Chris really couldn't get past the whole pact aspect of the suicide pact. How did that work? Was it like, "Mark honey, want to go see that new movie about Picasso tonight?" "How about let's slit our wrists instead?" "Okay hon." Really, what was in it for the Mrs.? Did she love Mark so much that if he died, she would die? Was that the ultimate expression of love? Chris hoped not. In fact, he hoped that a lot of what went by the name of love in this world was not what love was.
The sound of Chris's father's Honda Civic's horn intruded upon Chris's morbid thoughts. Bernie let the car drift toward the shoulder of the road. Chris saw it and opened the door and got in. "You looked like you were lost in thought," Bernie said.
"What were you thinking about?"
"What I'll be when I'm older."
"I knew it! What will you be?"
"That's nice, Son."
"How's your face, Dad?"
"Okay. Better, maybe. Any thoughts about what you're going to be for the Halloween party tonight?"
"A giant penis."
"That's funny, because I was thinking of going as a pair of testicles."
"Oh Dad, I love your special boyish sense of humor. I guess that's why I was conceived by you instead of someone else's dad. Do you think our family's fucked up?"
"In what sense?"
"I don't know."
"Like your mother and I are divorced, your sister's a religious fanatic, your father's depressed and his face is numb, sort of thing?"
"Did something happen today? Something happened today, didn't it? Do you want to tell me about it?"
Chris wished his dad were one of those dads who give advice. He wished the advice came in numbered lists and started with words like "Always," or "Never," or "Remember," or "Son." "Son, now that you're leaving home, I want you to remember three important things. One, always bring a woman a bouquet of lilies before you make love to her. Two, look a man in the eye when you shake his hand. Three, never buy a house that doesn't have a basement."
"Anything I can do?" Bernie said.
"Couldn't you be more dadlike?"
"In what sense?"
"Like when I say the word fuck, hit me across the face.
"So, be more authoritative?"
"Oh, you'll have to do better than that."
"Don't you talk to me that way, young man. I've had just about enough of your backsass."
"Yeah, good. Like that."
"I mean it. Shut up or you'll be sorry you were ever born."
Chris pressed his head against his father's shoulder, wrapped the fingers of both hands around his father's upper arm, and was overcome by a great, intense, sorrowful feeling of loving affection that would last for the rest of his life.
From The Sleeping Father by Matthew Sharpe - pages 3 to 16 and 22-30. Copyright Matthew Sharpe 2004. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Soft Skull Press.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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