a dementia-fueled Vigilante novel by Tweed Jefferson

Join The Old Man as he sets out to right the wrongs of conniving conspirators, sociopathic manipulators, and remorseless abusers. He’s sick of it all – conspicuous consumerism, abuses of authority, backstabbing friends, toxic family. And now being stuck in this ‘assisted’ living facility. He’d never had it in him to do anything about it before, but now, with the early-onset dementia and terminal health conditions, what does he have to lose?

Along the way, he must confront his own identity and what it means to be human in a modern-day dystopia. As he goes on his journey, the old man begins to forget things. He forgets who he is, what he’s doing, and even why he is doing it. But even as he forgets, he continues to fight. He fights for himself, for his loved ones, and for the world he believes in. One thing he doesn’t forget is to take his dog along.

Patrimonious is a forget-and-forget revenge thriller where the mystery is figuring out who we are and what the hell we’re doing with our lives. It is a story about how even in the darkest of times, we can find the strength to fight back. About how even when we forget who we are, we can still remember what is important. A story that warrants a second read and will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

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Tweed Jefferson is the author of several books, including the Rockstar Nobody and Freshman Nobody series. He blends his experiences as an artist and regular guy in a fucked-up world into novels about good-guy vigilantes and young-adult abusees. He writes characters through the lens of mental illness, neurodivergence, and trauma resilience and bases his books on real-life people and behaviors in a futile attempt to understand the human condition. Patrimonious is the ninth book he has written.

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Patrimonious, Chapter One: Discorporate

“I’m not old enough for this shit,” the old man grumbles into his plate of eggs and oatmeal. No salt or seasoning of any kind. The lowest-common denominator of food. If bland was a color, this would be it.

“What’s that?” His son asks.

“I said I’m not old enough to be here,” the old man rephrases, looking up without making eye contact.

The younger man is almost forty now. They’ve never been close, he and the old man. He’s in town for a couple more days to help his dad get moved into Sunrise, the assisted-living home in the city. After a decade alone in the mountains, the old man was none-too-pleased to share a hallway with a bunch of crazy old kooks. He’s far too young to be locked up in one of these hell-holes. Funny thing, the boy’s mom worked at this kind of place – the same company, even – back when she was pregnant with him. She’d come home every night with horror stories. Of dirty old men, sure, but mostly of staff abusing patients, leaving them in their own shit. Stealing from, and then gaslighting, the residents. They were horror stories to him, the old man, the younger old man. His ex found it funny.

Shitting himself had always been one of his worst fears. Of course, in his younger days, he’d had a few leaks after a night of heavy drinking, but fortunately, he’s not here because he can’t control his bowels. No, the old man’s other worst fear had come true. Something was going on with his brain and he’d begun losing his memory and having ‘episodes’ of dissociation. The doctors haven’t been able to determine what’s going on, exactly, but for the time being, he’s gotta stay here. He’d hoped to die at his little sanctuary – preferably outside, where the coyotes and birds could get to him.
“I know, Dad. It’s just for a few months. When I get back from this schedule, we’ll find some hot nurse to come live with you. What’s the big deal? Look at all the action here. I hear the ratio is six-to-one.” He sounds like the old man when he was that age, despite their lack of time together over the years, delivering the line with a straight face that made you unsure if he was serious or joking.

Continuing to prod at the lifeless mound on his plate, he doesn’t look up in response to his son’s comments. The old man wasn’t too interested in playing the field in the dementia ward. Nevermind the syphilis and gonorrhea outbreaks, he was feeling anxious just being in this dining room, eating – or attempting to eat – while surrounded by shriveled lips slurping at runny oatmeal and yogurt being sucked from shaking spoons. Misophonia, it’s called. You know when you’ve been in a shitty relationship for a too-long time and everything the other person does annoys you? The way they breathe, the sound of them eating. Now imagine that, but instead of it being that cheating son-of-a-bitch ex, it’s everybody. Regular people. It’s not that the old man specifically hated all people. It’s something that’s happened for most of his life and he couldn’t control it. Certain noises were ‘nails on a chalkboard’ to him. Though, not actual nails on a chalkboard, that didn’t bother him. After years of living alone, the sounds felt amplified by a thousand decibels. He’s already dreading the attendants badgering him to participate in the inane daily activities while he attempts to wait out the next few months in silence, in his room. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s counted out the days until he dies.

That’s depression for you, though. The old man had never bothered to figure out the number of days and months he’d spent in bed, staring at the wall, watching but not-watching TV. Weeks, every year – for decades. Smoking weed and putzing around his garden managed to stave those feelings off except during the hottest months. Here, he won’t be able to do either. The garden is a dirt patch of tomatoes and he didn’t bring any weed. His plants are going to die without anyone to water them.

