What are you drinking tonight, Dad, and how good is the crack? Cheapest forty at the store. Or is it Bud, the king whose crown makes you wiser? You've ridden highs longer than any haggard eagle has the right to soar. Good genes, your half: four decades of addiction and still, the gods, when they aim for you, they miss. I, on the other hand, am their frequent target, which taught me gratitude early on, a lesson it took you fifty odd years to learn. Down and out is your secret. I carry it in me like a sore.
Aside from Rascal, you're the only person I ever knew who could compete with me in quiet, which, as we know, is where competition goes to die. Where things tend to get along. When I left home, you grew chatty. What broke loose in you? And what are you covering up? I'm not judging—I love you chatty, I love you quiet—but we know the older ways and I'm reluctant to think them gone. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I never found my way into speech. Maybe the tongue—that native liar—is the hardest part of my body to trust.
One night, we rode across the black bay in a trawler. You and your friends were drunk. The boat flipped. In my strange childhood logic, I thought I could fall asleep in a puddle at the bottom of the boat. I was tired, knew I’d rest well there. You found me, lifted me by the ribs up out of the bay. I blinked like a caught fish, sputtered like a can of freshly cracked beer. The moon nodded hello and I took a breath that shook the world back outside-in. Instantly, the memory flew out of me. Twenty years on, it returned. How could I forget kissing death?
You still live in that old sagging house, and I don't visit, call, or keep in touch. It doesn't make any sense, but I know you understand: there's love in quiet, in keeping apart. Love in the lonesome heart. You think of someone, send your best, and that’s enough, until… One day, the afternoon thunderstorm will darken the sky, pour for five, say just kidding and move along. The clouds will break and I'll show up like I used to, out of the blue, ten years older, the sight of me hard to trust. I’ll take a drink from the fresh rainwater in your five-gallon buckets. Visit Rascal's grave in the backyard. Then I’ll knock on the door: hey Dad, how’s it going, what kind of beer do you want at the store?