Mad Uncle Marty

This story will be in my upcoming anthology, Afterglow: Generation Y, available for pre-order now.

Afterglow: Generation Y by [David V. Stewart]

Caitlyn sighed as she took over control and steered off the main drag and into the suburb, the electric engine revving as the tires hit the uneven pavement between the squat rows of ancient track homes. Unkept trees leaned out over the asphalt-turned-gravel, letting drooping, dry branches down to the cracked sidewalk.

“That’s sigh number two,” Jaiden said. “That must mean something is bothering you.”

“Only took you ten years to figure that one out?” Caitlyn said and smiled at her husband. Her eyes went quickly back to the road as the car alerted her to a refuse pile that she had to steer around. The neighborhood’s streets were intentionally and artificially curved, winding in the way people once would have thought a Tuscan street might, though it was both far too broad and much too poorly built. The crowded houses were now faded and grim, and their same sad faces repeated again and again with few variations.

“So, what is it? The neighborhood? It looks rough, but you’re with me. Nobody is going to mess with us, as if there is anyone here to do the messing.”

“No, it’s just… I guess I’m mad.”

“At Marty?”

“I know he didn’t mean to get sick. Maybe I’m just mad. I don’t want to do this.”

“I’m not a fan of breaking up a house, either. Remember my grandpa? We were just dating, then.”

“No, this is different. This is…” Caitlyn sighed again. “I shouldn’t have to do this, you know? I didn’t sign up for this. I feel like a third grader who gets the smallest piece of cake. It’s not fair.”

“No, it’s not fair, but you have me to do it with you.”

“And me!” came the voice of Lavender from the back seat, apparently freshly woken from her nap. She poked her head up between the seats. “This place looks sad.”

“You might find Marty’s house fun, though,” Jaiden said. “It’s full of toys.”

“Can I play with them?”

Caitlyn started chuckling. “You know what, Lavy? You can play with as many as you want.”

“What’s so funny?” Lavender said, watching her mother shake with quiet laughter.

“Oh, two things. One, if Marty were in his right mind, he’d have a heart attack watching you play with all his toys.”

“This is the turn,” Jaiden said.

Caitlyn turned the car into a shaded lane with an even rougher asphalt road. It looked like nobody had bothered to paint the divider lines in decades. Most of the houses had boarded-up windows and sagging roofs missing many shingles.

“What’s the second?” Lavender said.

“Half the toys aren’t even toys. You’ll see.”

They went around a bend and pulled up to a large house sitting on a narrow lot with leaning grey fences failing to hem in a small, overgrown backyard dominated by a wilting maple tree. The roof, made of one of the many cheap composite materials from the end of the 20th century, was streaked with white and repaired in many places with dull flashing. The paint on the aluminum siding was peeling, though it didn’t look particularly old.

Lavender was the first to get out, running up the steps to look into a narrow window beside the big, black door. “I don’t see any toys,” she said.

“Just wait,” Caitlyn said, drawing out the door key and fiddling with the old, dry deadbolt. The door swung inward directly to a large living space that was packed with boxes, oddments, and unrecognizable junk. Old movie posters hung on the walls, neatly framed.

Jaiden whistled. “We might need to call your brothers for this after all.”

“Maybe, but they have enough on their plate trying to see to Marty’s care. We can at least get a good start before we call them.”

Lavender had already opened a nearby box. “There’s just more boxes in here. What are these?” She held up a see-through box that contained a small plastic figurine with a grotesquely disproportionate head wearing a vacant, expressionless stare.

“Funco Pop,” Caitlyn said, chuckling. “I guess Uncle Marty was still buying them. Come on. I’ll show you something.”

“How do you play with them?” Lavender said, prying open the box and taking out the strange little figurine.

“Nobody knows,” Jaiden said.

Lavender stood up and rushed to follow her mother down a dark hallway into what would have been a bedroom had there been room for any bed. Caitlyn flipped on the lights, revealing bookshelves encircling the entire room, floor to ceiling, and even over the sliding closet doors, all packed with the same little figurines that Lavender clutched, each one a different variation from its neighbors. There were girls, boys, and things that looked in between the two. They were wearing makeup and costumes and holding little plastic props.