“How was your first night?” The girl in the blue scrubs asks, leaning across the plate he’s refraining from eating from to clear empty dishes from the table. Her unflattering top dips into his mash of eggy-oats, rendering them even more inedible, as far as the old man is concerned. He pushes the plate toward the center of the table for her to take. She leaves the uneaten blobs in front of him.
“It was fine, thank you,” his son answers. “We’re going to pick up some more of his stuff today and finish moving in.”
“Sounds great, we’re looking forward to having you with us,” she says, patting the old man on the hand, a combination of insincerity and patronization in her voice. Surely a line she’s said countless times before. The revolving door here must spin faster than the residents can hobble through it.

“I won’t be here very long. Once my son here gets back from his trip, I’ll be moving back home.” He pulls his hand into his lap.

“Mhmm,” she nods. She gets the same story from all new residents. It’s only temporary and the like. The young man doesn’t expect his father to make any kind of recovery. If anything, his memory problems and dementia will probably get worse. Same as it was for the old man’s parents and their parents before them. In this family, you either drop dead at sixty from a heart attack or live forever and lose your mind. The old man had hoped for the former.

Once they’ve loaded the last of his stuff into the tiny apartment, the two men give each other a half-hug, the most affection they ever show each other. The old man grew up being forced to hug everybody his parents knew and, as he aged, he grew more and more uncomfortable with being touched. The old man never imposed any physical affection on his son or his nieces and nephews, as the rest of the adults in his family believed they had the authority and right to do with children.

The old man never bought into the toxic ‘Father Knows Best’ mentality that was commonplace in his family. Growing up being told how to think and feel and being beaten and degraded if he didn’t comply (and also, when he did), the old man went the opposite direction. He spoke openly and in earnest with children. He treated them with respect and humanity, instead of as subservient miniatures to be oppressed and molded into good little capitalist robots.

They treated animals with even less respect, his predecessors. Nevermind their proclivity for using them to make up ninety-percent of their diets and most of their wardrobe, but killing animals for sport. Not even deer-hunting or whatever, but shooting at squirrels or gophers who were only in search of water or their next meal. They didn’t have a garden or anything that the critters would damage; shooting them was a perk of living in the mountains. Treating an animal with humanity was out of the question.

Coming from a long line of merchants and resellers, the old man found the thickness of hypocrisy in his family hilarious. Typical white, Christian ‘mericans. Trump-lovers. ‘Dubya’ before him. Generations of idiots, spending their entire lives in the pursuit of money so they can buy more stuff. Literally no contribution to society. The old man was proud to take a different path, dedicating his life to art and nature. Music and animals. His family always told him that he was a failure and a fool because he spent his time and money helping others, but rejected the need for a new genuine-leather sofa or granite countertops every few years – or in his case, ever. His family hated his spartan lifestyle.

That’s a gross exaggeration, the way his family perceived the way he lived – not their resentment. He had a house. It had furniture and dishes – more than one of each, even. The old man had never felt the need for validation through conspicuous consumerism. He built his own furniture to suit his needs. Basic carpentry skills made up for his lack of disposable income. He’d buy cheap pots and pans and tools because they fulfilled their purpose adequately. They, the old man’s family, always told him, “You’re so smart, you’re so talented, you can be anything!” Except who he wanted to be, apparently. Shit, none of his family, except one brother, even bothered to come to any of his art shows. Never publicly praised or privately supported any of the community organizations or arts-and-music events he’d put together.

“Excuse me, sir?” An aide half-knocks before poking her head into the door of his cluttered one-bedroom apartment. The one redeeming factor of this room is the view. It looks down on the city from above. What floor is this, anyway? Ninth or tenth, maybe. Instead of numbering the rooms based on their floor, like in a hotel, like any sane person would do, they’ve given each floor some cutesy name. The Busy Beehive, Darling and Dapper, Fairytale Friends. Stupid shit like that. Despite the alliterations, the letters don’t correspond numerically to their position in the alphabet when it came to naming each floor. That would have made a lot more sense, the old man thinks before being reminded of the young woman in the doorway.
“We’re getting ready to have art time downstairs. You should come join us.”

“No, thank you. I’d like to settle in here.” He waves at the stack of boxes.
The blue-and-pink-floral scrubbed girl takes his reply as an invitation to enter. The old man turns his gaze from the window, watching her all-white sneakers make their way across the room.

“Your son told us you used to be an artist. You really should come down. It’ll be a great opportunity to meet your neighbors.” Used to be an artist? Still an artist, as far as the old man is concerned. He just doesn’t need to prove it to anybody. A few of his pieces lean against the wall in the bedroom closet, waiting to be hung, but he may just leave them there. Put something else up on the walls. Tasteful nudes, maybe. Or some old gangsta-rap posters. Whatever it is, it should be something he’d never have put up before. There was always somebody who thought his taste in art was offensive. It would be okay to put that sort of thing up around his house now, but he’d never gotten around to decorating the place. Function over form.
“No, thank you. I’m tired now.”

