My head smacks against the underside of my Mustang’s hood. “Dang it, Mary! What do you want?” I wipe my grease covered hands as my wife stands in the doorway.
“Sorry,” she laughs, “your dad is on the phone.”
I turn back to the engine.
“Luke,” she sighs, “how long has it been since you talked to him?”
I check for loose spark plugs.
“Honey, how long?”
Five years. I feel her hand on my shoulder. I don’t turn. “Talking to him is like trying to run this car on diesel. It can’t work.”
“He sounds different.”
I shake my head. “He always does, until the cops show up.”
Her hand slips under my chin and my gaze falls to her growing belly. “You know I love you, but stop being stubborn. How will you feel if your son refuses your calls someday?”
“These things can repeat.” She kisses my cheek. “I’ll keep him talking until you’re ready. And please, take off those shoes before you come inside.”
I pick up a wrench and chuck it into the grass. What does he want now? Glancing at my workbench, I see my mother’s picture. I inhale sharply, as her last words echo in my mind.
“It takes a stronger man to tear down a wall than it does to build one.” She had said.
I look toward the house, but go and retrieve the wrench instead. “Tearing down a wall is only worth it when someone isn’t standing there to build it again.”
I work late into the night, my eyelids drooping as I lay beneath the car. The air is warm and vibrates with the chirp of crickets. “Maybe I should call him tomorrow.”
“How about today?” Mary taps my shoe with hers. “It’s after midnight.”
I roll out from under the car. “You’re growing a person, you should be sleeping.”
“Excuse me, folks.”
I jump up as someone steps into the light.
The officer holds out his badge. “I’m sorry to disturb you. Are you Luke Wainright’s son?”
I laugh and shake my head. “And I’ll say it again, Mary,” I smile at her, “I don’t talk to criminals.” I wipe my hands and nod to him. “Luke Wainright Jr. at your service. What did he do now?”
The officer shifts his weight, looking down at his shoes for a moment. “He was involved in a hit and run this afternoon.”
My shoulders stiffen. I close my eyes. “Please tell me he didn’t hurt anyone.”
“No sir, he didn’t. He was the one that was hit. I’m sorry sir, but he’s gone.”
I step back, my foot landing on the slider I had been laying on, and I’m thrown to the ground.
“Luke!” Mary bends to help me, but the officer pulls me to my feet.
I look at her belly. “My father hit someone and it’s not the first time. He wasn’t hit.”
“Sir, I’m sorry, but your father is dead.”
“No!” I swing, just missing the officer and he takes me to the ground, pinning my arms behind me. “No!” My vision begins to blur. Don’t you dare cry! Closing my eyes, I force away the tears. I hear a sob catch in Mary’s throat. What have I done? “I’m sorry, Officer—”
“Because of the news, I’ll let this slide one time.” He releases me.
“Thank you.” I say as I stand.
Taking a deep breath, he glances over his shoulder and slips a letter out of his coat and into my hand. “This was with your father. It should still be at the station, but something told me it needed to be here.” Nodding, he goes back to his patrol car and leaves.
“What is it?”
I shrug, turning the white envelope over in my hand. My name is scrawled in my father’s handwriting.
“You need to sit down,” Mary says, guiding me to a stool. I can’t look away from his writing.
She gives me a hug and kisses my cheek. “I’ll make you some tea.”
I take her hand as she turns to leave and hold it to my lips “Stay. Please.” I don’t want to read this alone. I stand. “You shouldn’t be on your feet.”
She takes my shoulders and gently pushes me back down.
I stare at the letter.
“Do you want me to read it?” She says.
I shake my head and clear my throat. “Dear Luke,” I read, “You know how to hold a grudge, but that’s okay. You got it from me. You’ve always been a stubborn jack—” I clinch my fists, crumpling the letter, “He’ll never quit, Mary.”
She rubs my back, “He can’t hurt you anymore, keep reading.”
“—so I understand why you didn’t come to the phone. It’s okay. I screwed up a lot, but you need to know I love you. I won’t ask you to love me. I don’t deserve to ask that. Cutting me out might have been the smartest thing you’ve ever done. Your mother raised you to be the man you should be, and I hope you learned from me what not to do. I can’t make up for the time we’ve lost, but I do hope you’ll forgive me for the years I’ve wasted. I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but I know what it feels like to carry that kind of anger and I don’t want that for you or your child. Even if you don’t want me in your life, know you’ll always have a place in mine. I’m content knowing you have a good life in spite of me. If you ever want to talk, I’ll come running, and I won’t fall this time because I’ve been clean and sober for a year today. I was even able to walk this letter to your house!”
Turning over the envelope I dump a coin into my hand. It’s embossed with the words ‘one year sober.’ Covering my face, I weep for the dad I’ve just discovered.
Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions you’d like to ‘ask’ Luke, feel free to leave them in a comment below. This story is my Blah Buster for When Readers Write. To read more from WRW visit: http://www.whenreaderswrite.com