Family Inheritance

Robert had never before handled a gun. In fact, he had only seen them in museums and on The Lone Ranger, and aside from being given a toy one as a child, he had had no desire to own one. Yet now it was in his hands, cradled as a child might cradle a butterfly, caught to show loving parents, he felt peculiarly empowered by it.

It was still warm, as was the body of his mother, but he paid no heed to her lying at his feet on the stone scullery floor, blood slowly accumulating around her unfashionable beehive hair, like honey oozing from a spilled jar.

The pistol was his now, though he would have inherited it anyway, passed down from his grandfather who had taken it as a trophy from a dead German in Berlin. Father had kept it locked in his study, never showing it to Robert, or using it himself. He only knew of its existence because he overheard his parents talking about it one evening. Robert had crept part way down the stairs, unable to sleep, but not daring to enter the living room where they were watching coverage of Churchill’s funeral. He knew he would get a good hiding if he did not stay in his room. It was not really his room, in any sense that he made it his.  His parents had made no attempt to make it theirs either. The same cold lino covered the floor as when it had been laid by the builders in 1925.  The walls were painted the same sickly green that decorated public institutions. There was a gas fire, but it no longer warmed the room, having long since ceased to function, except as an object of fear in his nightmares. Robert was allowed one sheet, and one blanket, and had to lay on the rubber protecting the mattress from his occasional bed wetting.

He had perched on the edge of the bare stair and listened.

“Put it away,” his mother said.  “In fact, take it to the pawn shop and get rid of it.”

He risked a closer look, creeping and straining so he could see through the crack in the door jamb what they were talking about.  His father’s hand held the pistol up as if he were going to fire it at the ceiling, perhaps as a personal salute to the wartime hero.

“I can’t get rid of it, I’ll get into trouble.”

“It’s pathetic, getting it out now, just because of Winston.”

“No! I’ve told you before, I’ll never get rid of it, and then Robert must have it.”

Startled at the mention of his name, Robert’s foot slipped off the stair.

“Is that bloody child out of bed?”  Robert turned to run up the stairs, but he knew that running away was no escape.  She would box his ears as soon as she caught up with him.  He deserved it, of course, for stupidly letting curiosity get the better of him.

Now, she had got what she deserved.

Robert stepped away from his mother’s body and carefully carried the gun into the kitchen, stepping over his father’s body as he did so. He placed the gun down on the table and went to the larder to fetch the butter, Mother’s Pride and Sun-Pat.  Remembering his mother’s instruction that peanut butter sandwiches didn’t need butter as well, he spread both butter and peanut butter thickly on the stale white bread, and sat next to the fire, cross legged, as if in school assembly. 

The sandwich was utterly delicious, and Robert was beginning to warm up.

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