A Lonely Life. Short Story.

“Just a little pinch and it will be over. And we’re done, see? I bet you barely felt a thing.”
“It wasn’t too bad.”
“I think most people just build it up in their heads as being worse. If you don’t think about it it’ll hurt less.”
“Do I still get a lollipop?”
“Usually they’re for my younger patients, but I’ll make an exception just this once.”
Bob reached for the jar and held it out for Mrs. Stevenson, she fished around for a few seconds, the plastic wrappers crinkling merrily, and pulled out a green lollipop.

“So is that everything?”
“Yep, unless you’ve anything else wrong, no coughs or fevers?”
“Nope, I’m feeling completely fine.”
“Ok, great, then that’s everything. You might feel a little tired or run down for a day or two but it’ll clear up quickly. If you feel anything worse give us a ring.”
“No problem.”
Bob looked at his computer screen, that was it for the patients for the day. Realistically, Nancy, the nurse, should have been doing the inoculations, but of course she had to be out sick today. Probably just hung-over from a night out. It had happened before, she came in, reeking of booze. He had sent her home immediately, if anyone had of smelled her they’d have headed for the hills and never come back. He was able to get mostly adults for the shots, he had a vague headache all day and he didn’t think he’d be able to deal with screaming kids. The painkillers he had taken earlier on had barely made a dent in it. Perhaps he was coming down with something himself. Hopefully not the flu. Bob was still youngish and quite healthy, so he wouldn’t be too badly off, but he didn’t want to take the time off work if he could help it. He stretched, yawned then started to type, there were a few notes he needed to make before he could leave for the night. Then after that he’d have to stop off in his mothers and make sure she was ok. He wasn’t looking forward to that visit. She was getting doddery and repetitive in her old age, it felt like every time he saw her they just repeated the same conversation. One of these days he’d walk in to find she’d left the stove on or something and almost burned down the house. He was considering sending her to some kind of rest home, but she wouldn’t like it. He had gently floated the idea a year or two ago and she’d refused to speak to him for almost three months. And when she had started speaking to him she spent a few days moaning about how he didn’t love her and how could he even think of doing such a thing. If he did send her somewhere, she’d probably hold the grudge for the rest of her life. His mother was the last family he had, his father had died when Bob was a toddler, and was only a vague memory of a nice smell and a gentle warmth. He had no siblings and was still single, much to his mothers chagrin. The hints for grandchildren had been getting distinctly less subtle over the last few years.

Bob logged off the computer and shut it down, then he started to pack up his things. The other doctors in the practise had already left, as had the secretaries. He grabbed a few things he’d need for his mother, then he stood up and left, making sure to turn on the alarm and lock everything.

He sat into his car and turned it on, letting it heat up a little before he started trying to navigate the twisty car park. As he drove he looked at the two trees, one was leaning precariously over the car park. They’d have to get someone in to take it down sooner or later, else it might fall on someone’s car in a few months. He added it to his mental to do list and pulled out of the car park and into traffic.

His mother still lived in the house he grew up in, a small bungalow. He thought it lucky that there were no stairs inside the house that she could trip down. It seemed like something that would happen sooner rather than later in her current state. The step in the front garden wasn’t too high up, and it was quite deep so there wasn’t a huge chance of her falling. He had suggested installing a railing not too long ago and was met with the answer of “Why would I waste my money on that?” Completely ignoring his offer to pay for its installation. She could be a very stubborn woman.

He knocked on the door twice and let himself in, “Hello mum, it’s only me!” There was no answer, but there never was. He’d find her in the sitting room, watching TV with a cup of tea, or sitting in the kitchen, looking over the paper with a cup of tea. The TV was off, so he walked passed the sitting room door and entered the kitchen, there she was, pencil in hand and slowly filling in the crossword. He bent and kissed her on the cheek, “Hi love, I thought you’d be here earlier.”
“I was held up at work.”
“The kettle was just boiled if you want to make yourself a cup of tea.”
Bob grabbed out a cup for himself, he knew the invitation was really an instruction and there was no point in arguing it.
“I brought some stuff over, I’ll give you your inoculation.”
“I’ll be fine without it.”
“Every time we have this discussion and every time you get it. This time won’t be any different.”
“Ah, I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss.”
“It’s better for you. Everyone gets it these days, even I’ve had it.”
“Yeah, but I don’t go out all that often.”
“You’re out most days meeting your friends or doing your shopping. Trust me, it’s for the best.”
She shook her head, “You worry too much. I never bothered with them and I was always fine.”

