Last week’s chapter ended with a question: who was at Eric’s door? Well, question answered…
“It’s good to see you too, Dad,” said Eric. The man on the other side of the threshold smiled, stepped forward, and wrapped his arms around him. Then he stepped back, put his hand on Eric’s head, and tousled his hair.
“You look. . . clean. So how are you? Can I come in or is your mother home.”
“She’s out, come on in. You want a beer or something?” said Eric, walking toward the kitchen.
“Sure.” His father stuffed his hands into the pockets of his brown leather jacket and stepped into the house, his eyes tentatively scanning the rooms. Eric grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and handed it to him. Then he filled a glass with ice and bottled water. His dad motioned at the glass with his bottle: “You okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. I just partied a little too hard last night. You want something to eat?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks.”
Eric took a Hot Pocket out of the freezer. “You sure?” he said, waving it and then putting it in the microwave.
“God no. All the kids at the office eat those by the box-load. I don’t know how they can stand them,” said his dad, wincing into his beer.
The microwave ticked down. The Hot Pocket popped.
“So you wanna tell me what’s going on?” said his dad.
Like what’s really going on? No, not so much. And when’s the last time I told you anything important anyway?
“Nothing. I mean, I’m just home. Taking some time. I’m not exactly sure what my next move is, so I thought I’d just hang out here for a while,” said Eric.
“Here. With your mother.”
Yes, you remember my mother. The woman you left us with. The woman who used to beat the crap out of you. Yeah, you remember her.
“It’s not that bad, Dad.”
“Eric, I lived with the woman for twenty years. You don’t have to sugar coat it.”
“I’m not sugar coating. It’s fine. I’m fine, okay?” Eric took the Hot Pocket out of the microwave and picked at it. His father sat down at the kitchen table and started fiddling with some green salt and pepper shakers. They were hand-painted with little red and white roosters.
“I remember when your mother bought these. She just had to have them.” He picked up the shaker and stared at it like it was a Magic 8 ball that would give him an answer to some unasked question. He put it down. “But then she had to have just about everything, right?”
Eric shook his head and gave a quiet laugh. He brought his Hot Pocket to the table and sat down. He chewed silently while his dad drank his beer.
“Why did you keep giving her everything?” Eric asked. “Even after you left. Why did you keep sending all that money.”
“Well I wasn’t going to just stop taking care of you and your sister.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. You kept paying for everything for her.” I don’t get it. You left us. You were fine leaving us. But she still kept you under her thumb.
“It’s complicated, Eric. Your mother’s very good at making people do what she wants them to do.” He looked up at him and smiled.
What’s so complicated? Why couldn’t you just stand up and be a man? Stand up for yourself? For us? Damn it, Dad. Why couldn’t you make a decision for yourself? Why couldn’t you ever do the right thing…
“Didn’t you hear me? I said, so you’re done with Hawaii…”
“So, what’s the plan?”
“I don’t know. I have. . . there’s this guy. . . he offered me a job. He makes video games.”
“That’s interesting. Probably didn’t hurt when he found out who you were.”
“I didn’t say I was your son.”
“I’m not saying. . . I mean I’m sure you would’ve. . .” He sighed and joined his hands together at the tips of his fingers and thumbs. “I always hoped you’d get interested in my field someday. Even come and work with me. If you take the job, this guy’ll be lucky to have you.”
Eric nodded and examined his plate.
“Look, I should go,” said his father. “You should get some rest. Sleep off whatever you need to sleep off.” He stood up.
“You don’t have to leave.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
They walked to the door and gave each other a quick pat on the back.
“Give me a call sometime,” said his father.
“Yeah, I will. Soon.” He closed the door and walked through the house, out to the back patio to get some air. He looked at the old grill. Nothing in their house was free from memories…
Eric and his sister were playing Uno at the patio table while their father grilled hamburgers. His mother stopped whatever she’d been doing in the house to come out and inform him that they were getting overdone. “You ALWAYS burn the burgers. You burn EVERYTHING.” It was one of the few times his father actually stood up to her. “No. No. I don’t.” She started throwing all the plastic picnic dishes at him. She threw them and threw them and he just stood there and took it. He just kept cooking the damn burgers.
And then he apologized when everyone sat down to eat. He told them he was sorry that the burgers were overdone.
Eric walked back to the kitchen. When he sat down at the table to finish his food, he picked up the salt shaker. He turned it over in his hands. His mother hadn’t changed. There would always be another salt shaker to buy.
He found the business card wedged in his wallet and dialed the phone.
“Hi, Tarin? It’s Eric Ganin. Is it okay if I start on Monday?”
Read the next chapter: Static
This week’s prompt (from the lovely Clearly Kristal): If life gives you lemons, don’t settle for simply making lemonade – make a glorious scene at a lemonade stand.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Your character was given lemons, now paint their amazing lemonade stand. Tell us the story of their darkness, their light. Write the story.
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