Thursday, August 27, 2015

Picture from the Airshow

    Cat Video.
    Another Cat Video.
    Adam leaned back in his chair with mouse in hand. Slowly, almost absent mindedly, scrolling through the website, looking for absolutely anything that might amuse him.
    So far no luck.
    With the exception of his mouse hand and the occasional keyboard usage, he hadn’t moved for hours. Even worse, he had spent his entire day like this. The sun had risen and set again while he wallowed his time away doing nothing short of occasionally “Liking” or “Reblogging” something that gave him a mental chuckle.
    Picking up the glass at his side, he noted for the fifth time in the last half hour that it was empty and set it back down.
    He didn’t bother getting up to refill it.
    He’d do it eventually.
    Another hour passed like this in utter silence. Scrolling. Staring. Clicking. The only light in the room was from his monitor. After a good four hours of relative inactivity, his bladder demanded relief.
    The trip to the restroom was just as unpleasant as ever. His medicine had worn off and it felt like someone slipped a blade into his back. The pain was horrible, but he mentally ignored it. It wasn’t exactly a new thing.
    Finally up and about, Adam made his rounds through the empty house. He refilled his glass. Grabbed a bag of chips. Popped two pills. A few minutes later, he was all settled in to continue wandering the internet.
    Before he could get comfortable though, his phone rang.
    He stared at the phone as it rang, considering whether or not he dared to pick it up.
    He didn’t.
    A few seconds later, the phone beeped telling him he had a voicemail.
    “Hey…Adam. Look, I know that we haven’t spoken in a while but something’s come up. I don’t really want to leave this on your voicemail, so could you call me back as soon as you get this? It’s really important.”
    He didn’t call him.
    The next day passed much like the day before. Long periods of absolutely nothing, mindlessly scrolling through websites or watching videos, eating when he was hungry and drinking when he was thirsty. The sun rose and fell while he rotted away in his chair.
    Much to his surprise, the phone rang again.
    He didn’t pick up.
    “Hi Adam. I’m sure you’re busy with work and school, but can you call me back as soon as you get this? I…Well…I’m in the hospital right now. It would seem that I’m sick and the doctors are worried that it might be bad. I know we’ve had our differences but I would really like to talk to you if I can. Sorry to bother you. I lo-…. Call me back.”
    He didn’t call him.
    After a few hours of sleep and a day of work that passed like molasses, Adam was once again back at home. Alone in the darkness of his room, face lit up by the computer screen. His mind began to wander to his father.
    He had never gotten along with his Dad. He was by no means a nice person and Adam didn’t agree with many of his political and personal views of which his father was QUITE vocal about most of the time. They hadn’t spoken in years.
    Why should I start now?
    As if on cue, the phone rang again.
    Straight to voicemail.
    To his surprise, it was his stepmother.
    “Adam, it’s Cindy. Your father asked that I try to reach you again. He’s going into surgery tomorrow and wanted to see you before they took him down. They’ve found some kind of growth that they need to remove. Give us a call back. We’re at the hospital on Fair Oak.”
    A growth?
    His mind was reeling. On the one hand, all Adam had ever felt for his father the last few years was bitter resentment. Hatred of his choices. Hatred of his demeanor. Hatred of the way his parents and split up. Hatred for everything that his father represented.
    Hell, he had such disgust for his father that he used “Adam” instead of his real first name.
    Another night of drinks and drugs, chips and internet.
    The next day, sometime around noon, his phone rang again.
    “Son. I…I… I’m going to be going down to surgery now. I just wanted to talk to you before-hand. The doctors are going to be removing something from my lungs. They said it’s pretty risky so I…”
    It sounded like his dad was going to start crying.
    “…look. I’ve made some mistakes. Saying it doesn’t make up for what I’ve done, but I just…I want you to know that I love you, son…”
    Adam’s father hadn’t said I love you in over six years.
    “I really want to talk to you before I go. I want to apologize for everything. I just want you to k-k-kn-nnn…*beep*”
    The call was dropped.
    Adam sat frozen, phone to his ear, staring at his computer screens.
    Maybe it was hearing his father breaking down on the other end. Maybe it was the call dropping and not being able to hear what was said. Maybe it was just having his father call him more in the last four days than he’s heard from him in the last few years.
    He called him back.
    Straight to voicemail.
    “Dad. It’s Adam. I just got your call but it sounds like there are reception issues. Cindy told me you’re at the hospital on Fair Oak so I’m gonna try to drop in and see you. Give me a call when you get this.”
    For the first time in a few days, Adam showered off and dressed down. He stopped by a flower shop and got a “Get Well” gift for his dad. A couple of hours later he was at the hospital being direct up to a little room on the fifth floor where his father had been staying.
    Walking into the little room, he found his stepmother in a little plastic chair. Her face was buried in her hands and she was sobbing uncontrollably.
    Cindy looked up and did a double take through puffy red eyes.
    He looked around the room. The bed was gone. The room was empty except for her.
    “What’s wrong?”
    “Your father…he-he…”
    “Calm down…” he set the flowers down on a little side table.
    She swallowed a sob and looked up at him.
    “I’m g-g-glad you came.” She said, sniffing back tears. “But your father…he… he passed away on the operating table…”
    Adam felt as if the air had been knocked from his lungs.
    “He tried to call you again…but he lost service when they took him back…”
    All at once, every hateful thing he’d ever said. Every frustration and upset and bit of anger and resentment suddenly came into sharp relief. Everything felt so petty.
    “He…asked me to give this to you….if you showed up…”
    It was only then that he realized she was holding a small picture in one hand. It was wallet sized and looked very old and battered. She handed it to him.
    It was a picture of him and his father and sister. They had gone to an airshow when he was eight and there was a hanger and planes in the background. They were all smiling and happy. The picture looked damaged and abused and quite old.
    “What is…?”
    “It’s the picture he kept with him in his wallet…He took it out today before the surgery.”
    “He told me ‘This is what I’ve had to remember him. He might need it to remember me now.’”
    Tears welled up in my eyes.
    My world came crashing down.
    All his hate. All his anger over petty differences. It all meant nothing.
    He was gone forever and he died loving me while I hated him.
    Adam took the picture and, for the first time in years, began to cry. All he wanted in that moment was to see him again and, because of his own arrogance and anger, he would never have that chance again. All he had was a picture.

(A Story inspired by a prompt from A Prompt a Day Keeps the Critics Away . This one was “Write a piece about someone’s past come back to bite them“. I’ve done a few horror pieces recently and it only seemed appropriate to change it up a bit. I hope you enjoy.)


  1. I like your exploration of the complexities of the family minefield.
    And damn Edith Piaf. Regrets are real. And all too human.

  2. Sometimes it is just too late. Family dynamics aren't always sunshine and rainbows

  3. Deftly done. Family is never the plastic tchotchke portrayed by sitcoms, and too often we become trapped in a terribly tangled web of hurt and anger.

  4. Oh wow, that was so sad, yet amazing. Beautifully written, and before I even knew what was happening, you drew me into the story. I love how you showed the necessary parts of the characters in such a short period of time.
    Thanks for commenting on my blog! :)


  5. A powerful story and I agree, beautifully written.