By Cilla Shiels
Johnny adored his two sons and was delighted when they both decided to settle down with local girls. He could look forward to the next stage in his life in becoming a granddad. His sixty-seven year old body bore the brunt of hard manual labour down the darkened, damp pits. His physique resembled a ruined castle decaying with age in contrast to a mind which was as sharp as ever. He wasn’t losing his marbles...just yet. He was a stronghold and pillar of society to whom others looked up including his beloved sons.
Johnny was ever so careful with his hard-earned wages, especially after losing his dear wife, Doreen, to cancer some twenty years ago just as the boys’ testosterones levels were rising.
“What a time to lose my darling wife and dear mother of our boys,” he voiced to the empty space in their bed.
Johnny struggled financially and emotionally, but, however hard it was, he kept up the mortgage payments on their two-up, two-down home. He was determined to ensure his sons had a roof over their heads and in this quest he forged a strong bond with them. It was a struggle to save for their boys future so invested in a small Bond just after Doreen’s death.
Johnny lived a simple life, with just one pleasure of a few jars on a Saturday night at his local labour club. His only other indulgence, other than his sons, had been his pet dog, Laddie, a beautiful sheepdog that kept him company on lonely nights. Johnny and Doreen both loved dogs and had always took rescue dogs from the R.S.P.C.A. rather than buying spoilt pooches. When Laddie was put down he realised it was getting too much to look after another dog. He decided to volunteer at his local R.S.P.C.A. and over time he earned respect and gratitude for his work and in turn he appreciated their warm hospitality.
His two daughters-in-law appeared friendly and caring towards him whenever they visited but he knew by the look in their eyes they viewed him as a nuisance. He could feel the strain in his sons’ voices whenever they rang apologetically when they couldn’t see him on his birthday or other special occasion because Jane or Julie wanted a night out. Their husbands couldn’t see how their wives were keeping their father at arm’s length. Johnny always seemed to miss out on any family get-togethers or special times such as anniversaries, birthdays because his daughters-in-law had other ideas.
The only thing he had in common with his daughters-in-law was their love of dogs, but not in the way in which their pooches were spoilt. Jane and Julie idolised their pets and treated their hounds like their own children, petting them, feeding them only the best dog food money could buy. Johnny often idly wondered whether his sons were sometimes neglected in favour of their wives ‘little darlings’. Jane and Julie would meet and take their pets to the dog parlour every month to pamper and preen them.
“One of these fine days we’ll show them at Crufts just how special our dogs are,” mused Jane one day.
“It’ll have to not coincide with our holiday Jane,” replied Julie, we can’t go without our place in the sun to top up our tan can we?”
Any subtle hints from Johnny about the patter of tiny feet were always dismissed by Jane and Julie. They would tell him they had no intention or inclination in producing smelly, noisy brats. Johnny didn’t take offence after all it was their lives.
Lately Johnny started thinking that perhaps he should spend some of his money and arrange a holiday for the family to have some quality time together. He suggested an all-in holiday in the sun to which his daughters-in-law couldn’t come up with a valid reason why not to go. They went along with Johnny’s plans but selfishly looked forward to his spending hard-earned cash on them.
Johnny used the time on holiday to discuss his plans for selling his home and releasing the Bond when he was gone. Both sons were astonished at just how much the Bond had accrued and how their father’s little terraced house had increased in value.
“Dad, you’ve got to start spending your money on yourself. It’s what we all want.”
Jane and Julie looked on in sheer horror. Any suggestion that their future inheritance should be frittered away by their obnoxious father-in-law was unthinkable. Their eyes lit up at the thought of the money their father-in-law would be leaving behind which they could spend on their beloved animals. Their thoughts drifted towards following their ambition for their pets to win ‘Best in Group’ at Crufts.
On the last night of the holiday, Johnny decided on an early night after the week’s strain of keeping the peace with his daughters-in-law who had monopolised the holiday agenda. The only time he saw an ounce of genuine interest was during his family talk about his inheritance. His sons felt they needed some time alone and a strong drink to take in what their dad had shared with them and they wanted to think of a way in which they could convince him to spend his hard-earned money on himself. The daughters-in-law felt too jaded after a frustrating day putting up with their father-in-law’s annoying habits and were more than happy when their husbands went off for a drink alone.
Johnny turned in just after ten o’ clock, whilst his two daughters-in laws decided to crack open a bottle of wine and take in the news of the bumper windfall their father-in-law would leave behind in the not-too-distant future.
“Hey Julie, just think how much we’ll have when the old git pops his clogs,” mused Jane.
“Yup, the sooner the better,” replied Julie, “can’t wait.”
They sat out on the balcony dreaming of winning Crufts, expensive holidays, shoes, bags and anything else that popped into their heads. Little did they know, Johnny couldn’t catch his sleep but was sat on his balcony next door. He couldn’t avoid listening to their cutting remarks. Oh, how he ached when he heard them saying such terrible things about him and how his sons were unaware of their wives true feelings. Doreen would have been devastated that her husband was being treated so cruelly.
Johnny felt tears fall as they talked of how much they despised him and couldn’t wait for the day he died. He decided he’d take his sons advice and at the same time wipe the smiles off his daughters-in-laws faces. He couldn’t control when his life would end, but he could make sure his house and money weren’t put in the wrong greedy, selfish hands.
His will was changed giving his two sons one third each of his estate to be inherited on their sixtieth birthday to ensure they had a comfortable retirement.
The remaining third would be donated to the R.S.P.C.A. He composed a message to his daughters-in-law to read, “I know what great dog-lovers you both are and how happy you would be to know my money was going to such a good cause.”
Johnny thought of the look on his daughters-in-laws faces when details of his will are released. It would be a sight for sore eyes as they realised their lost inheritance.
This put a big daft grin on Johnny’s face