A Father's DreambyMSTarot©
I wish I could stop tapping my foot.
I've tried about a dozen times to stop but every time my thoughts drift for a moment I look down and it's going a mile a minute.
For the hundredth time, I look up at the arrival departure board.
Every flight has left or arrived right on time, except for hers.
Looking up, I watch when a young girl walks past, her face buried in her phone. Chewing gum going between her teeth like a road grader.
She's about my daughter's age is my first thought, but no...
Chanel is a blonde like her mother.
I watch the girl as she walks by.
If anything, her fingers are trying to outdo my foot in taps per second. I watch her walk across to the carousel and grab up a bag and head for the door, all without ever looking up from her phone.
Texting, tweeting, twittering?
"I'll take things that birds do for a thousand, Alex," I mutter under my breath.
I stop myself before I look back to the board again. Instead, I make my eyes roam around the terminal.
God, I hate places like this now. Not that I ever loved them all that much to begin with.
Cluttered, congested, masses of humanity, walking around with all the lifeless of a Zombie hoard!
Sighing, I try to relax.
My thoughts go back to the phone call two nights ago.
The one that told me my ex-wife was dead. Dead and already buried in fact.
Crystal's smiling, laughing face comes back to me then. The way she was when we first met all those years ago. A lifetime ago.
Our daughter's lifetime to be exact.
There had been so much love then. So many dreams.
Then the dreams had clashed and they turned darker... became nightmares.
The fights, the screaming accusations, the endless days of us not really talking till we reach a point were the words came out only with tears. Bitter tears.
Tears that tasted of divorce.
I think back to the last time I saw my daughter, all those years ago.
The day the judge told me I couldn't see her again.
The day he gave full custody to Crystal. No visitations, due to domestic violence that I never did but was nearly convicted of.
My leg is going again.
With a sigh, I put it all away, all the old thoughts, and all the old memories of times when I was young and stupid. A better lawyer could have torn her story apart on the stand. I could have given more testimony that would have scandalized her to the point the judge wouldn't have let her have Chanel.
But I had been young and dumb and still very much in love with the woman that was trying to destroy my life.
All because I dreamed of something she couldn't see as worth doing.
My dream ... her dream. The two did not match up when put next to each other.
"Flight 417 from Los Angeles now arriving at gate 4."
I get to my feet when I hear the announcement. Making my way through the people, I go to where they will let me wait. I remember back to the days when you could walk all the way to the plane but now if you're not flying you're not getting close.
I know my daughter the moment she comes walking around the corner of the hall. She looks almost like her mom did when I first met Crystal.
Blonde hair, the color of wheat burnt by the sun. More golden that yellow.
I watch her tug at her clothes when she walks past a group of young guys.
They don't even look her way.
I can see the way her face sinks a bit at that. It's a small thing but I see it.
She begins to look around, and then her eyes come to rest on me.
Smiling, I give a nod.
She sighs and walks over to me.
I hold out my hand towards her bag but she shakes her head.
"I've got it." She stops and gives my face a good look. "So you're my dad?"
Such a question should have been expected but it still hits me hard. To hear it spoken like that hurts. No father should have to hear those words.
"Yeah ... I'm your dad, Chanel." I look at her slightly plump face and try to find any part of myself there then. Maybe a bit around the eyes?
She nods. "I saw an old picture of you once. You had more hair then."
Chuckling, I reach up. My hand slicks back the few remaining soldiers in the lost campaign.
"Yeah, I've had one too many birds want nesting material over the years. They have just about plucked me bald." Leaning in a bit, I whisper "If you look at my head in the right light I'm getting a bit thin."
She gives her lips a little quirk.
In the right light, I look like a bird's egg.
She lets the smile slide away. "Mom told me one thing when I was younger, then something different about a year ago. I need to know which was the true story." She lets her teeth bite her lips for a second then starts to ask. "Did you ever ...."
She pauses for a second and then looks me hard in the eyes. "How can I tell if you're telling me the truth?"
"Because my lips are moving," I say with an even tone. "I know what your mom told you. That I got drunk and beat the hell out of her. Did she tell you that she was having an affair behind my back those last months?"
