Saturday day again and time for another instalment of my story, A Snap of the Fingers. This week has been incredibly busy, with a new series of Instagram marketing for authors in the books and a new story started, but not too busy to forget this series of what is one of my favourite stories.
Last time, 10 year old Seth had met the enigmatic Red, a nurse at the hospital where his mum is dying of cancer. Red claimed to be able to help Seth’s mum and attempted to prove it by breaking Seth’s fingers and then healing them with a touch of his hand.
Red has offered to help Seth’s mum in return for a favour…
“No, no! It’s not like that. I simply require you,” He paused before leaning forwards. His smile had disappeared, “to kill two people for me,” he finished.
Seth stopped where he was, his mouth falling open.
“I couldn’t kill anyone. I’m ten.”
“No problem. I’m not going to force you. You should probably go and see your mum before it’s too late.” Red turned his back and walked to the window. Seth went to the door and reached for the handle, but stopped before turning it and looked back at Red.
“Who would I need to kill?”
Red turned slowly, hands steepled in front of his chest. His smile was back in place.
“Well, that’s up to you.” He held up his index finger. “One must be someone you don’t know.” He paused slightly, allowing Seth to race to the conclusion. “The second must be someone you know. Someone you know well.”
“I don’t think I can do that.” Tears were rolling down Seth’s cheeks.
“I’ll make it easy for you. You choose the first, and I’ll choose the second.”
Seth rubbed his hand again as he considered the offer. He had never had a fight at school, had never really even shouted at someone he knew. Killing someone? But it was his mum. The question was, could he do it for his mum?
“Can I ask my dad?”
Red shook his head. “But I will give you some time to think about it. But don’t take too long; the clock’s ticking.” He tapped a finger on his wrist, where his watch would be had he been wearing one.
“Ok.” Seth opened the door and walked out of the room, leaving the door open.
In the corridor, he could hear his dad still shouting for him. Seth followed the sound and headed back towards his mum’s room. As he turned a corner, he saw his dad, who came running towards him. He scooped him up in a hug.
“Where did you go? Your mum’s upset. It would help her loads if you went back in to her.”
Seth allowed himself to be led back to his mum’s room. This time, he walked in, eyes open. His mum was exactly as he remembered: gaunt, pale, and tired. Her half-lidded eyes opened when she saw him, and she made an effort to reach for him. Only her right arm twitched; the left lay flaccid on the bed. Seth looked at the offered hand for a moment. It was thin; thin like those anorexic girls he had learned about at school. Gently he took the offered hand, tears spilling down his cheeks as he did. Closing his eyes, he tried to imagine his mum as she had been, not as she was now. It was hard, but when she spoke, it flooded back to him.
“Seth, baby,” said his mum. “I’m sorry I’m not going to see you grow up to be a man,” she coughed weakly before continuing. “To see you get married. Have kids.”
Seth moved towards his mum and put his head on her chest, throwing his arms around her. She stroked his hair and face, wiping away the tears.
“Seth, I need you to look after your dad for me. Make sure he eats his vegetables and doesn’t go to bed too late.”
Seth new his mum wasn’t talking about his dad, but he muttered that he would.
“Go and wait outside would you? I need to talk to your dad.”
As he lifted his head from her chest, he looked at her. She smiled and blew him a kiss.
“It’s okay, Seth. Dad will be out in a minute.”
He walked to the door slowly, keeping his eyes on his mum, until his dad gently directed him out of the room and closed the door. He heard his dad start to cry as he turned away.
Half the way down the corridor, leaning against the wall was Red. He gave Seth an apologetic wave.
Seth put an ear to the door and could still hear his dad talking through the sobs. Stepping away, he walked down the corridor and stopped in front of Red. He gave a quick look up and down the corridor to ensure they were alone, then he wiped his eyes and looked up at the man in front of him.
“What do I have to do then?” His face was set and left little doubt about what he was saying, but Red asked anyway.
“You want to save your mum, then?”
“Ok. This is how it works.” He dropped his head until his eyes were level with Seth’s. “You pick first. It can be anyone.” He opened his arms wide again. “Anyone. The choice is yours.”
“Someone with no family? Someone that won’t be missed?”
“A vagrant? A homeless person? A tramp? A beggar? I like it.” Red smiled broadly for a moment before continuing. “Then go and do it.”
That’s all for today. Join me next Saturday for the next part to see how Seth tackles this dilemma…
My Question to you: What would you do in Seth’s shoes? What do you think your children would do?