Frank Atherton is a war hero who feels anything but heroic. Plagued by demons from his past military career, he’s settled in his home town hoping to live a simpler, more normal life. Those hopes are shattered with the arrival of the most annoying person ever to make his acquaintance.
“So, you’re telling me your incompetence caused my mother’s fall?” Ralph Penwarren bellowed at the hapless desk clerk.
“No, sir. That’s not what— I didn’t say— Mr. Penwarren!”
He hustled past her glassed in office, storming down the corridor to his mother’s apartment. “Mom?” He called and banged on the door.
“She’s not there,” the assistant director told him as he followed in the big man’s wake. “That’s what Sue was trying to tell you. She’s in the nursing facility now that she’s left the hospital. If you’d listened to Sue. . . .”
“Then show me where to find her,” Penwarren demanded.
“If you’d follow me. Quietly. The residents are mostly asleep. You’ll have the whole place awake if you aren’t careful.”
“Just because that would be inconvenient for you—”
“Not so much that, Mr. Penwarren. These people live a very orderly life. They, like your mother, pay for a service—one of those things being peace and quiet. You’re disrupting that. If you continue, I’ll have you removed.”
“You’ll try. . . .”
Frank Atherton drew himself up to a rather impressive height, broad chest straining against his tailored suit. Mr. Penwarren was a less impressive height and on the stocky side. He was loud, rude and inflammatory. The director didn’t like dealing with him, which was why Atherton had been enlisted. As a retired, combat honed Army Captain, he wasn’t intimidated by Penwarren.
Ralph’s blustering faded on his lips.
“Your mother is sleeping at the moment, but I’m sure she’d like to see you in the morning. Meanwhile, if you’d like to find a place to stay—”
“I’m gonna stay at her place.”
Atherton stopped walking, turning to Penwarren who panted a step or two behind him.
“With your mother’s permission. Another thing they pay for is privacy.”
“She’s my mother.”
“Yes. I’m not denying that.”
“She wants me to stay there.”
“She hasn’t given me any instructions to that effect. Nor has she contacted the front desk. We can set you up with a guest room.”
“Her room is already paid for. And now we’re also paying for her to stay in the nursing facility.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“So, she doesn’t need her place.”
“Also true. However, her things are there. We’ll set you up with a guest room.”
“In the morning, when your mother wakes up, we’ll check with her and see what she has to say.”
“We’ll just wake her now!”
“I don’t think so. Your mother is recovering from major surgery. I won’t allow you to interfere with that process.”
“She fell because of your staff’s incompetence!”
Atherton faced Penwarren, taking a deep breath. “Your mother fell, Mr. Penwarren, because she needs to be in the assisted living facility. Something my boss has tried to tell you repeatedly. You refused to have her moved, citing that the expense was too great. Well, now you’ve the added expense of surgery and the stay in the nursing facility—not to mention rehabilitation. . . .”
“I thought her insurance covered all that.”
“Most of it, yes. There are always unexpected costs, things no insurance will cover. But your mother assures me that she’s financially set. Our records clearly show that she can afford it.”
“You have copies of her financial records?”
“Of course. That’s one thing she agreed to when she moved in.”
“I don’t like that, Atherton. I don’t like that at all!” His volume rose with each word.
“You can continue not to like it. Makes no difference to me. But if you don’t keep your voice down, I can and will remove you from our grounds. You think I can’t handle a man your size? I assure you, I’m fully capable of whooping your ass.” He kept his voice quiet, his tone calm and steady. “You’ve run roughshod over this place since your mother moved in six years ago. We all love Mabel. She’s a lovely lady. However, we aren’t as fond of you and we’re in no way obligated to allow you on the property. You keep that in mind, Mr. Penwarren, and conduct yourself accordingly.”
Atherton led the gasping Penwarren to the front desk and asked Sue for a room assignment. She flipped through her files and dug through the keys until she came up with one for him. She made him fill out paperwork and handed over the key with a smirk.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. This is in Building Three.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“That’s the middle of nowhere! Don’t you have anything closer to her place?”
“That’s closer to the nursing home, Mr. Penwarren,” Atherton assured him. “Since your mother will be there, it’s a logical place to be.”
© Dellani Oakes
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