Manny Holdsworth stood over his father’s still body. It barely moved but for the slight rhythmic up and down motion caused by the machine induced breathing. The lump that was his father was almost completely covered by the white bed sheets. What part of his face that could be seen looked colourless. One could be mistaken for assuming that he had been pronounced dead, but a constant reminder beeped out of the cardio monitor adjacent to them.
Manny couldn’t unravel the tangle of his emotive state; he didn’t have much desire to do so either. The hospital room was heated but the atmosphere felt cold and vacant inside, hollow, grey. He could sense himself as a third person looking on at a still from a graphic novel; the flowers in his hand the only offset of colour or life. He threw them despondently onto the seat and took a few paces to try get some feeling back in his body. He did a few semi circle laps of the bed, rotating his head in full circles to loosen the tension. After a few cracks he stopped back in the same spot he was positioned earlier: staring at his comatose father.
A few hours earlier that day he was celebrating some of the biggest news of his career. He had been called up personally by Brian Smithwaite, and while this was usually not cause for celebration, Smithwaite had informed him that the Walter Wallace specials would soon his.
“Brian that’s amazing! I’ve been working my whole life for this. Dad’s going to be so- What’s happening to Dad?”
“Don’t worry about that, Manny. Tony is completely onboard, he was hoping to give the news to you personally but he has his show on tonight and I need to explain some pressing issues with you, so we simply couldn’t wait.”
Perhaps now it seemed obvious to Manny. To think his father, who had so long doubted him and advised him to take a different career path, would suddenly be enraptured that his son was succeeding him as the face of Channel 8 was foolish. But Manny had wanted to believe it; he needed to believe it otherwise the dream would not be complete.
He had sought to share the moment with a few drinks with his wife until his dad is finished on set. Let the dream live on like an unborn baby minutes before the abortion. As it turned out his father was not so proud, and while Manny enjoyed a few drinks with Sarah out on the balcony, Tony was drowning a few bottles alone in his office – some of them prescription bottles.
“Why the fuck did you do this!” he yelled at his father, his voice breaking slightly.
It was the first hint of emotion since he got the call from one of the Nicks at the studios (the slimy worm Smithwaite obviously only makes the easy calls). He had felt a shock of cold pass through him, like he had fallen through the surface of an ice lake.
“What happened?” Sarah had asked.
“Dad’s in hospital. Overdose.”
Sarah had tried to comfort him, tried to tell him it would be OK and she would drive, but he refused and told her to come to the hospital separately. His plan was to go to his car and scream and shout his fury and pain until he was exhausted, but instead he found himself driving calmly through the light traffic. He didn’t feel any desire to go. He was simply doing his duty; ticking a box to make sure no headlines would pop up to make the situation worse. He was a true industry man: always on. Just like his father.
He slumped back down in the chair, nothing changing but for a growing pain in his head. He wanted something to happen. He wanted his father to either wake up or just pass away; he didn’t care. Should he feel guilty? Selfish? He felt a lump grow in his throat. Good. To cry would check another box. He wouldn’t have to put up with Sarah saying, “It’s OK to cry, Manny.” Like life is just one fucking movie scene after the other. He wondered if in the movies they only cried because they feel sorry for themselves. Self pity because this death is just going to make his life shit for the next few months when it should have gotten better. He already had a taste of what was to come.
The scene when he entered the hospital would have appeared sickening to most people, but Manny had expected it - it was the reason he didn’t bring Sarah with him. The press obviously got the call before he did (maybe that was the call Smithwaite preferred to make). As he pushed his way through the crowd they fired questions at him:
“Manny, How do you feel,”
“Do you think it was an accident?”
“Did Tony ever express any suicidal tendencies?”
“Is it true you were set to replace your father on the Walter Wallace specials? Do you feel these events are related?”
Nobody had asked the final question, but if he were on the job he would have asked it. That was what made him such a good reporter: he was heartless enough to ask the hard questions, and now he couldn’t escape his own one on one exclusive with the son of the dying TV star.
Your whole career you had tried to emulate your father in the hope that he would accept you as a son, and now after you receive the biggest news of your career: this happens. Coincidence?
He could feel the anger boiling over now. He was no longer emotionless. Like a shot he sprang up grabbed his limp father by the collar of his hospital gown.
“WHY!? Tell me, you FUCK. WHY?! Just let me be happy for one second you selfish cunt! You! You...”
He fell to his knees and began crying uncontrollably. He buried his face into the bedsheets, letting them absorb the onslaught of tears and mucus. At that moment the door opened and his wife entered. She had not avoided the press as he hoped. One reporter had done their research and recognised her – perhaps the next Manny Holdsworth looking to usurp the king.
Manny stood up feebly and walked over to Sarah. She put her arms out instinctively and he let her hug him like his mother used to. The reporter stayed at the door and raised his camera. Manny rested his head on his wife’s shoulder and neck as she cradled it with one hand. “Why?” he said between sobs. The camera clicked a few times and Manny could see the reporter struggling not to smile as he scribbled down a few notes as a security guard took him away. The show went on.
Notes to the Text