The King of the House

This is not the beginning of the story. The story begins in this place, at another time. Or perhaps in another place, at this time. Whatever the case, our entry point is this.

In this place, here and now, but not at the beginning, is a man age 73. He is the king of his house, a modest three-bedroom home constructed in 1978. It has a Tudor façade, and a small, shaded pool out back. It features a sunken living room with dark wood paneling. Like many homes of its time, it is dark inside, even during the day.

This king has a throne. His throne is a chair pushed against a window of the sunken living room. It is near the fireplace, and the front door. The front door is swung wide to reveal the world, but a glass storm door keeps this same world out.

In his chair the king reclines for hours each day. It is a comfort to him, fitted over the years to his girth. Others would not be comfortable in this chair. The shape it has taken will allow no other. It is the chair of one king alone. This king. Its arm makes this clear. Over the arm hangs the king’s hand. Under his fingers, which rub clockwise by the hour, by the year, the fabric is raw.

The eyes of the king are open but unseeing. He is mulling his history in his mind. Rubbing the arm of his chair. The hours pass, and he rubs, and the raw patch expands. The shadows in the room shift and grow long. Beams of sunlight pierce the kitchen windows, illuminating the king as if he were posing for Rembrandt. Still he gazes at – not out – the glass storm door at the front of his castle, his lower lip jutting upwards in bitterness. Light glistens on the moist, dissatisfied lip.

His mind replays footage from the past. Unfinished plans, awkward conversations, decisions that were wrong. His head shakes as he remembers mistakes made years ago. Some were his. Some were not his but hurt just as much. His fingers rub the raw patch.


‘An Old Man Asleep, Seated by the Fire’ by Rembrandt

The king coughs suddenly. A chesty, wet cough. The clockwise motion of his fingers ceases, he reaches for the plastic cup on the hearth. He drops his chin while puckering his lips. He lifts the cup slowly, with care not to spill its contents. It is a 48 oz Thirst Buster. Was, at one time. No one would care to bust a thirst with it now. He brings it to his chin and releases his cough into the cup. He returns the cup to the hearth carefully, and yet a bit spills over the rim onto his fingers. He wipes them against his pant leg and adjusts his sunglasses. They are broken, hooked on by only one earpiece. The large, round lenses hang crooked over the man’s large, round nose.

Headlamps illuminate the man in his chair. Beams reflected as points of light in the lenses of his sunglasses. His chair faces the front door and the glass storm door separating him from the outside world. Through it he sees a vehicle pull into the drive. His hand rubs the raw spot on the arm of the chair. The headlamps outside go dark.

The door of the car swings open. One boot hits the driveway, then another. The door closes with a whump.

A doorbell chimes.

The man’s eyebrows go up. But only for a moment. Then he brings them down. He has found reason to be displeased by the chiming of the door. He does not move, except for his hand, which continues to rub.

A young man stands on the porch, looking in. He cups his hand against the glass, and sees the old king in his chair. The young man pulls the handle and opens the thin glass door. Enters the house.

He mumbles hello.

The king of the house frowns. It might indicate displeasure. It might be unwillingness to display pleasure. It might be a suspicion that the young man hoped to find the old man dead. “Hmm,” rumbles the old man.

He is the king of this house.

All has happened before, nothing is going to change, and more is yet to come.

This is not the end of the story. The story ends in this place, at another time. Or perhaps in another place, at this time. Whatever the case, our exit point is this.

*  *  *

featured image: Hope and Pain by Martin Gommel

40 thoughts on “The King of the House

  1. I like how your writer’s eye seems to be sharpening, its detail becoming more vivid — especially with the raw patch, and the tension it builds with your descriptions that suggest something is about to happen, or did, or won’t, but still holds interest. The 48 oz Thirst Buster: I didn’t see that coming, not sure it matters, should it? I see a spit cup that’s smaller, for whatever that’s worth, pictured him with a chew in. Excited to see more of this strain of your writing that seems to have taken shape in recent weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I’ve been trying to get better with little details like that. I think I’ve neglected that kind of thing in the past. The Ole 48er seems out of place to me too, but I left it in there. Might be a case of truth being stranger than fiction. Thanks for your consistently insightful and helpful feedback, Bill. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing how you’ve given so much weight and import to a scene where nothing seems to happen – at least on the surface. You have given a simple scene an epic quality. Makes me think of a modern day King Leer, sitting on his throne, waiting for the curtain to rise. Majestic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Trent, that means a lot. That’s sort of my new goal for myself as a writer. I want to write the things that only I can write. I’m not quite sure what those things are just yet, but I’m working on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A thoughtful piece, eliciting a strong sense of place, and history. Well done, Walt.
    In my condo, Thomas hart Benton sits in the corner, and Courbet looms overhead at all times, but there’s
    no room for anyone else of import, or anything else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mike. Well, those sound like pretty good choices for what space you have. I had a couple of Dalis for a while, but my wife didn’t like them. When we moved, she made sure I didn’t put them back up. Probably for the best, though. Cool as it may be to look at now and again, no one really wants to see the Last Supper in Dali-vision on the wall every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What can i say that i haven’t said before. Simply amazing and awesome way of putting out so vividly. I gotta say as I’ve been catching up I get the sense that now you’ve matured (not that i’m saying you were immature or anything) and are treading on new paths. Only going to higher heights. I can only hope to become as good as you are walt.
    Always a pleasure

    Liked by 1 person

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