The room was filthy and old. The place needed at least as much attention as their new home, if not more.
Pritchard inhaled deeply and Alex did the same, just more discreetly. Was this the smell Pritchard had grown up with? Stale cigar and filth. Not a good picture.
“So, what brings you back?” the old man asked and motioned for them to take a seat at the table. Alex scooted in on the wall bench.
“Alex got a job at the museum and is finishing a PhD. So I thought I’d come and work here again.”
The old man stood there for a second, then he turned and smiled at Pritchard. “Yes. Yes, you can have a job here again.”
“Can I have an advance? Paid in furniture?”
“Yeah, we’re kinda broke. House is kinda empty.”
“Furniture? You can’t eat furniture, boy!”
“I know that, we have money for food, but he needs furniture!”
The old man shook his head and looked displeased. Then he nodded. “Yeah, I guess. What do you need?”
“A desk and a decent chair,” Pritchard said, and looked at Alex. “Anything else?”
“A reading lamp.”
“Two of those,” Pritchard said.
The old man stared at him for a while. “That’s it?”
“Yeah, I’ll buy the rest later.”
The old man pulled out a bundle of keys which he was about to toss to Pritchard. Then he thought better of it and looked at Alex. “He’s a thief, you know.”
“Dad!” Pritchard exclaimed and threw his hands in the air. Alex fought a grin from spreading and looked away. “Snotty brat,” Pritchard growled, getting up. “Come help me carry. If you’re gonna go unlock the storage and supervise me not ripping you off, that is.”
The old man sighed and got up. Alex smiled and followed. Pritchard walked faster. Definitely a man with a target in mind. The old man saw Alex’s grin.
“How old are you, boy?”
“And you still live with your dad? Not finding a wife?”
“Not done with school.”
“Bahh, all that school. You’re definitely a chip off that old block up there. He thought school was the answer to everything, too. Where did it get him? In trouble! He could learn all he needed right here and take over the joint, but no, he wanted to go to college. This place may look great, but I didn’t earn enough to save up for tuition,” the old man muttered. Pritchard stood by a gate out back and looked irritable, waiting for them. “And did you ever get it? No, you got in trouble!”
“What?” Pritchard asked, looking confused toward Alex.
“Your college degree! You got nicked instead, that’s what you got,” the old man continued.
Alex opened his mouth to defend Pritchard and tell the old man that Pritchard did get his college degree and a PhD. But Pritchard just shook his head at him.
“See, he knows. So, boy, take my advice. Get your nose out of them books and get a job instead. You can buy food with money, you can’t eat books!” The old man ended the sentence in a coughing fit. Pritchard rolled his eyes while his dad’s attention was on finding the key to unlock the storage. “But you gotta love studying to still study at that age,” the old man continued and fought to pull the grid aside. Pritchard grabbed the grid and put his bodyweight behind. It gave way, squeaking in protest.
“I don’t love studying, I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful,” Alex said, watching Pritchard disappear into the mountain of things.
“Stop quoting famous people, it’s lost on him anyways!” Pritchard barked from somewhere in the storage. ”Come give me a hand!”