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The Writings of a Boy and His father

Updated on July 16, 2013

Part I

There’s a story that exists between my father and me.

There’s a story that exists between my father and me. I’m eleven. He takes me out hunting. He lets me carry his gun. It’s heavy. I wear the camouflage overalls he got for his thirteenth birthday. They don’t fit, because I’m already his height, though he’s 56. He grabs my chest to stop me from moving. I fire his gun out of excitement upward into the sky. I watch the bullet fly away. And my father follows it.

Another story: My father leaves for 3 weeks. My mom, my brother, and I are staying at my grandmother’s house when he calls my mom. My mom answers, talks for a few minutes then hands me the phone. My father tells me he loves me. I tell him I love him. He neglects to mention the Veteran’s Hospital, the missing half of his right lung, the cancer eating away at his body.

A story: My father and his father are standing side by side. Staring into a casket. My father looks up to my grandfather. Stares at him for a full minute. Then walks away to find his mother. “You sure that’s him?” says my father. My grandmother does not reply. My father has just seen his father for the first and last time. At a funeral for a man neither of them knew.

A story exists between my father and my family. He returns from work without a job. My mom throws the new cordless phone through the door’s window pane. He storms out of the house. She lies down on the new carpet. My brother and I begin to pick up the pieces of glass. The smallest slivers stick into our hands.

A story is told to my older brother. My father tells this story only to Nathan. My father is at a bar with his friend weeks after returning from Vietnam. Glasses clink as others celebrate the little victories of their lives. My father drinks nothing at this bar. His friend begins to pick fights. One man, upset, walks out to his truck to retrieve his hunting rifle, only to find my father’s revolver in his ear. My father does not like fights. A peaceful solution has been reached. My brother cracks up laughing every time he tells me this story.

Another peaceful story: My father’s war friends are at a movie. Two men outside are planning to rob the theater. One of the friends sneaks away to call my father on a pay phone, there are too many women and children getting robbed he says. My father drives to the theater and sees one of the two robbers walking to his trunk to grab a gun. My father shoots the man. Without killing him. No one gets robbed that night. A peaceful solution has been reached. My brother laughs again.

A story exists between my father and my grandmother. He stands in her hospital room, next to her bed. He does not touch her. He does not say a word. He watches. His eyes begin to shake. The hardest man I have ever met shatters into pieces.

A story exists between my father and his best friend in Vietnam. His friend saves his life on two separate occasions. They figure out they only live 50 miles away from one another back home. They plan to swap war stories when they get back home. My father watches his best friend’s neck snap to the side as a Vietnamese soldier spits down his windpipe. This is the only story my father ever tells me of the war.

A story exists between my father and a pool hustler. My father and a female employee at his old job. My father and the Kannapolis Police Department. My mom won’t tell me those stories. Not yet. She tells me I am not old enough to understand. I am not old enough to have to understand.

A story exists between my father and my other family. He never goes to prison in this story. He never lives in the Asylum. He never pimps, he never bribes. He never abandons his kids. He never steals, never kills, never drinks, and never lays a hand on his wife. My father never tells their stories.

Another story exists between my father and me. He takes me out to his truck and opens his glove box. He pulls out his revolver, empties out the bullets, and hands it to me. It’s heavy. He tells me to point the gun toward the trees. I raise the gun up above my head and aim for the biggest tree that I can find. I look to my right. My father is gone.

A story exists between my father and me. I just don’t know if it deserves to be written.

Part II

The shooter’s back

The shooter’s back

arches

his eyes looking over

his pool cue:

You need a 45 degree angle shot

with backspin

to return the cue ball

behind the 8 ball.

After bouncing

off of 2 rails

4 kids

and no dad,

the ball must slide

behind the PTSD,

avoid the sexual

harassment charges

in between the 12 hour

shifts at Wal-Mart

into the gas station

run by the man

with the name

you can’t pronounce

from the country

you killed in

for the cigarettes

your body needs

and the drugs

your heart wants.

Push the ball through

the ruptured disc

in your spine

to keep you

from being the carpenter

and gymnast

you were made to be

without dwelling

on the missing lung

or the dyslexia

that ruined the first

thing you ever loved.

Then, accounting

for the weight

of embarrassment

you feel

pulling at you

every day

from your habits

from your GED,

you need to navigate

the ball into

a conversation

with your son

who writes stories

you don’t read

and whose birthday

you forget

and whose dreams

you don’t know

and whose mind

drifts from you

and who is the same age

as you were

when you survived the life

his brother laughs at

and who doesn’t need

you

until he writes a fictional story

in 8th grade

that makes your life

sound happy

that he reads to you

and you must smile

and you must laugh

and you must remember

cleaning the blood

off the poker table

your son makes

a joke about

and witnessing

the miscarriage

of the hooker

who lived behind

your granddad’s house

whom your son

casually mentions

in a paper

that gets a B+.

Then, after returning the cue ball,

to its place behind the 8 ball

look into the mirror,

take a deep breath

and remember:

This

is

the

most

anyone

has

ever

cared

about

you.

Now, do you think you can pull that shot off?

I don’t see why not. You’ve been doing it your whole life.

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