3 A.M. Discourse

The following short story was selected to be included in Let’s Talk: The FWA Collection Volume 3, a collection of stories done only in dialogue. I was very honored to be included in the publication, and I invite any aspiring writer to join a writers club or association in your area. If you’re in the Sunshine State, be sure to check out Florida Writers Association.

“Michael. Wake up. Get up.”

“Dad?”

“Michael, whose place is this? Why are you staying here?”

“Wha … what are you … how are you …?”

“Michael, why is all your stuff here. Explain what’s going on.”

“Dad? Am I dreaming? I must be dreaming.”

“What do you mean, son?”

“Dad. You … you passed away.”

“Passed away? Nonsense. I’m right here, aren’t I?”

“Are you?”

“Stop fooling around and answer my question. Why aren’t you home with your family? Where are Victoria and the kids?”

“Dad. I … I don’t know how to answer that. I mean … “

“Stop beating around the bush, dammit, and tell me. What the hell is going on?”

“Dad. This is my new place.”

“What do you mean your new place? This place is too small for the four of you.”

“Dad. It’s not for … I mean, it’s only me.”

“Only you? Why do you need a place only for you?”

“Shit, dad. How is this possible? How is it you’re here grilling me at three in the morning. You’re dead. You died two months ago. I was there in the room when you took your last breath. I gave the eulogy at your memorial service. I scattered your ashes at the beach, for Christ’s sake. You’re dead! We’re not having this conversation.”

“We most certainly are, and you ARE going to answer my question and tell me why you’re in some strange apartment instead of being at home with your family.”

“You’re a ghost, aren’t you? Is that it? You’re my father’s ghost and you’ve come to haunt me, right?”

“Let’s suppose I am a ghost and I am haunting you. In that case, I am going to haunt you until you give me some answers.”

“I can’t believe this. Even from beyond the grave, you’re still a hard ass.”

“And you’re still a pain in my ass. Now, are you going to tell me what’s going on, or do I need to grab a sheet and go ‘boo’ until you do?”

“Dad, it’s such a long and complicated story. I wouldn’t know where to begin and …”

“If what you say is true and I am a ghost, I apparently have nothing but time.”

“Alright. I’ll tell you. This is my new place. I moved out of the house last month.”

“Moved out? Why did you move out?”

“Well, it was more like Victoria kicked me out.”

“Dammit, boy, what did you do?”

“See, dad? This is exactly why I don’t want to have this conversation. It’s like every time I’ve tried to tell you something difficult, you go on and make it harder. You’re impossible to talk to.”

“If I’m impossible to talk to, it’s because you can never just get to the point. Now, tell me. What happened and why did Victoria kick you out?”

“I don’t want to tell you.”

“Why not?”

“Because …”

“Don’t ‘Because’ me. Just tell me.”

“That’s the thing, dad. I don’t feel comfortable telling you about my failures as an adult.”

“What failures as an adult? You’ve always been successful at everything you do.”

“No, dad. I haven’t. You only know about the good stuff that’s happened. You don’t know anything about the bad stuff going on in my life.”

“Bad stuff? What bad stuff? Why wouldn’t you tell me everything?”

“I’m not sure I can explain it. I’m not sure you’ll understand.”

“Try me.”

“It’s just that … my whole life you’ve been nothing but supportive. Yes, you were always brutally tough on me with your love, but at the same time you were always encouraging and positive with me. You taught me to dream big. You made me feel like the most important kid in the world.  You made me feel like I can do anything. You were … I mean, you are my hero.”

“So what’s the problem? If you feel that way, then you know you can come to me with anything. Why now do you feel you have to keep secrets from me?”

“The problem is that in all my life, from the moment I could first understand what you said, to that final moment in that hospital room where you told me not to be afraid of losing you and that everything will be alright; in all that time, not once did you ever tell me you were disappointed in me. I’ve racked my brain high and low, and I can’t recall an instance or memory where you ever told me you were disappointed in me.”

“So what are you getting at?”

“What I’m getting at is that I couldn’t face hearing you say that to me now as an adult. I couldn’t find the nerve to tell you about how I lost the passion in my relationship with my wife, and how I ended up finding that passion in the arms of another woman. I couldn’t stand the notion of explaining how my career had come to a grinding halt because rather than being smart, I decided it was best to be a smart ass and piss off the wrong people at work. I dreaded explaining how rather than learn from you and follow your lead, I’ve simply been frivolous with my money and am living paycheck to paycheck.

The boy you raised to be a good father and faithful husband, the man who was on the corporate fast track, your son with the six-figure salary; that guy is just a myth in your own mind. A myth I helped fabricate because I was too afraid of what you might say or how you would feel.

Don’t you see, dad? I’m not the person you think I am, and the notion of you being disappointed in me is absolutely devastating for me.”

“I see.”

“Do you? Do you really?”

“I see that I failed you as a father.”

“Wait. What?”

“I failed you, son.”

“No. No you didn’t. On the contrary, you were the best dad anyone could ask for.”

“Well, if you feel that my approval is what you need to define yourself as a person, then I didn’t do a good job in explaining that’s complete horse shit. I’ve always been proud of you, but I never expected you to be perfect. No one’s perfect. I’m sorry I made you think you need to live up to such an impossible standard.”

“It’s not that. It’s just that …”

“It’s just that what, Michael? Regardless of whatever my initial reaction would have been, nothing could change the fact you’re my son and that I love you no matter what. I may not have condoned your behavior, but as my son, you would always have my help and support to get through what you were facing.”

“I just feel like everything you know about me is a lie.”

“I know my love for you is not a lie.”

“Wow, Dad. I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything. Like I told you before, don’t be afraid. Everything will be alright.”

“…Dad? DAD! Come back, DAD!”

<return to my collection>

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