My daughter's eyes go wide. She shakes her head.
"That he was a drug using prick that tried to..." I let the words die unspoken. With a sigh, I look up and let my blood settle back down and then look down at her. "The guy she was with got stoned and beat her up, really badly. She used the bruises to get full custody of you."
I see the story go to war behind her eyes. It nearly boils out into screams of denial, and then her teeth click together.
"I won't talk bad about your mom," I tell her, then pause to let that sink in. "But, if you ask, I will tell you the truth. She was a human just like all the rest of us. Good and bad, nice and ... not nice, all in one package. Believe it or not, I still loved her with all my heart. Even after she ripped it out and tore it to shreds."
I again hold out my hand for her bag.
With a hesitancy that hurts me, she hands it over.
"Well, I'm glad to see you're the type that plans ahead," I say as I turn and gesture towards the doors.
"What do you mean?" she asks.
"Well, with you moving in we might have to expand the house a bit. I see you planned ahead and brought some bricks along." I give the heavy bag a lift like it's a strain. "Damn, did you pack the mortar mixer too?'
She again gives me that half smile. It slides away just as quickly.
As I walk in silence beside her I think back to when my mom passed.
I wouldn't have found jokes all that funny then either.
The hike to the truck has her panting a bit, but I see she has her phone out before we are even clear the terminal doors. Her head doesn't come up till she's almost at my truck. When it does she stops and her jaw drops open a bit. She slowly turns and gives me a disgusted look.
"Do you have a problem with things from this millennium?" she asks with a shake of her head.
"She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts," I say with a wink and a grin ."I've made a few special modifications myself."
She rolls her eyes and gives her head a shake.
Back go a thousand miles an hour thumbs.
The door, popping when she opens it startles her for a second, and then the way the springs in the front seat kind of bounce when you sit down does the same.
"This thing runs on coal right?" she asks with a disgusted look.
I pat the gas and turn the key. My fingers pull out the choke knob and the old beast wakes up. "Don't be ridiculous. It steam powered."
Depressing the clutch, I shift the column shifter and pull out. A car blows its horn at me less than a second later!
I give a shrug and press the gas harder. "I had the right of way. Besides, he doesn't want to hit this truck."
After a bit, she looks back over at me.
"Why not? He wouldn't want to damage an antique?" She asks her fingers held in position over the little micro keyboard.
"Nope. That bit of plastic and foam he's driving would disintegrate if he did." I shift the truck into a higher gear and hold my arm out the window to signal a turn.
The look she gives me is so similar to one her mom gave me once long ago that I feel a terrible sensation of Deja Vu.
The twenty miles up to my place passes in silence. Well, silence except for.
Texting, texting, texting, texting, texting...Chirp!
I glance over at her and see a sudden look of panic sweep her face.
"Lost your signal?" I ask trying to not give away that fact that I knew she was going to.
She looks over at me and nods. She looks stunned. I wonder then if she has ever been out in the country at all.
"Well, it might come back as the sun sets. Atmospheric ionization and all that." I shift down and again signal my turn with my left arm.
My daughter looks at me then down at her phone. Then at the dashboard of the truck with its real wood and brass rimmed dials.
"I'm in a Twilight Zone episode, aren't I?" she asks after a moment.
I chuckle a bit and shake my head. "I don't think so but if you start to hear Rod Serling, running might be a good idea."
She gives a little breath of a laugh.
When I look back over at her, after a few more miles, she has her head on the glass window and is silently crying as she watches the growing wilderness. The tears down her face leave clear tracks on her skin then drop to disappear in a darker spot on her shirt.
I wish I had the words to give her comfort. I wish I knew what to say or do, that would take some of the pain away. My own heart feels empty at the moment as well. I realize why as I take the turn up the winding gravel road to my place. It's the spot I kept the memory of my love for Crystal. I feel myself accepting that she really is gone, not just from my life now, but from the entire world.
A tear runs down my face but gets caught in my bristle.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
I see them coming down the road towards the truck. Three large, dark-coated German shepherds! They come at a run, tails wagging, tongues hanging out their open mouths. With a hundred barks and yelps they give chase to this old relic of a truck. I start to look ahead of us for the house. I'm figuring I'll be seeing something that would be right at home in an Amish reality show.
