It was a quiet day at Foulk Manor Assisted Living Facility (newspeak for nursing home), as they all were. Nancy Mason, the professional caregiver (nurse) on duty at the reception desk, was bored with nothing to do; it was 10:30 in the morning, and most of the residents were either asleep in their rooms or watching game shows in the day room. Nancy had nothing to do, and her mind was wandering.
“Oh!” she started with surprise, when she glanced up and noticed a man standing silently in front of the desk. She wondered how long he had been standing there. “Oh, I’m so sorry, sir! I-I didn’t see you, didn’t hear you come in. I-I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long!”
“Not at all,” the tall man said soothingly. He was quite tall, wearing a black trenchcoat that nearly touched the tiled floor, a black homburg, and dark sunglasses. Nancy wondered at the sunglasses for a moment; it was quite bright and sunny outside, but why leave them on? “Time is not pressing on me today.”
“I’m so glad,” Nancy said. “Everyone’s in such a hurry these days, don’t you think? Oh, but here I go, rambling on. Everyone says I do that. How can I help you?”
“I believe you have a resident named Andrew McKone,” the man said. “I would like to see him, please.”
“Mr. McKone?” Nancy repeated in wonder. “Oh, my, he certainly is one of our guests. Goodness, I don’t think I’ve known him to have a visitor in all the time he’s been here — four years, I think, maybe five. Are you a relative of Mr. McKone’s, sir?”
“Actually,” the tall man said, with a small smile showing rows of perfect white teeth, “I am his son.”
“His son!” Nancy brightened. “Oh, my stars, Mr. McKone will be so delighted to see you, sir!” The middle-aged caregiver stood up from her seat. “He’s in Room 118. I’ll show you the way.”
“Please don’t put yourself out,” the man said. “I’m certain I can find it myself.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all!” Nancy said. “And besides, I wouldn’t miss seeing the look on his face when he sees you! What’s kept you away so long, Mr. McKone? Oh, dear, that was a personal question, wasn’t it? I am so sorry!”
“Please, don’t be,” the tall man said with a smile as he followed Nancy down the hall. “It’s a natural enough question. I’ve been… detained by business. No excuse for not visiting sooner, I know, but it is what it is.”
“Well, it’ll just make him all the happier to see you, won’t it?” Nancy chirped. “And here we are! Let me go in first, make sure he’s awake, OK?” The tall man nodded, and Nancy entered the room with a perfunctory knock.
“Mr. McKone?” Nancy said. “Mr. McKone, I have a big surprise for you!”
The elderly man turned his face to Nancy’s. He was lying in an adjustable bed, the head raised so that he could look out the window; Andrew McKone always enjoyed watching the sunlight and the glow it cast on everything. He was shrunken with age, his bald head covered with brownish blotches of varying sizes and shapes, his eyes sunken into their sockets, his limbs having become withered sticks within folds of leathery skin.
“Hnnh… s’prise?” McKone mumbled, the best he could manage these days.
“Oh, you betcha!” Nancy chortled with glee. Behind her back she motioned for the tall man to come in.
The man entered and stood beside Nancy, looking down at the wizened old man in the bed. “Andrew McKone?” he asked. The old man stared at him and nodded his head once.
The tall man produced a sawed-off shotgun from within his coat and shot the old man twice through the heart at point-blank range.
Nancy screamed and fell back against the wall in horror. The tall man tipped his hat to her and began to stride out.
“How — how could you do that to your father?!” Nancy shrieked, somehow finding voice through her terror.
“Oh, he wasn’t my father,” the tall man said, without breaking stride.
Confusion added a new element to Nancy’s emotional cocktail. “B-but — you said you were his son!”
The tall man stopped and looked over his shoulder at Nancy with a small, apologetic smile. “Did I say that?” he asked. “I’m sorry, I must have misspoken. What I meant to say was — I’m his sunset.”
And with that, he left.