GilThis is the eight and the last part of my short story Stieg. Please, would you correct my mistakes.
Tony listened in silence, the tip of his walking stick tapping the ground.
“You ask me to remember something that happened such a long time ago,” he finally said. “Why did you stay silent back then? Why didn’t you complain to the owner? We both were young at that time. Young people sometimes do stupid things, but all that is a part of life. What happened at that hotel in the past will never happen again. By the way, I only remember that I did not stay there for long, maybe a year or two. Then I moved abroad; first to Germany than Italy, France, the UK...That shabby hotel must have looked like a dump compared to the places where I used to work later on. This is one of the reasons I don’t remember what I did there clearly. It’s like a blur.”
“Maybe it was a dump in your eyes,” Stieg said, “but for me it was a paradise - until you forced me out of it. After all these years, I think you owe me at least a sincere apology.”
Tony stopped tapping his walking stick. He turned demonstratively his upper body towards Stieg, gave him a piercing look with his dark eyes and said, “I don’t owe you anything, neither you nor anyone else.” He rose to his feet and said, “It’s cold. I’ve to go inside.” Without a word of goodbye, he turned away from Stieg and walked off. His withdrawal caught Stig off balance. He had more things to tell him, and many questions to ask, but now he could only watch the soles of Tony’s patent leader shoes walking away from him and hear the tip of the walking stick hitting the ground at regular intervals. He wanted to run after Tony, grab his lapels, shake him, and tell him he would not get off so lightly. Nevertheless, he remained seated and silent. Showing anger and irritation would be another mistake and the evidence of how easily wounded he still was.
Since that day Stieg
hadavoided Tony whenever he could. If he saw him in the day or dining room, he would retreat to his room, sit inside waiting for twenty, thirty and even more minutes, and then would come back when Tony was not there, to eat his meal or play chess or other game. Even listening to the live music became unpleasant. It was impossible to enjoy the popular melodies or the performers’ beautiful voices, when he knew that a few meters from him sat the person who did not want to apologize. Sometimes he would see Tony outside walking in front of him or sitting on the bench, savouring the sunny weather. He would almost involuntarily turn away or take another path to avoid any contact with him.
He lay awake in bed night after night, angry with himself and his obsessions with the past and the man who did not deserve a second of his attention. It troubled him that Tony’s presence had unsettled him in such a way that he started thinking of moving out. He wanted to flee again, to hide somewhere where nobody would ever find him. He was thinking of the nursing homes in the northern part of the country where winters are harsh and the population density is low. There, he could die in peace, watching moose and lynxes from his window and enjoying polar nights. Then he felt ashamed that such thoughts entered his mind at all. “You’re a real man, not a wimp!” he told himself. “You have to stand your ground! Don’t humiliate yourself anymore!”
One warm summer night he lay awake in bed waiting for everyone to fall asleep. He could hear the doors opening and closing, the nurses giving out medicine, talking to the residents, chuckling, and wishing them good night. There was the sound of the radio playing classical music and the laughing voices of the TV show drifting between the walls. Soon they ended, and the silence settled, disturbed occasionally by the shuffling of the tired feet that carried their owners to the toilets. Stieg waited until the digital watch on the bedside table showed 4:00. He knew from experience that at this time everyone was asleep, and not only the residents, but the staff also. The young ladies were cosily ensconced under the duvets in the staff room, where they would sleep like babies. During his night wanderings, Stieg had opened the door of the staff room on a few occasions and silently watched them sleeping deeply on the sofas and armchairs. He did not want to wake them up and looked at them with pity. “It can’t be an easy job to take care of all these cantankerous men and women who were fast and inexorably coming to the end,” he thought.
He slid out of bed without haste. He took a pillow from the bed and shoved it under his pyjamas. He slowly opened the door and went outside in the corridor. His bare feet hardly made a noise. He carefully opened the door of Tony’s room, and slunk inside and closed the door again. He breathed in the musty, warm air, which felt like an intruder in his lungs. The Venetian blinds were only partially pulled down, and the first lights of
thedawn were falling on the bed where Tony lay asleep. Stieg could hear his own heart pounding, but nothing could stop him now. He took out the pillow, climbed over Tony’s upper body, and sat on his breastbone. Tony startled awake and Stieg saw his dark eyes for a split second before pushing the pillow with his left hand over Tony’s face. With his right hand, he heldfirmly held his victim’s thin wrinkled neck, squeezing his throat. Tony started to wriggle every part of his body to free himself, but his movements were limited because Stieg’s body was tightly holding his arms under the duvet. Tony was kicking his legs desperately and frantically, but Stieg remained unperturbed. He felt enormous physical strength in his arms and hands. The arms and hands that were used to carry large logs were now extinguishing the existence of the bully who did not want to say sorry. (The arms and legs were used for these purposes but this makes them sound almost mechanical, as a truck is used for moving supplies. I suggest using "used to carrying')
Stieg did not know how long it took to kill his tormentor, maybe ten, twenty or thirty minutes. When the body under him became motionless, he lifted the pillow up and glanced at the black budging eyes for a moment before stepping off the bed and walking outside. He gently closed the door, retraced his steps, and went into his room. He threw the pillow on the bed and opened the window. He inhaled deeply the fresh air fragrant with flowers, resin and foliage. A couple of squirrels were running up and down the fir tree, birds chirping, and in the distance, a woodpecker hammering busily. Stieg watched the sun ascending behind the hill, promising another beautiful day. He felt at peace with himself.