However, when my dad pulls the truck up under a tree and shuts it off I still don't see the house!
There are a lot of wooden fences, a large divided field, a few hundred ground-scratching chickens and a large barn sitting in the middle of the field, but there is no house.
His door opens with a pop sound that startles me.
I start to open my door but stop when a large black muzzle appears just outside the window! The scenes from Kujo come back to me with horrifying clarity.
"Don't worry. She won't bite." He tells me as he steps out. I watch him get my bag from the back of the truck and hold it out the way of the jumping dogs that are trying to circle or trip him with every step.
Slowly, hesitantly, I open the door. The dog hops down then backs up as the door pops.
Her nose is cold when she comes back in. She gives my arm a sniff, then my leg. Half-panting in fear, I sit in the truck, not knowing if I can move or not.
"Smokey?" he calls out. The dog perks up her head and runs around the front of the truck to join the other two in trying to trip him.
As I slide out the seat I feel gravel crunch under my shoes. When the truck door closes it gives one of those pops that scares me again. With a sigh of frustration, I walk away from the damn thing and wonder just how far we are going to have to hike now to get to whatever shanty shack this ... boy that never grew up ... as mom often described him lives in.
That I live in ....
The memories of the funeral are a raw nerve, which I shy away from them when they come at me. Then the lady from the family court telling me that, till I reached my eighteenth birthday, I was going to have to go live with my dad. This mountain man reject, another of mom's descriptions.
Four more months? God why? What the hell kinds of difference will that little of an amount of time make? I have access to the money mom put away for me. I have my trust fund that will come to me when I hit twenty-one. I can get a job with my friend Shirley's computer repair shop till then. I don't know all that much yet but I could watch and learn. Answer the phone.
I pause when the dog comes back to me. She? I think he said the dog was a she, wags its long tail at me.
Looking up, I notice then that he has disappeared!
"Dad?" I say softly suddenly terrified that I'm out here in the middle of nowhere, all alone. Well, alone except for this damn dog that wants to sniff at me. Then, when she nudges my hand with her nose, I hesitantly lift my hand to her ears. Soft as velvet, comes the thought. It calms me for a second, and then I look back up. I let my eyes follow the path he was on. I see the dark opening beside the leafless tree.
"He lives in a fucking cave?" I say under my breath.
I see him stick his head out the opening. In the growing dark, I see lights come on next to the ... doorway? Windows, framed in white light, show themselves.
He gestures for me to follow. "Come on in."
Hesitantly I step into the ... cave?
"Oh my god you live in a Hobbit hole!" I say looking around in wonder.
"Not the first one to tell me that. Come on, follow me. I'll show you where your room is."
Lines from Tolkien come to mind as I follow him. A long hall going into the hill with the best rooms on the left-hand side. Deep, round set, wood-trimmed windows. For a moment, I wonder that I'm not feeling claustrophobic but I guess the high ceilings and the lights are keeping that feeling at bay.
The place is primitive is the first thought that comes to mind. I do notice that it's clean, though. There is a smell of Pine-Sol cleaner that tells me he gave it a good scrubbing just recently.
Dressing up the hole for his daughter's arrival.
"Here you go," he says.
The bedroom is not huge but is bigger that say half of the apartment back home....
That word hits me then. Home. That I don't live there anymore. That Mom's things--and most of mine--have been put into storage till I turn eighteen and can move back, that hits me then too.
Four months? Why the fuck couldn't they have just left me be till April? Like I will somehow become more able to see to myself after that short time has passed.
"You can put your clothes in that wardrobe. I didn't build in a lot of closets when I designed the place. Sorry." He again runs his hand across the top of his head. I can see it's a nervous gesture.
I nod and move past him into the room.
Yeah, the bedroom is large. It has to be to make the furniture look this small. The bed is, at least, a queen and the heavy wood head and foot boards are intricately carved. The rest of the furniture is a mixture of styles but it's all the same, colored wood. There is a nightstand, a roll-top desk, and the big wooden wardrobe to Narnia.
