The Burden

by Ryan King

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 Ryan King


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It was terrifying getting old, mused Ethan. Things started to break down and reality was something to be questioned and constantly tested. It was, in a way, a living nightmare, one that only ended with the release of death. He was old enough himself to qualify for all those condescending discounts but not so infirm as to have his children or grandchildren want to imprison him in assisted living purgatory. Ethan was well aware of those communities of the unwanted, the modern day leper colonies where friends and relatives mostly visited out of guilt, sadness, or pity. He knew them better than he wanted to, he thought, as he walked into the front doors of one he’d placed his mother in six years ago.

Ethan was already retired, a grown man who had served one harrowing tour in Vietnam and raised a family of his own, but he was still afraid of his mother. Dolly Mathews was not someone to be taken lightly. Widowed twice she had run a murderously rough honky-tonk bar until it had burned down one night and religion had helped her get sober for good. By then Ethan had already been discharged from the army and was working the barges on the Mississippi. It was dangerous and difficult work, but it paid well. Fortunately, he was smarter than most and only needed to see able men crushed between loaded coal barges a couple of times to figure out there had to be better way. He’d taken advantage of his G.I. Bill and gotten a plumber’s license and eventually his own business which he’d quietly and steadily built into the largest plumbing business in West Tennessee. There might be a recession going on, but shit still rolled downhill and Mathews Plumbing and Supply made sure which direction.

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