Despite twice being rejected, Harper C. takes his elbow and starts guiding the old man to the door. “Harper C.” That’s what her name tag says. The old man wonders if her last name is Collins. He doesn’t put up a fight and allows her to escort him down the hall and into the elevator. While still facing the old man, making awkward small talk, she hits a button on the elevator labeled with a ‘C’.
H, D, K, F, B, I, G, E, L, A, C. The old man repeats over and over in his mind. He tries to find a mnemonic device or initialism to help. High Definition Killing Fields Bigelac. Honda Driver, Kite Flyer. The Bigelac part was easy, at least. It would be a lot easier to work it over without Harper C. asking, “Where did you grow up?” and “Do you have any other family around here?” The old man has always hated small-talk. So insincere. Not a good way to get to know somebody at all, even if you do keep asking questions about them. That’s all they really want you to do, anyway. Then they can give their rehearsed speech about, “Well, I grew up in New Mexico, but my family moved out here when I was…” and “My art is really an expression of myself and my life. It’s infused with my connection to [choose: god/nature/trauma]…” Anyway, what’s the point in memorizing the floors if he’s going to leave in a few weeks.

The elevator doors crawl open and the old man shoots into the hallway, attempting to get ahead of the next asinine question and to whatever “art” thing they’re doing. Perhaps he’s a bit more spry than Harper C. is used to with the residents here. She races to catch up to the old man to ‘direct’ him to the community room, like he can’t follow the signs and giant arrows on the walls. And floor. And ceiling.

“Here. You sit here, next to Miss Pammy and Miss Julie,” Harper C. says loud enough for every hearing aid in the room to pick up. The women on either side of the empty easel-station smile widely at the old man, fluffing their thinning gray-purple hair and sending a cloud of Chanel No. 5 or Yves Saint Laurent or L’Air du Âgée at the old man. Whatever scent it is, it’s the same his grandma wore.

“Have fun, you guys!” Harper C. calls to the room, but aims her voice at the old man and his two new acquaintances. Her walkie-talkie squawks and she unclips it from her elastic waistband, saying something incoherent into the black-plastic box before rushing out of the room.

Without taking a seat at the prepared art station, the old man treks back into the hallway, certain Harper C. is fast on her way somewhere across the building. A balding, thirty-something man in horn-rimmed glasses calls out a few ‘excuse me, sir’s at the old man’s back. The old Irish exit, he thinks as the elevator doors open, seemingly slower than before. The row of letters come alive with their orange backlights illuminating black sans-serif letters. H, D, K, F, B, I, G, E, L, A, C.

Okay, this is the bottom floor, C. What floor was I on? Fuck! The old man curses himself for not remembering the stupid painting on the wall across from the elevator. An attempt at a mural by some pandering artist, stenciled in bright colors in post-children’s-book-meets-hotel-art fashion. A crudely drawn animal holding a sign with the name of the floor. A koala, the old man thinks, vaguely remembering some pointed-leaf, definitely-not-eucalyptus trees painted in an unflattering three-color green-brown-tan scheme.

He presses and holds the ‘K’ button until the doors begin to close and the orange lights give way to semi-transparent plastic under each number except the one his finger is holding. In the hallway, he goes about as far as he recalls his room being from the elevator and begins opening doors on the side of the hall he thinks is south, the direction of his view. Seniors, gaze fixed on a phone or TV screen, don’t look up as the old man glances around each room. For emergency reasons or whatever, the doors to the cramped apartments don’t lock. The third door he opens reveals some shabby, hand-made furniture and boxes of basic dishware and art supplies.

“Fuck!” The old man yells at the wall as the auto-closing door clicks shut behind him. He grabs a box of office supplies – pens and notebooks and the like – from the laminated kitchenette counter and hurls it across the room, spilling loose pages and about a hundred of the exact-same model pen, the only one that he likes to write with, over the folding sofa-bed-desk that the old man had built years ago so he could work when he felt ill. When his stomach or the nerve pain got to be too much for an office chair. Or when he was trying to ease in or out of a depression spell. He’d felt this kind of frustration over and over again. Stuck. No way out. What the fuck was he going to do?

The old man gathers up the papers and pens and stuffs them back into the cardboard box with little ceremony or organization. He gently returns the box to its same place in the corner of the room that serves as kitchen and dining room and plops down on his trusty sofa-desk.

The alarms on the doors would be easy to beat. Even if they go off, he can still make a break for it. And if he gets caught, just feign dementia – pretend like he thinks it’s time to go to work or something. The problem is: Then what? Take the bus around town? There aren’t any buses that run all the way up to his house in the mountains. No, he’d have to get a car. Temporarily. Once he gets home, he could figure out a way to return it. The old man isn’t sure how to work that one. It’s like the old fox, rabbit, cabbage puzzle. How does one guy move two cars fifty miles without getting caught? He figures it could work to stay on the back roads, off the highways, drive one car a mile, walk back, drive the next for two miles, walk back, and so on. The amount of walking would be the same as if the old man were to start walking home from here right now. If he escapes, they’ll find him on foot on the route back to his house. He can’t hide from the cops or whoever they’d send to look for him unless he has a car. Fuck!

Patrimonious is now available in hardcover format!

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