“Holy moly,” Jaiden said. “I’d forgotten.”

“Maybe you blocked it out,” Caitlyn said.

“Uncle Marty played with all these?” Lavender said, her eyes wide as she took in the room.

“He never even opened the boxes. They exist to sit on a shelf in pristine condition.”

“What are we going to do with all these?” Jaiden said. “Can we sell them? He probably spent a fortune on them.”

“Marty’s generation is the only one that cared about them, and they’re all dying or ending up in old-folks homes. I would just recycle them. Might get a few dollars for the vinyl.”

Jaiden picked up a nearby figurine. “Some movie character? Maybe we keep one as a souvenir to remember your great uncle, eh?”

“Sure, but there’s way better stuff to keep hold of than paperweights,” Caitlyn said.

“I’m going to keep this one,” Lavender said. She held up the figurine she had pulled out of the box near the front door. “He’s cute.”

Caitlyn led them back through the hallway to another room. This one, like the previous one, was packed, but this time with a horde of what looked like real toys, most kept untouched inside their boxes, which were covered with a layer of dust.

“Whoa, that’s a lot of Star Wars,” Jaiden said. “And Marvel, too. That’s what it is, right? I haven’t seen the superhero movies since I was a kid.”

“These are real toys!” Lavender said, running forward to touch a grey four-legged robot as big as she was. “He didn’t play with these, either, did he? What’s wrong with uncle Marty?”

“Nothing’s wrong with him,” Caitlyn said. “He just liked collecting stuff rather than playing with things.”

“Can I have the robot?”

“Sure,” Jaiden said. “Hey, you know what we should do? Take these down and give them to all the cousins. These are really well-made toys.” Jaiden picked up a box and opened it, then pulled out a tall action figure of a man with a laser sword.

“If Marty saw you doing that…” Caitlyn shook her head.

“Luckily, he thinks it’s still 2020, so…” He handed the toy to Lavender, who placed it on top of the robot like the little warrior was riding an oversized metal horse.

“You know he asks the hospital staff where his stuff is, but he can’t tell them what stuff,” Caitlyn said. She was smirking. “It’s a little sad. But yeah, I think you have a good idea. The kids would love toys like this.”

“What’s Star Wars? A video game?”

“Oh, not just that,” Jaiden said. “We studied it in college. One of the first truly massive corporate entertainment packages. The first movie came out nearly a hundred years ago. Would you believe it?”

“Wow!”

“There were movies, games, books, all sorts of stuff. People like Uncle Marty were really into it. Fanatics. There were fairs where people would dress up like the characters, put on costumes, and line up to meet the actors.”

“If Uncle Marty liked it so much, why didn’t he ever play with the toys?”

Caitlyn chuckled as she took down a toy and examined the box. “It’s debatable whether he really loved any of it.”

“What?” Lavender said, petting the robot like it was a small dog.

“Never mind. I’m just thinking out loud. I think he probably wanted to play with the toys but was worried about them. They cost a lot of money back in the day.”

“The sad thing is that I don’t think we’ll be able to get much of a return on all that,” Jaiden said. “I was hoping all the collecting would amount to more, but it’s all junk now. How we’re going to pay for his care, I don’t know.” Jaiden bent down and moved the robot a little. “I think Marty missed a real return on having his great nieces and nephews like him a bit more.”

“There might still be something,” Caitlyn said. “You haven’t seen the game room. Something I think you’d be able to appreciate.”

Jaiden raised an eyebrow and stood up. Lavender clutched the doll with a laser sword and followed her parents down the hall to a large, dark living room stuffed with old tech and oddments. Posters of old game posters and fantasy maps hung on the walls between shelves packed with disc cases and plastic cartridges. Two televisions sat near each other. One was large and modern, dropped from the ceiling in front of a cabinet full of controllers and a carefully organized set of ancient computers.

