The Hard Man (Fiction Story)

Andrew was known as a tough and opinionated man. He was tough and cultivated tough love.

He was an arrogant man who bends to no rules but behind the facade lies a soft-hearted and kind man.

Andrew had been a soldier for most of his life, he was used to the lifestyle and when he had retired following a leg injury, he had been mortified and broken.

As he laid on his hospital bed recuperating from the wound, he felt hopeless and bitter towards the life that lay ahead.

He was a military man and the best guy in his team, he had stepped on a Landmine and one of teammate had saved his life at the expense of his by pushing him over, he had died immediately while one of his legs were severely wrecked.

Andrew felt guilty about the death of his friend and on top of that, he had lost one leg which meant he couldn’t go back to base and make his death worthwhile. He had stayed in the hospital yearning for death to take him and relieve him from the gloomy life that he felt laid ahead of him.

When Andrew had fully recovered and could move around he had vehemently refused to sit on the wheelchair, he couldn’t leave with that so he had settled to use a prosthetic leg instead, he felt it was disgraceful for a soldier to spend his remaining life after injury in such a helpless state as on a wheelchair.

Andrew had left the hospital to stay with his wife and son at his home in the rural side of the country, where there was a lake. He particularly loved the lake because of the fishes, whenever he was on leave he would go to the lake to fish, this was his second love after being an army of course.

Andrew’s son whose name was Thomas but was shortened to Tommy was a young lad, with curly black hair which was from his mum and brown eyes just like his father’s. Tommy was famous in the little area for constant mischief and was almost uncontrollable.

He was well behaved though any time his dad was around, he adored and respected his dad extremely and aspired to be just like his father one day.

His father was always filled with tales every time he was around about the battlefield and the base. He dreamt of visiting him there but his father had told him it was not a place for kids and that if he grows up he could come there if he wished. And he was so anxious about it that he had said a prayer to God every day to grow up very soon.

It was his fervent wish to join the army that had made him start causing mischief in the community. He used to watch films about army men and was practising everything he saw there.

He had planted firecrackers that had gone too far and burnt someone’s poultry, he had scared people off with knockouts he bought from a store that had called bombs.

His mum had tried her best to get him to stay away from trouble but she hadn’t succeeded, the only one who could keep him in check was his dad who was barely home.

When Andrew had retired to his home, Tommy had been eager for him to teach him so much, he had been happy to have dad home and excited that he was home for good and wouldn’t be taking off to go back to base. He had been starved for his affection and it was only right to him to have back home.

But Andrew had returned home, a shadow of his former self, he hated every single day since he got home, he barely eats, he talks to his family and had shut himself up in his bedroom.

His wife Hannah tried her best to pull him out of his misery, she talked to him, consoled him but he wouldn’t budge. She then thought Tommy would be able to bring him out of his self-indulgence and forlorn lifestyle, she sent him to his room to play and talk to his father but Andrew wasn’t pacified. He had often barked at him to get out of his room whenever he becomes irritated.

Tommy noticed that his father had returned a sad man and wasn’t the loving man he used to know, he became unhappy and disappointed, he became scared to go into his room to talk to him.

But one day, Hannah had left to work, she works at the local community clinic as a nurse. She had left Tommy at home with his father, although she knew they did not get along, she had instructed him to stay home and constantly check on him.

Tommy had heeded his mother for a while, staying and watching movies in the living and often checks on his father but he soon became bored and had looked out through the window searching for something fun to watch.

He had been starting at people going and coming through the narrow path that leads to the upper part of the community, he soon became bored of watching them and had stood to go sleep when something had caught his eyes in the lake.

Fishes were jumping out and about playing in the lake, they seemed to be having fun and he had always wanted to fish, he had watched his father fish and it seemed quite easy, he decided then and there to go out to fish.

He snatched the hook and bucket, filled the pail with ice meant to cool the fish he would be caught, he then strode along the path leading to the lake. When he got to placed the bucket on the soft grass and threw the hook the river hoping to catch a fish

The hook had caught one fish and he removed it from the hook and put it into the bucket he had placed on the grass, he was able to catch two more fishes and set about to catch another one when the hook caught on something. The thing his hook had caught on was so strong, he forcefully tried to pull it out with all the strength he possessed but instead, he had been the one hurled into the lake.

Tommy could not swim and there was nobody around that could have saved him except of course his dad had been looking out his window. The window of his room stood facing the lake and the only way he could have seen him could only be if he had been near the window which was unlikely because since his dad returned he hasn’t opened up the curtain to let the sunlight or fresh breezes into his room.

Tommy had screamed at the top of his lungs calling for help, he prayed fervently and begged God to help him let his dad hear his cries.

Andrew had seen his soon going to the lake with the hook and bucket he uses to fish, he had seen him catch some fishes and he had felt a swell of pride at his abilities but when he had fallen into the water, he had expected him to swim back to the shore but he was surprised when he had been screaming for help instead.

He had run as fast as his prosthetic leg could allow him to the lake to save his son and he had caught him just in the nick of time as he seemed to have swallowed some water and was about to drown.

He had pulled him back up and carried him to the shore, pressing his chest as he performed CPR on him to get water out of his lungs. Tommy opened his eyes and began throwing up a fair spat amount of water, gasping for air as if still in a panic.

