AUTHOR'S NOTE: This Three Word Wednesday story is a prequel to my other Vince Mott stories. Here we meet him as a teenager, about to make a decision that will shape his life in interesting ways, although not in the way his parents would've hoped. You can read more about Vince by following the tag at the bottom of the post or by reading the January posts of Diana's Diary.
Vince ambled down the hospital corridor, trying to act like this was a perfectly normal place for a guy hang out. A pretty nurse caught his eye, but he didn't stop to chat her up. He was seventeen and she was at least thirty-five, but his real reason for not pursuing her lay in the room at the end of the hall.
Outside the door he brushed street dust off his jeans and straightened his jacket. He shook his hair out of his eyes and went inside. The sound of wheezing filled the room and a man plucked with bony fingers at a threadbare cotton blanket. Vince approached the bed. "Hey, Dad."
The man's eyelids fluttered and he reached out a trembling hand.
Vince wondered how this man who had fought the Chinese in the Resource Wars and survived the grueling winter of the Alberta Campaign could've gone downhill so quickly. "Sorry I'm late. I stayed after school to get a little extra help from my teacher."
The older man's lips twitched in a faint smile. "Don't lie."
Vince pulled up a chair and sat down. Even near death, his old man couldn't be fooled. Vince hadn't been to school in years, although he had an affair with a pretty teacher last spring.
"You'll stay out of trouble when I'm gone."
It wasn't a question.
"You don't want your mother to judge you from Heaven."
To avoid having to speak, Vince pulled a ring out of a pocket and toyed with it, wondering how much Cabezón at the pawn shop would give him for it.
Vince snapped his head up.
"You'll take care of her. You're all she has now."
"Of course I'll take care of her. I do already." Vince wondered if he should mention what he had done to the freak who had grabbed Sara's ass on a crowded street two days ago. No one disrespected Vince's little sister and got away with it.
The man coughed. "I mean money," he said, as if reading Vince's thoughts. "She's not like you; she has ambition. She should go to college."
Vince sat back, startled. Where was he supposed to get money to send Sara to college? Although he was a decent gambler, it would be years if not decades before he had the skill of a real pro. His thieving was only slightly better. He glanced at the cheap ring he had stolen. He'd be lucky if Cabezón didn't insist on giving him federal dollars for this thing. Vince would have to up his game considerably before he could consider sending his sister to college.
"Promise me." The old man fumbled for his hand.
Vince shoved the stolen ring in his pocket. He had always been lucky, so maybe this was the incentive he needed to aim for higher stakes. "I'll send her to college," he promised. "Sara will have everything she needs."
His father nodded, reassured.
Later that night as he left the hospital, Vince pondered the enormity of what he had promised. He would love and cherish Sara, of course. That he would protect her from the thugs and assholes of the world was a given. But college? He stopped under a defunct streetlight and gazed up at the sliver of night moon hanging over the city.
After a few minutes he dug in his pocket and took out the ring. It was too late to see what Cabezón would give him for it, but perhaps he could trade it for a drink at Las Cariñosas and watch the pretty girls instead. He could forget for a little while that his mother was dead, his father dying, and he had taken on the biggest commitment of his life. For the next couple of hours, at least, he could pretend nothing had changed.
With an air of satisfaction, he headed down the street.