"Ah ... there is no TV?" I look around trying to find where he might have stashed it. Although given the truck as a guide to his taste it's probably black and white TV.
He rubs at the back of his neck then grimaces. "Sorry, I don't own one."
I pause then to listen for ... what did he say the guy's name was. Rod something another.
"You don't own a TV?" I ask unable to believe I'm even saying that. Then something else comes to me. "Please tell me you have a Wi-Fi connection up here."
He gives his head a shake.
"DSL? Dish Network ... a phone modem maybe? You, at least, have dial-up right? There is a telephone in this hole right?" I demand.
"Sorry. I don't have a computer. Yeah, there is a phone. It's on the wall by the kitchen."
"Oh, my god in heaven," I say under my breath. That was all it took. One little nudge and I feel myself slip back off into the land of tears. I sit down on the edge of the bed and bury my face in my hands.
When his arms come around me it startles me something terrible. I want to pull away but instead, I lean my head into his chest. The open collar of his button up shirt by my cheek, my ear against the soft hair under his chin, the stiff bristle a rough feeling on my temple. I just hold on to this man that I have never known. This man that says he still loved my Mom... Oh, Mom why? Why did you leave me? Why? WHY!
"Shhh, baby. Daddy's here." He says, softly.
A memory so distant I cannot even give it shape comes then, of me being held like this. I remember that I was crying then as well. The smell of him, a mixture of several things not all of them pleasant, comes to me then. That smell was in the memory as well.
It's the scent of my dad. Some past part of me has clung to that long ago memory.
Just as I cling to him now.
The cold nose and velvet ears that appear under my hand also give me a comfort I wouldn't have credited them with giving.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
I shut the bedroom door but don't close it fully so that Smokey can come out if she wants. The old mother dog had laid herself on the foot of Chanel's bed, given me a look and a wag of her tail.
I could hear Smokey's thoughts as clear as day. "I've got this. You go feed the cows or something."
As I step out onto the porch, I pick up my pipe and tobacco jar from beside the door. Thinking old thoughts, I pack it full of my vanilla Cavendish tobacco and give it a light.
The sweet smoke calms my spirit, if not my whole self.
Trailing smoke, I shake my head and start across the yard towards the fields.
Pepper and Blackie come with me to see to things. Hell, half the time I think the two of them, with their mother, could probably manage this place better than I can. It's them that, four times a year, help me get the cattle to shift to the next field. They are what make the pigs move in some kind of squealing group.
The two shepherds bounce through the knee high winter rye grass. They leave winding paths that the morning sun will set back to right.
My eyes take a head count of my herd. The word sounds silly even to me. Four cows and four half-grown calves do not a herd make.
Reaching one of my favorite spots, I hop up onto the wooden rail of my fence and relight my pipe. I just sit and listen to the sounds of my place. The grunting of my dozen squealers, the honking of the ducks and geese as they argue over the best scraps and bugs with the pigs. The clucking of the chickens as they gossip over the quality of the worms and ticks they can find to eat.
As the hot smoke fills my lungs I think back to this place, as it was when I first bought it. Little more than a flat spot in a sea of trees. Maybe a lightning strike had caused the trees to burn off. Maybe a careless match. It had looked a blackened mess when I first walked it. The burned stumps rotting and falling apart.
I had seen it for what it was going to become.
Crystal hadn't. She has seen something she wanted no part of. The hard work, the years when the struggle was almost more than any person could take.
Then came the job offer in LA. The opportunity for her to go after her dream. The time away...apart. Looking back, I should have noticed that when she didn't want to leave Chanel with me but would take her to her mom and dads before she would leave each time. She was already then trying to put a distance between my daughter and me.
The old memory of her carrying a crying Chanel away from me. My young daughters tear still soaking into my shirt.
The last time I had gotten to see my child. Till today. My hand comes up to brush at the wet place on my shirt.
I puff my pipe, sit looking at my farm and remember ... or in some cases try not to.
"So what do I do now Crystal?" I ask the stars, hoping my wife may hear.
Only the two dogs seem to answer. They wag their tails at my words and come bounding over to me again.