And now, the short first chapter of a Father's Day entry story entitled... well... "Father's Day." I originally posted this four-parter in June of 2009. I'll be running the four chapters every few days until part four arrives on June 19th, Father's Day. Hope you like it.
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I rarely get to bed before two or three in the morning, but Saturday night, I was so damned tired that I left the poker game -- and roughly $700 dollars that were mine when I'd walked in -- at shortly after nine. I went straight home, opened and guzzled most of a cold beer, threw on some pajamas, smoked the night's final cigarette, finished the beer, and hit the sheets before ten.
I'd set up my CD player to help me drift off with random selections by Sonny Stitt, Lady Day, a little Bird, some Slim Gaillard, some Dexter Gordon... you get the picture. I was sawing wood in only a few minutes.
It wasn't long after midnight, however, that my eyes snapped open, acting on some sort of instinct. I saw a shadowy figure, slightly hunched over, seated at the foot of my bed. Startled, I screamed, even as my hand shot out to grab my cigarette lighter off of the nightstand.
In the flickering light of my Zippo, I saw who my visitor was. It was my Dad.
"Hello, Wayne," he said, all too matter-of-factly.
"What on earth are you doing here, after all this time?"
"I wanted to talk."
"That's a first. And your timing isn't exactly impeccable." My eyes searched for the digital clock on my bureau. "It's past midnight. Just."
"You don't seem too surprised to see me, considering..."
"No? Hell, I screamed, didn't I? What more do you want?"
"I'm sorry about the lateness of the hour, but..." He hesitated.
I got out of bed, and snapped on the tall lamp next to my nightstand. "But what?"
"Well, I showed up when I did for a reason. Today -- and I mean 'today' as of a few minutes ago -- is Father's Day."
"So what? Even if it was so all-fired important we talk on Father's Day, noon would have been just as good!"
"You're not going to wish me a Happy Father's Day?"
"You're kidding, right? No. No, I'm not. Were you planning on wishing me one?" Now it was his turn to look surprised. "I mean, you do know I have two daughters, right? Just because their mother took them when she left me four years ago..."
"Of course I know about them. You just caught me off guard, that's all."
"Fine. We're even. And I'm awake, so... What do you want to talk about?" I reached for the lighter again, only this time it was to light a cigarette from the pack I picked up at the same time.
"Us," said my Dad. "All of us."
"You, me, your mother, your brother. Our family."
"What do you care about our family? You walked out of our lives thirty-two years ago, when I was only nine, and Matty was fourteen."
"I don't blame you for being angry..."
"That's just it. I'm not. Truth be told, it was probably the best thing you could have done for Mom. Not for Matty and me, necessarily, but... I'm not angry."
"Then what are you feeling?"
"What are you, my psychologist? You never asked me questions like that when I was a kid."
"That's not the type of question I would have asked you when you were nine, or younger."
"Okay," I agreed, "but it's not like we ever had any heart-to-heart conversations. So why now?"
"You weren't ready before now."
"I wasn't? What about you?"
He ignored that. "There were things about your mother and myself that you didn't know about, say, at twenty... And things you still wouldn't have understood at twenty-five, or thirty, because of your lack of... certain life experiences."
"But in your humble opinion, I can understand those 'things' now? That's rather condescending, isn't it? Anyway, why do you have to justify yourself to me? Why don't you talk to Mom?"
"That's an odd thing to say."
"Why? Just because she died a year ago? I still talk to her, once in a while. The conversation's a bit one-sided, admittedly, but... Anyway, if I can talk to the dead, I know you can!"
"Look, Wayne, I'll admit that I made mistakes where your mother was concerned..."
"Mistakes? Is that what you called those... women? Mistakes? I hope you didn't call them that to their faces."
"There weren't that many. You make it sound like there were dozens!"
"Look who's getting defensive. What was the number, Dad? Or do you even remember?" He didn't answer. "You're pathetic, you know that?"
He sighed. "Look, Wayne, can we get out of here? Go for a walk?"
"At half-past midnight? In this neighborhood? Or do you have some magic powers that can protect us?"
"We'll be okay."
"Why do we have to go out anyway?" I gestured with the hand that held the almost-finished cigarette. "Is the smoke getting to you? Or do you just need some fresh air in general?" He shook his head, and didn't reply. "I guess those were both rhetorical questions anyway, right?" He still didn't answer. "Fine. Whatever. But you want to know something?"
"You're more irritating now than when you were alive."
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And, on that note, fellow babies... See you soon!
Thanks for your time.