Free excerpt from The Abandoned, available September 30, 2021
“Hello, hello. Is anyone there?” Reginald bellowed as he let himself in his son’s mansion. Frank and Finn bolted to the front door to smell the intruder, barking to acknowledge their presence.
“Oh fuck, Richard. I thought you said these dogs would be tired. They’re going to stress out Wilford.”
“Hi Reginald!” Heather yelled over the barking.
“Ah, always a grand entrance for the great Mr. Reginald Lawrence,” Richard said.
Richard trotted down the stairs while rolling up the sleeves of his button-down so they gripped his arms just below the crease of his elbows. “They express their excitement to see their grandpa a little differently than we do, that’s all.”
“If the old man has a heart attack, it’s their fault,” Reginald said.
“When you say ‘old man’ you have to be more specific.”
Reginald laughed off his son’s smart-ass remark.
“It’s good to see you. It feels like it has been too long,” Reginald said as father and son embraced each other.
“Great to see you too, Dad. Want a drink?”
“No, at eighty-one I’ve decided to live a life of sobriety. Yes, I want a fuckin’ drink.”
“Hi Grandpa,” Dillon said. His trot down the stairs mimicked his father’s. “How are you?”
“Dillon, my boy. You’re getting more mature looking every time I see you. How are you?”
“I’m good, what about you?”
Avoiding eye contact, Dillon halfheartedly hugged his grandpa before expressing more genuine affection to Wilford.
“I’m happy to be here. Where’s your mother? Heather!”
“Heading to the back with your drink already in hand, come join me!”
The three Lawrence men and three wound up canines headed out to meet her. Richard and Dillon moved fast so walking at Reginald’s pace felt awkward to them. Even Frank and Finn seemed dumbfounded as to why it took so long to get outside.
Heather had glasses of wodin poured for her father-in-law and husband and beer for Dillon. A glass of merlot accompanied her.
“Hi sweetheart. It is so good to see you,” Reginald said, his hug pressing his daughter-in-law into him tight.
“Hi handsome. Great to see you, too. I’m so glad you came over. Please, sit.”
Reginald eased himself down into a patio chair and accepted his drink from Heather, one with contents equivalent to three pours.
“Ah, thank you Heather. Dillon, fuck you’re already drinking!”
His grandson’s face reddened, “Only on special occasions, but you know, it is legal now.”
“Oh fuck, that’s right. I can’t keep up. How’s school? Where are you headed after this year?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ve been thinking about it and doing courses online at first could be a good move since I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet. We’ll see. I’m thinking about it though.”
He didn’t elaborate much in an effort to deflect the topic.
“As long as you’re thinking about it, that’s good. You know you can always come to me for advice, right? But fuck, your dad is more successful than your grandfather so just go to him. He’s smarter than me, too,” Reginald said.
“I had to learn it from someone,” Richard said.
“Enough of money and school,” Heather said. “How are you, Reginald? How are you keeping that brilliant mind of yours entertained?”
“Well, this helps,” he said, raising his glass. “But you know Heather. Once you’ve lived the type of life I have lived, you know, one that has allowed me to live as comfortably as I do you spend a lot of time reflecting. You think about where the time has gone, but at the same time, how much work was put in during all those years. It went by so quickly yet so slowly all at the same time. But I have nothing to complain about.
“I’m excited for you, for my son, and grandson to keep thriving, keep pushing forward all while prioritizing this.” Reginald opened his arms at the three of them to emphasize their importance. He sipped wodin to clear his throat.
“Words from the wise, Dillon. Take note of it,” Richard said in his best father-teaching-son-moment voice.
“I’m happy you’re able to reflect proudly on what you’ve accomplished, Reginald,” Heather said. “You’ve accomplished a lot personally and professionally. You should be happy. Make sure every day counts.”
Her father-in-law couldn’t help but laugh at that one.
“I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant,” she said in a failed attempt to retract her implying death was in the near future.
“No need to apologize, sweetheart. The time comes for everyone. Right now, I have all of you, Wilford, and for the time being, my health. My biggest concern is what type of world Dillon here will be working in one day. Back when I was a true, working man, there was much more structure. Not everyone could just do whatever the fuck they wanted. You had to adhere to laws, and I am proud to say our family contributed towards establishing order here in Morple.
“Dillon, your great-grandfather put his life on the line to keep the rest of the world safe by committing himself to quarantine with high-risk citizens in the thirties and forties. Once they were allowed out, I dedicated the early part of my career to helping their offspring not turn this beautiful place into a complete shit show. Back then, there were rules. Now, everything seems to be fair game; everything is acceptable. For the last, I don’t know, twenty years, as long as you are neither White or successful you get a free pass. Meanwhile, it was us who got this place off the ground. Believe me, these beggars out there wanting everything to be handed to them didn’t do shit.”