Andrew turned him and held his head until he was able to take a deep breath, he wasn’t in danger. Andrew was speechless for a while, adrenaline coursing through his veins, he had been in shock and was too dumbfounded to think about what could have happened to his son if he hadn’t been home at that time.

Tommy tried to sit up and reached for him. He stood cradling him in his arms unable to think clearly.

When he came out of his initial shock, Andrew turned his son’s head and stared intently into them in shock, his heartbeat pounding so loud he could hear it ring into his ear. Andrew picked him up and threw him back into the lake but this time he made sure it was not the deep side of the water.

He let out his first word after a while “You nitwitted child, how can a child of mine not know how to swim? it’s infuriating and embarrassing”

“You are starting your first lesson about swimming today and I’m not letting up until you make progress, and I mean real progress,” Andrew said with determination

That was how he began teaching him how to swim, and when Tommy exclaimed that he was exhausted, Andrew had carried him and threw him back into the water

“A child of a soldier does not quit, alright?” He asked with

“Yes, dad” he sighed with defeat

“Dad? You have no right to call me dad from now on, Colonel Andrew does not beget laziness and a defeated man, got that?” He asked him with a fierceness that shook Tommy to his very bone and ran sweat down his spines

Tommy screamed in defiant “But you are a defeated man yourself, ever since you returned from the hospital, you have become a defeated man”

This blatant declaration from his son shocked Andrew to his bones, he was dumbfounded for a while and wasn’t quick to defend himself from his son’s declaration

When he didn’t reply, Tommy had continued in anger

“I was excited to have you back home, Dad, I’ve thought about having you teach everything you had promised to. I wanted us to bond as we’ve never been but when you returned, it wasn’t you”

“The man that returned wasn’t dad, but a shadow, an illusion of the man I called my father used to be. I became scared of who that man is”

Tommy sobbed as he let out his feelings to his father, Andrew was silent for a while, he didn’t know how to react or respond to the accusations because it was true.

He stared at his son, the pains are written on his face and thought that he was the one to put there, his mind went out to his wife and he thought she must have been in pain and misery at who he had become.

He had been so self-indulgent that he hadn’t taken time to think about how his family must have felt about his accident and how miserable he had made them feel after he returned home.

He thought about his partner Steve that gave his life to save him, was this how he was going to repay him? He asked himself. He felt mortified and set out his mind to make things right from now on.

He vowed that from now onward, he will be the Andrew his family knew him to be and he would be happy for his friend who had saved his life’s sake.

Andrew reached out to his son, pulled him to his chest and wrapped his arms around him fervently pleading for forgiveness

“I’m sorry, Tommy, It must have been hard for you to anticipate your dad’s return only to have him back as a bitter and terrible man”

“I’m sorry Tommy, you have your dad back now, I’ll make it up to you and I promise you everything will be fine from now on”

He had sworn emphatically, tears rolling down his cheek and onto Tommy’s head

They had stayed that way for a long time, they were oblivious of the time or moments that passed by. It wasn’t until Hannah had called out to them that they were finally able to let go of each other.

“Andrew, you finally stepped out of your room,” she said in a soft voice.

“Come here, Hannah” Andrew called out with his arms outstretched, telling her he wanted to embrace her.

Hannah had run into his arms, wrapping her arms around him, tears rolling down her eyes, uncontrollably

“Oh, Andrew. Dear Andrew, I’m so glad to have you back with us” he said with a shaky voice

“I’m sorry for the pains I’ve caused you, Hannah, I’m thankful to you and Tommy for not giving up on me,” he said, his voice with a hint of worry

“Give up? Andrew, we are your family, you were so hard on yourself but we will always love you and that meant the good and bad times, so how can we give up?” She said in what seems like a promise

“I’m glad, you didn’t give up on me and I’m glad I have you both in my life. I promise you from today that you have your Andrew back. A less hard man” He promised then turned to pull Tommy to them and said

“And you have your Dad back, the man you know and the man you loved, no more bitterness, no more pains”

“From today we only look forward to a bright future”

“A bright future with just us three?” Hannah asked with a shy smile

“Of course, except we have more babies, of course, Tommy is due for a little sister or brother, what do you say,” He said with a wide smile and winked at Hannah

“Of course” she began then turned to look at her son “That is if Tommy is up for it and wish to be a big brother” Hannah added as she patted Tommy on his head slightly ruffling his hair

Tommy said excitedly “Yes I want a younger brother or sister, it’s boring being the only child”

“I see the way Sam and his junior ones play and run around in their house, I want to do that as well”

“Of course you will do all that but first, you need to learn how to swim boy”

“Aye Aye Sir,” Tommy said with a little exaggerated salute and a broad smile showing his even dentition

Andrew began telling Hannah how he had saved Tommy from drowning in the lake when he was fishing as they walked back into the house

The mention of fishing made Tommy remember his fishes and he ran back to carry them and followed his parents back into the house.

Andrew had been waiting for him at the front door, which means not taking chances after what had happened to him at the lake.

They had walked into the house and Tommy took the fish to the kitchen for his mother to cook for their night meal.

The next day, Tommy began his rigorous training under his dad’s tutelage and he couldn’t have been more proud of himself.

He was pleased when his dad praises him and was often sad when he complains about him slacking up.

Nine months later, Hannah gave birth to twin babies, a boy and a girl whom they had named Martin and Martina.

When Tommy had been old enough to join the army, he had gone ahead to join and had made his parents most especially his father proud and gone ahead to achieve all his dreams.

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