by Michael Tuberdyke
The door slammed shut on the driver side of the old sedan. The thirty-two year old man lifted the hat from his forehead to run his hand through his buzzed hair while he watched his son step out from the passenger side.
The man smiled as he took a seat on the hood while watching his child kick the rocks along the dirt where the grass failed to grow. The man looked down and opened a can of Budweiser. He took a sip then looked straight ahead at the tall chain link fence with barbed wire that ran along the length of the metal bar.
“Tell ‘em all to get lost.”
His five year old boy was too preoccupied to listen. “What’s that dad?”
“I said, if any of those brats tell you that again, you make sure to tell them to go profanity themselves.” He said this loud and clear. He wanted his son to hear it. He wanted the world to hear it.
The father’s anger quietly subsided when he looked away from the fence toward his son. He wanted the boy to sit next to him, but he did not want to tell the child to come to him. He had not been able to afford the opportunity to see his son in the past two weeks. He blamed the boy’s mother for that. She demanded too much money. He wished he could be with his son more to prevent the boy’s mother from feeding him whatever she fed him.
“Have some beer, it’ll add some hair to that chest.”
The child stopped what he was doing to look thoughtfully toward his father. He giggled, looked away, and continued to amuse himself with his own shadow. The father observed that his son was doing his best not to look in the direction of the fence.
“What’s the matter? You too old to watch the planes take off?”
His son stopped what he was doing and shrugged his shoulders. “I told you. All the kids make fun of me. They all go to Disney World.”
His father felt a pain. “I told you what to tell them.”
His child looked down then up again. The boy had no idea what to do with himself. He went up to the car and sat on the hood then raised his head thoughtfully.
“I can’t tell them that. They’re my friends.”
“My friends and I say that to each other.”
“Yeah. But, you guys are old.”
His father laughed. He felt old every morning that he no longer felt young, but being called old by his son whom he felt was only born yesterday was a new experience.
“You’re old too.”
The boy told his father to get lost. His father found that amusing and after the laughter the two sat together in silence. His father did not know what to tell his son that would make him feel better. He did not know what to say to himself. He knew his son was at a disadvantage and that made him feel weak and inadequate. That feeling made him sick. He thought about telling his son that maybe they could look into going to Disney World, but decided against it. It was fine to be without, but to be without with an empty promise is the worst place to be.
“Take some of this.” He handed the beer to his son. “Just don’t tell your mother. I have enough grief. How’s she doing?”
“This stuffs heavy. You drink a whole can of this?” His son passed the can over.
Up above came the sound of a Boeing 737. The two looked up together and watched the jet prepare for landing. When the airplane was directly overhead the little boy cupped his ears and let out a scream. His father scooped him into his arms and within his arms his son began to smile. That smile meant the world.