The other television was a relic from the late 20th, a faux-wood hulk that nevertheless had a rather small square screen that bulged from its frame. Next to it were flattish objects of grey, beige, or black, with designs that reminded one of the fantastical concept cars of yore, with vents, slots, ports, and fins in a different arrangement on each box.

“What is all this stuff?” Lavender said.

“Purpose-built computers and hard copies of software,” Jaiden said. “Your cousins would know what that meant. And that’s a TV that used a crazy thing called a cathode ray to draw images. An electron gun. Very cool, but necessary for some old games to look right.”

“You think it’s worth much?”

“To the right people,” Jaiden said. He picked up a black controller from a basket and started pressing buttons. “Hard copies of software, especially formerly banned software, can sell well, but you can’t sell them on the net. It’s illegal. You have to go to a convention or know a buyer. Even then…” Jaiden sighed. “Most people looking to play old media find a cache on the net, even if it’s not legal. They don’t bother with hard copies. It’s just the die-hards who want original hardware.”

“Like Marty. He has a bunch of movies in the closet, too,” Caitlyn said.

“Those might be worth something, especially, again, if they were banned at some point. There’s a lot of media that is either lost or been locked up by the corporations who own it. Our best idea is to pack it all up and wait for a media convention, then see what we can sell.”

“So not much help. I wonder if we could set these up in the home, you know? Something fun for the old timer’s play with.”

“In the memory ward? They’d probably have trouble turning the thing on, but maybe not. I’d say ask the administrators, but given that Marty’s going to end up in a government home, I expect it would all end up broken or stolen pretty quickly.”

Lavender sighed.

Jaiden forced a smile. “I know, it’s not fair, but it’s also not our responsibility. Not totally. Marty was married, what? Twice?”

“Three times.”

“And he never had any kids. Us just looking around this place is charitable enough, I think. Hell, I’m surprised the whole place hasn’t fallen in, given how many corners they cut on these old houses.”

“I know,” Caitlyn said. “I just wish… Let’s talk to my dad about it.”

Jaiden stood up and put his arm around Caitlyn, and they silently watched their daughter pick up joysticks and boxes, wondering at the strange antique plastic.

*

“Jaiden, why are you sitting around out here?” Michael said, not looking up. He and his fellow teenage cousin Goldy were playing a virtualization of a board game on a tablet between them on the coffee table.

“I’ve been downgraded to teenager,” Jaiden said. “Or maybe I just volunteered to keep an eye on you all.”

“It won’t make you cool,” Goldy said.

“Thank God.”

“Hey, did you see anything cool at Mad Uncle Marty’s? I heard he had a life-sized sex doll, but was made to look like a kid,” Michael said.

“Watch your mouth; your cousin is here,” Jaiden said, nodding to where Lavender played on the floor with a few newly unboxed toys.

“Sorry, Jay. But seriously, the doll?”

“You boys are like walking image boards.”

“I told you he was just a silly old man, not a dirty old man,” Goldy said.

“And it didn’t look like a kid,” Jaiden said.

Both the boys began laughing.

“If you guys like video games, he had a nice cache of original hardware.”

“Bunko shit,” Goldy said. “Sorry,” he added.

“I already have a copy of every game from the 20th we swiped from a private net,” Michael said. “Why would I take up a whole room storing rotting plastic?”

“It’s just different on original hardware,” Jaiden said. “Something else to hold the real thing in your hands.”

Michael scoffed. “Maybe, but you think it feels the same after eighty years? Naw. Squishy, rotten buttons and popped caps on the board.”

“Marty cared about that kind of stuff a lot,” Goldy said. “I bet he took good care of it.”

Jaiden sighed. “Maybe. I think he cared more about having things than using them. I hear he’s doing better. We should go see him.”

“Gonna be even more depressing than usual,” Michael said.

“And why should we?” Goldy said. “Really, he never cared about any of his nieces or nephews, and especially not about us. Whenever he was around, all he would talk about was old movies and how much he hated kids.”

