Mudlark No. 56 (2015)

For John

A son drives north to the house he grew up in. It’s good that you’re here, his mom & dad say, but they sense an edge in him.

When the talk turns to kids, When will you put down roots, John, give us a grandchild, he does not fend them off but says Mom, Dad, I might have kids one day, might not. I came up to let you know that I love men, and that’s how I live my life—more than ten years now—I want you to know.

The dad—a big man—says Get up. Pack your stuff, John, and get out. And don’t come back. I have no words for this thing you call your life.

The mom says Stop, sees the shock in her son’s eyes, but she’s trained to bow to the big man’s word, says Stop once more, then goes mute, her eyes like John’s in fear.

John packs his things, gets in the car, drives south, where his friends are, lives for years, has a good job, full life. He works with kids, runs a school. Gets mean at times—flares out at those he works with—but that’s rare. He speaks with his mom on the phone now & then, not once with his dad. Years laid on years.

Late in his youth, John gets ill. Much weight lost. Gets worse.

Close to the end, the dad & mom drive south to see him. The dad comes in, sits at the side of John’s bed.

The years have been a waste, John. I’d like to have them back.

But a man on his deathbed knows the years can’t come back—and John knows that the dad’s sin is the sin of most sons—years gone, chance to know him gone. And John, a good man still, does not lash out, but says I missed our talks, Dad. I tried to find love, and I did find it. But I’m just glad you’re here.

Two weeks pass, and late one day John’s friends come to a room to praise him, speak of what he did in his life. John’s dad gets up, walks to the mike, speaks of what a fine man his son was, how he loved him.

John’s mom does not speak.

Gerald Fleming | At the end she’d ship stones to her kids—
Contents | Mudlark No. 56 (2015)