncan junior couldn’t speak. His mouth gaped, his eyes studied the tree tops, and he covered his face with his hands. He was frozen like the ducks.
‘Come on, we’ve still got some walking to do,’ Duncan strode on. He had a spring to his aged step.
Eventually, Duncan caught up with his father.
‘She ran away?’
‘No, after you were born, she spent every minute of every day tending to your every need. As I said, she was no longer of use to me.’
‘That’s what mums are supposed to do.’
Duncan junior grabbed his father’s shoulders, ‘Stop. You’ve got more questions to answer. Where is she now?’
‘That is where we are going.’
‘Dad, is mum alive and living up here? You are worrying me.’
They walked a further five minutes.
‘What can you see?’
‘I can see the same stretch of water and similar trees and more snow. What am I supposed to see?’
‘Exactly. Your mum is down there.’ He pointed into the water. ‘She has been in a weighted chest for fifty years. Exactly fifty years. I wanted to retire today and hand the reins of my business to you.’
‘You killed her? Did you murder my mum? You beast, how could you?’
‘You’ve used the word “you” four times in a row. It’s obvious you didn’t learn literature.’ He laughed louder and louder; the wolf was silent.
Duncan junior collapsed to the weeds and wailed.
‘Now, I have a question for you, my loving son. Why have you started sleeping with my secretary? You know I’m dating her.’
The small handgun blasted three times in quick succession. Then, silence returned, soon followed by a massive crack as the ice split and water lapped the edges, Duncan senior stuffed Duncan junior under the ice.
‘Now go and meet your mum. It has been a while.’
His laughter scared away the wolf.
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