“That’s what’s so sad,” Michael said.

Jaiden crossed his arms. “Yeah, it’s sad. Maybe have a little heart, eh? Remember what Christ said about visiting the poor and sick.”

Gold scoffed. “Man, I hear enough about that during the weekend. Do I have to think about it now? Marty probably won’t know who we are.”

“Did he ever?” Michael said.

Jaiden shrugged. “I’m not going to make you do anything.”

*

Richard sat slumped in the big chair at the head of the table. His eyes, still sharp for his advanced years, wandered over his children as they bickered. He remained silent, considering each thing while his chin rested on a hand.

“We’ll hire an appraiser. Jaiden doesn’t know about all the memorabilia,” said Richard’s youngest son Dylan, twirling an electronic pencil over a tablet computer, his face crunched in agitation.

“It’s all junk. You can go see yourself,” Caitlyn said. “Jaiden ran a pawn shop, remember?”

“But not an antique shop.”

“There are no antiques, no furniture, just plastic toys they made 10 million of sixty years ago, sitting on particle-board shelves that are turning to sawdust.”

“Some of that stuff has to be rare,” said Greg, Richard’s second son. “There’s no way Marty spent all his money just on baubles without there being some return in there. Somebody has to want something he has.”

“That was Marty,” Hunter, Richard’s eldest son, said. “He liked to pretend everything he bought had value, but he never intended to sell it. It was just how he justified buying it.”

“But why?” Greg said.

Hunter shrugged. “What else was he going to spend his money on?”

“Retirement? Insurance?”

“People plan to get old but not to get sick.”

“So, what are we supposed to do, just toss it all?” Dylan said.

“No, we can sell a lot of it, Jaiden thinks,” Caitlyn said. “But not immediately. For something to be valuable, it has to not just be rare – somebody else has to want it, too. There might be some super-rare toy in the pile, but who’s looking for it? Everybody who cared about that kind of stuff is old now. Hard to find a buyer, and some of it is banned and can’t be sold on the net.”

“I’d still feel better about an appraiser.”

“Fine, but you pay for it.”

“I will.”

“There must be some way to get some liquid cash for Marty,” said Greg.

“Sell the house?” said Dylan.

“If you can find a buyer,” Hunter said. “And if it will sell for more than the note.”

“What kind of shape was it in?”

“The house itself is holding up,” Caitlyn said. “The neighborhood is nearly empty, and half the houses would be condemned if anyone bothered to inspect them.”

“His was from the early century,” Hunter said. “I’d expect it to fail inspection like most of the little boxes from the time. Could be repaired, but again, who’s buying?” Hunter sighed and looked at his father. “I looked into Marty’s finances. He’s living on one of his wives’ pension, which he gets as a survivor even though they divorced. His own pensions are bankrupt as of a few years ago; he gets almost nothing from them. He never paid off his mortgage and hasn’t made a payment in years and years. The bank just didn’t bother trying to collect anything. No point in foreclosing, I guess. He gets assistance with most bills and government health insurance, which still isn’t paying out for his current hospitalization.”

There was a silence as Hunter regarded each of his siblings in turn, then his father. “And all the house has it in is a lifetime of junk that’s almost not worth selling.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “If we don’t want him to end up in a government nursing home…”

There was silence around the table because they all knew what that meant.

“I have Dad,” Hunter said. “There’s no way I can take another senior in, much less one that’s going to need round-the-clock memory care.”

Again, there was a long pause of silence. Caitlyn was the first to speak. “Lavender is still little, and I didn’t want to announce this right now, but…” She looked at her father, who smiled back at her. “And we’ve already planned to take in Jaiden’s mother when the time comes. She’s in the same boat, and she’ll only have Jaiden, so…”

Richard sighed. “I love my brother. I would take him into my own house in an instant, but here I am. I’m old. Too blind to even drive.”

“You’re still the patriarch,” Hunter said. “And you have Marty’s power of attorney. The decision is ultimately yours.”

