A Father’s Day Tribute. Of Sorts

June 18, 2006 at 7:43 PM | Posted in Personal | 5 Comments
I was hesitant to include fiction on my blog–
(–as opposed to outright lies, opinion, distortion, and bullshit. You see, the difference is, if it’s fiction, the way it’s written, you know it’s not true. Whereas my usual bullshit is written in such a way that you should believe what I am writing. The whole first person perspective, and things like that, lend an air of credibility to what I write. Nevertheless, it may be complete BS. What am I saying, "may"?)
–But the reason this is relevant is I wanted to write a novel that strings together the stories my dad told me about his life growing up. This is just one chapter, or part of one, even. One of his regrets is that his father died before I was born, so I never met him, and his dad died not knowing his family name would be carried on–except it would be, because my Grampa had more than one wife.
At the same time.
No, he wasn’t Mormon. Far from it. But from little pieces that my dad told me, I was able to string this together. There are lots of other stories as well. Most of it is just my fictionalized version of it, how I imagined it, but the conversation at the end, that was real.
And there are other stories as well, told to me over and over, giving me a flavor for a time that has long since past. The 40’s and 50’s, in rural America.
But this is what I wanted to do for my dad, so Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
(By the way, my dad is ‘Bud."  Always has been, always will be.)

For many days after the funeral, Clarence didn’t talk. Not a word. Didn’t raise a hand in anger, either, for that matter. The kids tiptoed around him, averting their eyes. Fern held Junior tight at bay, and kept a watchful eye on her husband.
His reaction overshadowed even her own grief. He was a time bomb, ticking, ticking. She feared for the kids mostly, and for herself, some. It left her no time to grieve. These were hard times, rough days. She was saving up her crying time. That’s what she reminded herself, as she rocked Junior into a quiet sleep.
Clarence stalked throughout the small house, back and forth. He had a bottle of whiskey on the table, unopened, untouched. Fern reflected how she had never seen a full bottle, only half-empties and empties, and broken glass on the floor. The kids did their chores straightaway, with no fuss, not even a reminder. It was easier that way.
It was much better to have something to do than to accidentally meet the eye of this man, this giant that was their father. They were still in shock, and the girls were teary-eyed, but never a whimper. They could not understand their brother’s death, but they could understand even less their father’s reaction to it. He was a powder keg, to be certain. Each child intuitively feared being the one to light the fuse. What would happen? What would he do? Who would get hurt? When will everything be okay? Will it ever?
When will the other shoe drop?
Bud was the oldest now. He was responsible. He didn’t like it. He feared for his little sisters, and felt that if—no, when—his father went off the deep end, he should be the buffer between his father and his sisters. And his mother, too. He was only twelve, but he was big. He would protect her, if he could. He had no idea exactly how he might manage that, even though dozens of ill-conceived scenarios ran through his mind.
He could take the easy way out—most of his chores were outside. It was nice weather, he could chop wood from now till doomsday and avoid the house completely, but it wouldn’t be right. Sooner or later, Bud, sooner or later. Fish or cut bait.
Clarence paced around. Slowly, as though he were looking for something. He paused, and realized he was in front of the pictures that hung on the wall. Him and Fern. His parents. The whole family. The kids. Each one. His son—
As soon as he looked he turned away.
Bud was now standing there, trying hard to be nonchalant. Trying hard to time things so his mom and sisters wouldn’t be in the room. Nina and Audrey were doing laundry. Actually, Nina was doing it and Audrey was trying to help. Gloria was doing busy work in the kitchen with their mother.
Okay, Bud, here goes nothing. Every morning in the summer, Dad would wake up early; have two cups of coffee, the second with whiskey, then wake up Bud. “Come on, Boy,” he’d say every morning like clockwork, “let’s go get a load.” Bud would rise up, get dressed, grab a sausage and some bread, chase them with a tin of water, and finish waking up on the way.
He tried hard not to stammer. He wanted to get it out while he had a split second of his father’s attention. “Uh- – We going to go get a load today?”
There. He got it out.
Clarence looked at him. Looked at him hard. Real hard. Bud had learned not to flinch, not to cover. Don’t raise your arm to protect your face, either, like you know its coming. Stand your ground, and take it. In a moment, Clarence’s face had softened up. Too soft.
He turned toward the door, away from Bud, and said quietly, “Boy, come with me.”
Clarence headed for the truck. Bud had originally expected the worst, but when he saw this, he knew everything would be okay. His dad was in a funk, that’s all. Just needed something to snap him out of it. Get back to work, things would be normal. Not hunky-dory, but normal. Tolerable.
Bud caught himself trailing along like a puppy wagging his tail, and caught himself, made himself walk normal, which turned into a saunter. His dad did not notice. Clarence got to the truck, opened it and hopped up, did not get in. Instead he grabbed his grip from behind the seat and stepped down as Bud approached, now with a quizzical look on his face. Bud could see that his father’s eyes had reddened, with traces of moisture. But not tears. Clarence sat on the step of the truck, looked Bud in the eyes.
“He was my favorite, you know. I wish to God it didn’t have to be like that, but it is. He was my favorite son, and now he’s gone. I wish it’d been you, instead of him.”
Bud’s ears began to burn, then roar. He felt both hot and cold on the inside. He felt a dull, jagged knife, slowly cut into his heart. And his father’s hand was on it.
He stood his ground, mute. Unable to talk, or to walk away. Or run. Or fly. If he could fly right now he would, and never come back.
Clarence continued to be in front of him, a shadow from the truck cutting sharply across his face in the bright morning sun. He squinted with one eye. “I’m going on a trip. I got things to take care of. I’ll be back in a week or two, maybe three.” He handed Bud an old wallet from his grip, dirty from the truck. “There’s forty dollars in there. Give this to your mother. Ya’ll will keep till I get back.”
Then Clarence took the grip and got in the Packard, not the truck, and then he was gone.
Bud stood there for a long time, not even turning to see his father leave. He wondered if he could cry. Then he decided he would not. Ever. Nothing can hurt this bad, and he could take it. He could take anything. I will never cry again. Never.
Bud stuck the money in his pocket, and went about his chores.

