The Table

“What the hell do you think you’re playing at!  SELL IT! OVER MY DEAD BODY! It belongs to me!  I’m the eldest – Mother said it was mine and should remain in the family.  It will be passed down to my children and my grandchildren!” He fought to keep his emotions under control – he was the only one that really cared – it meant something to him dammit!

As Joseph strode into the room he stood, feet apart, hands on hips, and despite his approaching 75 years, his large six foot-plus frame filled the doorway, blocking out the hot afternoon sun and casting a shadow across the table, the room and its occupants.

The table was a family heirloom – Australian red cedar, large by today’s standards with the ability to comfortably seat up to 12 people.  Its rich red timber polished to a mirror finish. Its beautiful polished feet embedded into a threadbare carpet that had progressively felt the patter of tiny feet, school shoes, stiletto heels and walking frames as it remained the constant in the ebb and flow of its family’s life.  Christmas dinners, Christenings, Weddings and Wakes – it had been the centerpiece of them all.

It took pride of place in an otherwise very plain and ordinary room – drab lace curtains that hung limply from rusting curtain rods, windows that had not seen a cleaning cloth for many years and a sad and lonely chair and footstool in the corner, left bereft by the demise of its occupant.  

He was shouting now, trying to be heard above his sibling’s protestations.  ‘You thought you could go behind my backI How could you! He looked around the room at his two brothers and three sisters and their respective partners, all mentally tallying up the potential value of his pride and joy.   I don’t give a damn how much its worth – ITS…NOT…FOR…SALE!

His strong timbered voice carried through the dusty windows and out into the street.  He faltered. The street, where, as a child, and on days much like today – hot and humid – he would get off the school bus, dusty, dirty, hot and thirsty, and make his way up the street to home.  He loved this street. He grew with the trees, planted when he was born and now creating a beautiful shady avenue of over-arching branches. The only greenery remaining in an otherwise dusty, desolate landscape.  Never mind that many of the houses were now uninhabitable due to years of neglect and vacancy. Some were still occupied … “old people” …digging in their heels, not wanting to stay but with nowhere else to go. It was a dying neighborhood and no doubt a developer would move in, demolish the lot and make a squillion with commercial warehouses or condominiums.  It was time to move on, but Joseph wasn’t going without a fight!

He opened his mouth to speak again and his words caught in his throat – cut short by an excruciating pain in his chest.     

“He doth protest too much!” – came a taunting voice from somewhere in the room.   His eyes watered, and his breath came in short sharp gasps as he fell to his knees and struggled to reach the pill box in his top pocket.

“Help me…..”  a strangled whisper.  

Nobody moved.

“Pleeeese… “ Joseph’s face, contorted with pain, took on a look of panic giving way to horror as he realized no one was going to help.  He slumped forward, one hand on his chest, the other on the table top, softly caressing the beautiful polished timber as he sank silently to the floor.   His protest was over.

“Well, I guess we can sell it now and divvy up the proceeds” came a voice from the back of the room.

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