“No, it’s really not. I can’t make decisions for those who have to do the work. That’s you. It should be Marty’s kids, but he never had any, so here we are. I can’t make any of you take him in. We can’t afford to pay for care in that old run-down house of his. It’s either one of you volunteers, or we have to bite the bullet and let the government take him and then do our best to make sure he’s okay there.”

“How bad is he, really?” Dylan said.

“You have six kids, Dylan,” Hunter said.

“Just… I haven’t seen him in a awhile.”

Richard was quiet a moment, staring at his hands and remembering trying to talk to Marty in the hospital. “Not too bad, yet, but dementia always gets worse. He’s going to need somebody around all the time.”

“That means private care,” Dylan said. “He can’t afford that. I mean, we could all pitch in, but even so, it wouldn’t probably be enough.”

“Or we hire nursing care in one of our homes,” Hunter said. “Somebody who is home all the time.”

Dylan shook his head. “We both work, and we need to.”

“I won’t do it,” Greg said. All the eyes in the room turned to him.

“I can’t ask you to take him, son,” Richard said.

“I won’t. Everyone is making excuses. I’m telling you that I won’t do it. Dad, I would gladly give you our extra room. I would have done the same for Mom. For any of you, too. Not Uncle Marty. He’s never done anything for us. For any of us. Last time he even bothered showing up to something was Thanksgiving like three years ago. He was insufferable.” Greg’s eyes got wide, and he gestured frantically around the table. “You remember how he bitched about us praying over the food? How he went outside in protest. What’s Thanksgiving if you don’t give thanks? And forget about Christmas or easter. That house of his is a monument to his selfishness. Let him lie in the bed he made and piss it, I say. My obligations are to my own children and the ones who already cared for me. I won’t make them suffer for Mad Uncle Marty. I won’t be guilted into taking care of a dementia patient who never bothered with anyone but himself for his whole boring life. Spoiled brat turned into a crazy old man.”

Everyone at the table looked at Greg, not with shock, but a relieved understanding. Richard, too, exhaled in a calm release.

“I know,” Richard said. “But I love my brother anyway. I’ll call the social worker. Hunter, can we go visit him?”

Hunter nodded. “We all should, just to see where he’s at.”

“I won’t,” Greg said.

“You should,” Hunter said. “But I won’t make anyone do anything. I wanted to talk about… I guess what we were willing to do.” He nodded to Greg. “And I get it.”

*

“How you holding up?” Caitlyn said, leaning over Marty’s hospital bed. He was staring at the TV, which was off.

Marty, unshaven, didn’t turn to look at her. “Not bad, for a human.” He sniggered.

“Marty, it’s me, Caitlyn. They say you can go… home soon.”

“Good. I’ll be back,” Marty said with a bad German accent. He laughed, then turned his face towards her. He squinted at his hospital bracelet. “When was the movie supposed to start? I can’t find my ticket. Hope it’s better than the last one we saw. Awful.”

Caitlyn sighed. “What movie is this again?”

Marty frowned. “They’re not even turning on the previews. I wonder if something is wrong.”

Jaiden, leaning against the wall, said, “You’re gonna have some angry Star Wars fans if they don’t start the movie soon.”

“Me-sa Jar Jar Binks,” Marty said with a laugh. He looked at Jaiden. “They wrote him out of this one. Everyone hated Jar-Jar. Racist. And the Racist aliens. Anakin kills them, though. Pretty cool.”

“Yeah, I can’t believe they let Lucas get away with the Trade Federation.”

“Japanese aliens, ha! Me so solly! Jar Jar…” Marty’s voice trailed off. “Racist alien orcs, ha! Orcs! Orcses!”

“What about the orcs?” Caitlyn said.

“They’re racist.”

“Racist? Who do the orcs hate? Elves?”

“No, the orcs are racist, Cate. Racist. Fascist!” He made his hands into fists, then sat up and looked out the window.

“Okay,” Caitlyn said.