“Alright, alright, Dad. We don’t need to discuss any of that tonight,” Richard said, doing his best to avert a monologue no one wanted to hear.
Ignoring his son’s plea, Reginald continued, “I don’t want any opportunity taken from this family because we were guilted into trying to make amends for how criminals and irresponsible citizens were treated. Us Whites worked our fuckin’ asses off to establish a place for them to be safe in, and now we have to sacrifice our success so they can get a piece. We advanced sustainable industries; we established this country’s fifty-first state; we deserve what’s rightfully ours.
“I worked my ass off to try and educate their youth, make them contributing members of society, and all they did was complain and attempted to overthrow the government. All I’m saying is, look out for yourselves out there because if you don’t, no one else will. That is unless your skin is brown or bl—.”
“Dad, that is enough. We are not going to talk about this tonight, okay?”
Heather sipped her wine more frequently. Dillon mimicked her nervous behavior with his beer.
“They have played victim for so long. All that will cause is trouble for you and undeserved success for them. Especially you, Dillon. It worries me for what your future holds.”
Dillon glared at his grandfather, “Grandpa, it is widely known that Morple’s camps back in the day was a way for big business to become less dependent on workers and move towards using artificial intelligence, hence why there aren’t any jobs anymore. The whole pandemic was a hoax; it was just an excuse for the government to pull that bullshit.”
“A hoax? Boy, your own family helped save the world from it. How dare you call it a hoax,” Reginald said.
“Yeah, a hoax. The evidence spells it out. In those fifteen years working jobs for Black and Brown people had disappeared. It is easy to take something away from people if they’re trapped on a remote island and aren’t able to do anything about it.”
Richard and Heather exchanged dumbfounded expressions with one another. Dillon had never thrust himself into a debate pertaining to politics, nor had he ever revealed his opinions on Morple’s history. His passion, position, and boldness baffled his parents, especially since he challenged Reginald so directly.
“Oh, don’t listen to that crap the media feeds us, Dillon. All of it is nonsense. If Mexicans and Blacks wanted a fair shot, they should’ve kept themselves and others healthy. Do not let any of that bullshit convince you this had anything to do with us wanting to leave them jobless. It’s all bullshit. We get blamed because we are capable of creating opportunity for ourselves, and they aren’t. They’re worthless, Dillon. Completely, utterly worthless. Once you begin making your own money and see how they want a piece of it to feed themselves and their young, you’ll make sense of it.
“Please, this is America. They had all the same chances we did. Unfortunately for them, they just weren’t smart enough to earn their success. So now, they’re trying to take it, and to my dismay, we’re letting them.”
“Fuck, you are just such a racist, bitter old man,” Dillon said. The declaration paralyzed his parents and drew a cold stare from his grandpa. “You’re always bitchin’ about what Black and Hispanic people are doing to take what is ours, but all you’re fighting for is making sure anyone not White has a shitty life. They’ve been oppressed for years, Grandpa. We literally shipped them off to the island we are currently living on so we could replace their jobs with computers. They’ve been in a rut ever since. Do a little bit of research then you’ll see what I mean. It’s 2089 for fuck’s sake. What I’m saying is no secret. There’s a reason they fought so hard for change in the sixties.
“I’m sick of hearing you bitch about it. If that is all you’re going to talk about get the fuck out of our hou—”
“That is enough, young man. Do you hear me?” Richard said. His roar caught the entire Lawrence family off guard, including himself.
An awkward silence ensued, as everyone was dumbstruck by Dillon’s unexpected demonstration. Heather cradled her glass with both hands. Richard got his breath under control and nervously scratched his forearm. Reginald’s scowl fixated on his grandson. He had been having his doubts about Dillon’s propensity to succeed, hesitant to believe he was capable of continuing the prominent work all the Lawrence men had dedicated themselves to. Now that he was aware of his modern, brain-washed perspective of race relations in their country, Reginald concluded he didn’t have the wherewithal to continue the Lawrence’s legacy.
Dillon, taken aback by his own actions but proud of himself for shutting his grandfather up, kept his gaze down and did his best to suppress angry tears; failing to do so would indicate weakness.
After Richard regained his composure he said, “Do not talk to him that way. And Dad, do not talk like that in front of your grandson, okay?”
The lack of support put Dillon over the edge. He picked up his beer and spiked it on the ground. Glass shattered in every direction, nearly causing his grandfather and mother to drop their drinks.
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