Father & Son Day


roadperdition

All I see are headlights but I hear everything. Screams, breaking glass, engine roaring and lights snapping. I duck I think, maybe I just fell, but I end up on the ground. A bunch of screaming and I get up. The car is red, and parked in the restaurant. And the driver is sleeping on the airbag with a mouth full of blood. My dad grabs my wrist and flies me over the floor like I’m a purse. He used to tell me when I hear gunshots to pretend they’re just balloons popping. He’d wake me up in the middle of the night popping balloons, I’m serious. Training me. Now I hear gunshots and think, damn dad, this sounds nothing like balloons popping. Dad twists around and I see the gun in his hand. Pop-pop-pop. I follow the eyes of the barrel and find two men in suits twisted over some tables with blood draining from their lips. Dad tugs me along and he kicks open the backdoor and we head down the alley. I’m groaning, of course. It hurts getting thrown around like that. But I’m scared too so I don’t say anything. Dad looks serious but more annoyed, really. This was our once-a-month dinner date. Son and father kind of stuff. Baseball bats and baseball caps and bandannas over our mouths and broken jewelry cases. Coming home thousands of dollars richer. Polaroid stuff. I was a prodigy, he said. Mamma called me Jacob but he called me Robin. After the Disney fox. I called myself Robin. Anyway, we get to our car and he opens the door for me and closes it and then walks around the hood. He’s looking up and around but then makes eye contact and winks. Then he gets in the car and we back out and drive out into the street. Sorry, bud, he says. He calls me bud. Kinda like that, I guess. Kinda demeaning. He screeches onto a street and I can see a car following us in the reflection of the window. Dad, I say, and he says I know, take the wheel, so I do and he climbs out of the window with his gun. I can barely reach the pedals so I scoot down, peeking over the dashboard with my chin touching the bottom of the steering wheel. Pop-pop-pop-pop. Balloons, ha! Dad had it all wrong, that goof. Sounds more like thunder. But I guess that training would’ve been a lot more selective. Dad peeks into the window and asks me to speed up. I’m trying, I say. I can’t reach. You need to drink more milk, son, he says. For longer bones. And eat your veggies. I saw how you were playing with your broccoli. I wasn’t! I was, though, but he can’t know that. He leaves and shoots more. I slip down and stomp down on the pedal. The car jerks forward and scares me so I let go and my father goes rolling down over the hood of the car. His fingers are hooked around the hood where the windshield wipers are and he slides to the side like he’s gonna Flintstone it. He’s looking at me kind of angry. I almost run into another car but I swerve to avoid it. Nice dodge, I think, and my dad rolls back onto the hood. He gets on his feet and disappears and all I hear are his footsteps on the roof. Pop-pop-pop. Are these guys KO yet? Dad needs to play more Call of Duty with me, it seems.Finally he slides into the passenger seat smelling like dadsweat. You know the kind that is kinda nice because it’s familiar but still gross. Turn right here, he says. When I do I think I sideswipe a lamppost but dad doesn’t say anything so I don’t either. Stop, he says. I do my best to park and he gets out. Pop-pop-pop, I hear. I get out of the car and see a large black SUV with more guys in suits. Dad’s nailing ‘em down and when they all seem dead he starts walking to the car. I run to catch up. One guy is still alive and they start fighting. Dad is taking a couple of punches but he ends up pummeling the guy to the ground. Dad’s got a bloody nose. Who are these people? Dad ignores me and is sifting through the dead bodies’ wallets. We scavenge eighty bucks and Dad finds a clue, I think, because he grunts. I need to get you home, he says. I want to argue but I know it won’t amount to anything. Hey, he says. He gets down to my level. I’ll make it up to you, promise. But right now is not a good time. I know, I say. I don’t really know. I never know if he’ll even be around to make it up to me.

Mom’s at the front door when dad’s tires screech and he drives off into the street. Were those bullet holes? Mom asks. I shrug and walk up to my room. It’s hard being a child of divorce.

G. Z. KIEFT

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