“We should change the subject,” Jaiden said. “What do you want to eat later?”

“Yo Quiro Taco Bell.” Marty gave a self-satisfied chuckle.

“Mexican it is,” Jaiden said.

“Did they bring back Baja Blast?”

“I think so,” Jaiden lied.

“Did I ever tell you about my friends who stole all the Baja Blast? Had a secret cooler in his bag. Filled it with stuff, then ran out the door. Went flat, though. We need to be careful with it. They can see your heat, you know.” Marty looked at the window again.

“Who?” Caitlyn said.

“They have a xenomorph in their ship. That’s how you know it’s all the same universe.” He nodded at the TV. “There are ETs in the senate, even though that’s a Spielberg movie. Him and George were friends.”

Caitlyn shook her head and looked at Jaiden. While they shared a look, Lavender came over and put an action figure on Marty’s lap.

“What?” he said, then he picked up the toy. Realization dawned on his face, and he smiled. “Hey, it’s Luke Skywalker. I had a toy just like this when I was a kid. I always wanted a Darth Vader to fight him, but my mom wouldn’t ever buy me bad guys.” He winked at Lavender. “She thought it would turn me into a bad guy. Satanic panic and all that, but you’re probably too young to remember that, Cate. They thought Satan was running everything. Music, games. Movies. Silly. I never did get that Darth Vader. Always wanted one.”

“I’ll get her one to go with Luke,” Jaiden said.

“Can I have one?”

“You bet. The store has a bunch of him.”

He smiled at Lavender. “You know, Cate, I used to imagine portals brought all the characters to one planet to fight each other. I’d put all my toys in the middle of the room, and they’d fight. Spider-man, Wolverine, Luke Skywalker, and a few dinosaurs. Mom always hated it.”

“My mom makes me pick up,” Lavender said. “But I can get out as many toys as I want at once.”

“That’s good. When we get home, I’ll show you some of mine, if I can find them. They were pretty cool. I had all the Ninja Turtles.”

“Ninja Turtles?”

“You know them. Cowabunga!” Marty laughed. Lavender laughed with him. “Shred-head!”

The door squeaked open. Hunter was holding the door, and Richard was slowly working his way in, leaning on a big, four-footed cane.

“What’s happening, little bro?” Hunter said with a smile.

“Dad!” Marty said. “Did you bring food?”

“He wants Taco Bell,” Jaiden said.

“It’s your brother, Richy.” Caitlyn moved, and Richard sat down on a stool. “Are they treating you good?”

“TV is broken,” Marty said.

“The nurse said it’s been making him agitated and confused,” Caitlyn said.

“I bet I can fix it,” Richard said. “But let me talk to you first, yeah?”

“Okay,” said Marty.

“You’re in the hospital. Do you remember what happened?”

“I fell down.”

“Yeah.”

“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Marty intoned in a quavering feminine voice.

“Yeah, but for real this time.”

Marty’s face fell slack. “Yeah, for real.”

“You were having trouble remembering things. We’re lucky Hunter went by to check on you when you stopped answering your phone. Anyway, we’re setting you up a new place to live.”

“New place?”

Richard nodded. “They’ll be someone around to make sure you don’t fall down again, and to help you remember.”

Marty looked puzzled. “Moving in with Dad?”

“No, Dad has been gone a long time now. This is a new place. I’ll come check on you as often as I can.”

“Does Maddy know?”

“You divorced Maddy, remember?”

Marty squinted. “Oh yeah. What a bitch she was. Did you know she tried to give my Legos away when I wasn’t home?”

“That’s a bit much, even for her. But you don’t need to worry about her anymore. We have some things to take care of. Want to watch a movie while we get packed up?”

“Sure, but the TV is broken.”

“I can fix it. What do you want to watch?”

Marty was quiet for a moment. “Do we have Aliens?”

“That’s a bit intense, isn’t it? How about something a bit more fun? The Simpsons?”

“Eat my shorts, Richy; that’s not a movie!”

“But it’s funny.”