“Did you get up to much today?”
“Not really, I saw Daisy for a cup of tea down at the coffee shop.”
Bob smiled, he had hoped she’d let the conversation go easily, “I thought you were meeting Mary today?”
She frowned for a second, “Oh yes, you’re right.” She shook her head, “I saw Daisy at the corner shop earlier. That must have been it.”
“And how is she doing?”
“Well, both I guess.”
“Mary isn’t too bad, her boy Tommy was arrested again. I don’t know why she keeps letting him back into the house. The other one though, Jason, he’s getting married in a few months.” She looked at him, “we were invited. You can bring a plus one if you like.”
“I don’t know if I’d be able to go, what with work and all.”
“You don’t even know the date, and you can afford to take a day off.”
“And how was Daisy?”
“Not too good, her husband’s had a fall the other day. He’s ok, but he’s to be off his feet for a few days.”
“That’s terrible. Did you tell her to give me a ring if she needs someone to check up on him?”
“I did, but she won’t do it, we both know it.”
“Still, it’s good for her to know that I’ll pop over if she needs it. I’m not too far away after all.”

Bob sat across from her with his tea, “did you make me a cup?”
“No, sure you already have one.”
“Ah yeah, but that one’s old.”
“I thought the kettle just boiled.”
“No no, I put it on cos I thought you’d be here soon.”
“Do you want me to make you another one?”
“If it isn’t too much trouble.”
Bob picked up the mug of tea, it was still warm in his hands. He poured it down the sink and made her a new cup. He didn’t bother pointing out the tea was warm, it would only cause an argument.
After he made the tea, he gave her the injection with minimal fuss. He never understood why she seemed to be so against them, she never complained once they were done.

“You know I love you, right?”
“I know.”
“No matter what.”
“And I love you too.”
“And you can tell me anything.”
Bob sighed, “Not this again.”
“What? I’m only saying.”
“Yeah, I know what you’re saying. I just haven’t found anyone, that’s all.”
“I just want you to be happy.”
“I am happy.”
“Happy with someone else.”
“I can be happy without someone.”
“But it’s a lonely life and I want the best for you.”
“I know mum. I know.”

Bob left the house, making sure the door was locked behind him. It was getting late, but he had some left over’s in the house he could heat up for himself. He knew his mother was starting to get antsy over his lack of any relationships, but really, he just hadn’t met the right person. Sure he’d gone on plenty of dates, and there had been a few girls that he had seen casually for a few months, but nothing ever became serious. He was used to hiding it from her, he started when he was a teen, not because he thought she would embarrass him or anything, but because he knew she didn’t have anyone herself. He worried that maybe she’d feel a bit bad. As far as he knew she had never bothered to date after his father had died, though he had never really understood why. He had even told her that as a teenager, that he was fine if she wanted to find someone for herself, but she never had. Told him that everyone only has one love of their life and that his father had been it for her. Sure, it was romantic in one way, but romantic notion or not, people got lonely and he was sure his mother had felt the emptiness of the house, particularly when he moved out. He couldn’t bear to move too far away from her, to leave her completely alone. She had friends sure, but that wasn’t the same as a partner. Someone to hold and love, someone that would stand by your side no matter what. He wanted to be close by in case anything happened too, now more than ever. The area wasn’t the greatest and people knew she lived alone, even if she did leave the alarm on most of the time. If Someone tried to break in he could be there quickly, in less that three minutes, less if he drove like a madman.

He pulled into the driveway and looked at the dark house. It wasn’t exactly fun to come home to an empty place, but hey, it could be worse. Bob let himself in and turned on a few lights. Though he had lived here for about seven years, it still felt a little cold to him, almost like he hadn’t fully moved in yet, despite unpacking everything within the first few weeks. He dumped his bag in the hallway and went into the kitchen, it had been a long day and all he wanted to do was eat some dinner and veg out in front of the TV. He opened the fridge and grabbed out a plastic container and, after opening it slightly, he shoved it into the microwave and set the timer. Fast, simple, reasonably tasty. He yawned and leaned against the counter while waiting for the food. When the microwave beeped he grabbed out the container and a fork then went into the sitting room, there didn’t seem to be much of a point in using a place. He sat down onto the couch and turned on the TV, then he began to eat his dinner.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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