The Minder by Ted Hodgkinson
Edward went and stood on the extreme edge of the patio that he had help lay all those years ago and lit up. This was his first time home since his Mum had died, Winifred, a sweet old lady who left a trail of comments like ‘she never had a bad word to say about anyone’ behind her: someone of a mystery. His father was inside wrangling with the electric kettle which was so sleekly designed the button to begin the boiling process was camouflaged. Resorting to the technique of running his baggy, lined hands up and down the whole thing, which looked like technology’s version of a chrysalis, something engaged and the whole thing illuminated a bright blue. Satisfied, Arthur took the two empty mugs because they gave him something to hold and he could smell the smoke out on the patio and knew himself well enough to know a free hand now would lead to a quick recourse to old habits. Winifred had been his patches, his nicotine inhaler. She had forced him to quit all those years ago. She said it was for the best. ‘You know I’m adding at least ten years onto the end of your life.’
From the back Edward looked as Arthur imagined he would look from the back. Admittedly his clothes were a bit more up-to-date but there were shared themes – the checked shirt, the jeans, the lace-ups.
‘I’ve been thinking Dad, now don’t get angry.’ Edward said this with his back still his father. It seemed the only logical position from which to speak this.
‘Uh-oh, this can’t be good. It never is when someone says that.’
‘I think it’s a good idea if someone comes over a few days a week, clean up a bit, help you out with things.’
‘Not a minder!’
‘No more a cleaner with pastoral abilities.’
‘You’re trying to get me a minder!’
‘Now Dad I told you not to get angry…’
‘That’s because you knew I would, that’s like saying ‘Don’t get angry Hitler but I don’t think we should invade Russia.’’
‘Except you’re not Hitler, are you Dad?’
‘No, I’m not.’
‘Funny example,’ Edward finished his cigarette, stubbing it out on the sole of his shoe and instead of throwing it away held it between his forefinger and thumb, bent as it was like a miniature revolver. This was appropriate, Arthur thought, as Edward seemed all of a sudden to be holding him hostage.
‘Can I have one?’