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5 Comments »

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  1. That is an amazing tribute.  The story is very sad but very well written.  I enjoyed reading it.  Thanks for sharing. 
     
    Tammy~

  2. some people write. some people tell stories. some people do both at the same time and make magic. you made magic. I\’m looking forward to reading the whole book.
    very good, bryan. I\’m impressed.
    hugs and love
    Kim

  3. Hi Bryan,
      Hope you continue this story, very well written!…..just trying figure out if junior is your father? 
      Anyway, thought I\’d drop by and say hello at the same time!
     
    Take care, Judy

  4. I love stories. Thanks! Happy Father\’s Day, I hope you had a good one. BIG HUGS, Steph

  5. This is such a great tribute – I love your writing so much and have always told you so – therefore, I also want to ask, if I may, although I hesititate, you have an incredible beyond incredible way of describing your feelings – I can normally sit here and feel them right along with you as you blog and write about your life and your past – that is a gift that you have. I have felt happy with you, sad with you, dissappointed and pissed when you are, and I don\’t even know you!! But your writing – it is that great – so here I\’d love for Bud to be in first person – for you to imagine what Bud is feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing in the first person – instead of him sauntering talk about what it feels like to be dragging one\’s feet – I can\’t write myself but I know that you can! Just a suggestion – you have a gift. You have compassion – I have felt it in that comment that you wrote about brain injury to me – you jumped in my shoes – imagined it – in your book, though it is tiring, I\’ve heard it is also relieving, let all that compassion of what it would be like for someone flow – you do it here but I sense a need to keep up with the action and description of where they are – if you become Bud (no psychology here about how healthy it is to be your father 🙂 then we can move along with you, you don\’t have to show us the way  – we can experience it, first hand, or you can write about being the grandson to Bud – somewhere please do first hand!! …aren\’t you so happy I stopped by!! 😉 I love this story – I want to hear it from your point of view. Just an opinion and a compliment! my best – patti


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