Friday, October 23, 2009

Father


During the years that I lived there, my wife kept every light on in the house at night. I wasn’t happy about the bills, but she’d shake her head and say she needed to keep the shadows erased. What she meant was she wanted to know my every move – for protection, you see.

I loved her very much, once. But I fell crazier in lust with drugs and alcohol, and they became more important to me than anything, even my family. I used an awful lot, you know, and I can’t take that back. It was fun at first. Now, drugs are the only things that keep my darkness away.

We have two children – both of them boys. At the beginning, when they were new and soft and I was clean, I would tell proud tales about them to all my friends. The kids really are chips off the old block, I’d say. Then, later, when I forgot to pick them up from school too many times to count, and when I didn’t pretend to be looking for work no more, their mother asked me to leave. I did. I never contacted her – them – again.

Oh, I knew about their illnesses, their schooling, their sports, their happiness at growing up with a great mom, as well as their questions about having a dad who couldn’t be bothered. I turned to a few friends who kept me up to date. My ex never asked about me, and I guess I’m okay about it since I did throw that life away. You want the cross my heart and hope to … well … the truth? I wouldn’t change a thing. I have everything I want, everything I need. Yeah. I know.

So one cold rainy autumn evening, I’m standing across the street smoking and looking at them through the kitchen window. I catch a glimpse of my oldest boy. He’s carrying dishes to the sink and laughing at something his brother said. Their mother’s dancing around the room while she turns off lights.

It’s time for me to go. I flick the smokes to the curb and its little flame goes out as soon as it hits the oily puddle on the ground. I won’t come back to this corner any more, I decide. As I turn to leave, I’m startled by the sound of the front door opening. I don’t want them to see me so I quickly walk to my car. When I reach for the handle, I can hear the kids saying bye to their mom. She waves and calls out, “Make sure you take care of your brother. Have fun at the game.”

The youngest shouts back. “Mom, come on! Don’t worry. We always do.” He runs ahead to catch up with his brother.

I sit in the car and take one last look through the rearview mirror.

My boys. They are nothing like me.

You know what? That makes me proud.

44 comments:

  1. I like stories like this, the ones where you walk away tangy taste in your mouth that's far too sour to be good.

    Good job. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. had a very black and white noisy film feel to it. The narration was really strong.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful first person narrative here. The voice is honest and completely believable. It feels like I'm sitting at a table having a cup of coffee with this guy and he's telling me his story.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is so sad, yet so beautiful. Sadly beautiful. You've got the father's character down-pat,(perfect title too).
    Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Tragic and compelling. Good job with this!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice conversational style and touching content. Gives me a warm feeling.

    -David G Shrock

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree with Rachel. A very good voice...casual and real. He seems content with things as they were. Great story!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great job! I could totally imagine it as I read, very beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Makes me want to know the "why's" of the addiction, how it started, why. Loved the beginning about her keeping on the lights on and excellent ending. Enjoyed!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Very poignant and cats in the cradle only reversed.
    I left your story feeling glad that Mom was happy and that the boys grew up strong. Which is weird...cause they're fictional characters..right?....but I guess that shows just how hard you nailed it for me.
    Lovely.
    Karen :0)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Touching and tragic, and very real.

    ReplyDelete
  12. My kind of story, full of choices made and paths left behind with a touch of regret to give the sauce depth. Terrific.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You know, it never occured to me that someone could be happy with a choice like that. I always assume that they regret it. Hm. Interesting & well written!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Fiction at it's best. Tugged many different emotions. These characters have weight, they can carry themselves into longer stories... ya think? Peace, Linda

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow. You made a deadbeat dad almost likable. That's quite something.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow --- I like this one a lot. Keep 'em coming

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wow. That was pretty intense. Nicely written too.

    And he wouldn't change a thing!

    Wow. So glad his kids are nothing like him, and that he was able to let them go and not drag three other lives down with him.
    ~jon

    ReplyDelete
  18. Strong piece!
    Very believable, too. I guess some people are better off on the dark side - for everyone's sakes!

    ReplyDelete
  19. So glad I got a chance to read this story this afternoon. What is great about this is the lack of regret and the plain-speaking, "this is what it is" tone. So many people are like this in real life. Really enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I like how the point about having lights on or off brackets this story - nice construction.

    The emotion in the piece has the ambiguity you might expect from such a flawed protagonist. Again, beautifully done.

    This is a good one.

    (The previous comment was deleted by me because I can't spell - sheesh!) :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Beautiful. Well done. I think we're all glad they turned out better. I'm also very glad he wasn't setting fire to the house which was my first thought when he threw down his cigarette - which would have been very, very dark :-)

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is a great story. I wasn't sure exactly where it was going.

    Dark without being nefarious, and completely believable.

    Nicely done.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm glad that he was able to let go and stay out of their lives, knowing that they'd be happier without him. Good piece!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Nice change in pace, to have the absent, down and out father want things that way. I liked that honesty. The ending was so bittersweet. Really great job.

    ReplyDelete
  26. With Dad's addiction, I got the unsteady feeling that we might be dealing with an unreliable narrator, which made the story even more compelling. I was nervous about the cigarette at the end, and of Mom leaving the boys alone, but you wrapped that up nicely. Very good and strong! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  27. The absent family member, still wants to see how things turned out. Touching. I feel for this poor soul.

    ReplyDelete
  28. There's some hope for this man. God, do we need that! (btw, Alice in Wonderland is one of my faves.)

    ReplyDelete
  29. This is a really honest snapshot of this character's life. Heartbreaking, but also hopeful in a strange sort of way. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Wow.
    Very compelling. I was expecting tragedy and violence to end this, and was pleasantly surprised. Kudos for making he father character so well rounded and wiser for his choices.

    ReplyDelete
  31. A sad little story. An absent father feeling sorry for himself, claiming he doesn't. That's an excuse for his addictions. True to life.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Aww, very sad. You did a good job on his voice and tone.

    ReplyDelete
  33. A great voice for this. And I love the small, almost throwaway line about the wife turning off the lights.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

    ReplyDelete
  34. This was a good story. Would be nice if that proud thought changed ol' Daddy around, but probably not.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thank you all for taking the time to visit, read, and comment on the story. I appreciate it very much!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Wow, so very sad! It's one of those bittersweet happy endings, where things don't turn out perfectly, but everyone is somewhat content.

    ReplyDelete