“Okay. That’s fine.”

Richard turned on the TV and looked up the Simpsons. He put on a random episode.

“Hey Richy, why did mom always get mad at us for watching this?”

“Oh, I think she wasn’t that mad. If she was, she would have bothered to stop us instead of just yelling about it.”

“But why?”

“She thought it was a bad influence.” Richard chuckled and coughed Hunter’s eye. “An intact family with children, a stay-at-home wife, a fully employed husband in his own home. Such a bad image.”

“Mom just hated Bart, I think. He was a little shit, but I always thought he had a good heart.”

“Yeah, I thought so, too. Remember how mad mom would get when we told her not to have a cow?”

“I wonder what Bart was like when he grew up.”

“I bet he was a lot like us.”

“This is a good one,” Marty said. “Bart almost fails the fourth grade. It’s funny, though, because there’s like a million more episodes, and he’s always still in the fourth grade.”

“Your right, it is funny. Never thought about it,” Richard said. “We’re going to talk to the nurse and gather up your stuff, all right?”

“Okay, I’ll be right here.”

*

The halls were narrow and dim. Every-other light fixture had been removed at some point to save energy, and now the windowless corridor looked more like a tunnel in some forgotten crypt than a corridor in a medical facility. That was just as well because it hid how dirty the linoleum floor was.

Hunter walked slowly behind his father and uncle. The nurse that was supposed to lead them had disappeared to deal with some sudden problem, but it was obvious where they needed to go: forward, the only way anyone could go. Doors were occasionally open on either side of them, revealing rooms that were a little less dark than the hallways because of windows, though all of them had drawn blinds. Hunched people existed in these cells, grey beings of uncertain gender who occupied themselves with small TVs or simple computers or nothing at all.

Eventually, they reached the common room.

“Well, here we are,” Richard said with a false cheer. The foyer had been arranged into a large living room, with couches and chairs, and a few old-timers reclined in the worn-out furniture, their attention on a single, large TV bolted to the concrete wall in the center of one wall. On it was an old cell-animated cartoon with fighting robots and big-eyed people running from them. Or maybe the people were piloting the robots. Hunter couldn’t tell.

Marty paused, stared at the screen, and a smile creased his cheeks.

“Why don’t you take a seat, bro,” Richard said. “Jaiden should be getting your room squared away. I think he’s setting up your Nintendo.”

“Glad we snagged it from Dad’s house,” Marty said and sat down in a nearby recliner. “Would have disappeared when he broke up with what’s-her-name.”

“She was a piece of work, eh?” Richard said.

“What are you gonna do? Dad’s dad. Can’t fix him.”

“Nope.” Richard sat down on the couch next to the recliner. “I’m gonna try to visit every day. No promises, though, since I don’t drive anymore.”

Marty nodded.

Richard settled in and turned his attention to the TV. “I think I remember this.”

Marty drew his attention away from the giant animated robots as Lavender tapped his arm. She handed him two action figures.

“Oh wow, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. I had ones like these, too.”

“You can have them,” Lavender said. “I have more just like them now.

“Wow, cool. I always wanted Darth Vader. Maybe I’ll find a place to put these, just to remember.”

“It’s okay to play with them, too,” Lavender said.

“Check it out, Richy.” He handed Darth Vader to his brother.

Richy smiled, raised up Vader’s hand, and said in as deep a voice as he could, “Luke, I am your father!”

Marty held up Luke. “No! It’s not true! That’s not the line at all!” he laughed. “People often misremember it. It really goes, ‘No. I am your father.’”

“Right, I forgot,” Richard said and handed him the doll.

Marty sighed and turned his attention to the TV, a gentle, placid smile on his face.

Pre-order the new book, and don’t forget to check out my latest fantasy novel, Alshafaltha, out now.

3 Comments

  1. Instant gold, like so much of what you write. In this case, it’s easy to see the future actually going this way just from extrapolating present day trends, although I’d think we’d have genuinely self-driving cars by the point in time you seem to be describing.

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