Fathers’ Day: Get His Story

img161Nearly thirty years ago, nearly half my lifetime ago, my father died of lymphoma. I was twenty-nine years old and dumb as a post, emotionally, at least.

But I thought I was all grown up. I was about to graduate engineering school and go to work in the corporate world. I didn’t know just how dumb I was. I wasn’t yet mature enough to know, to realize how people can influence our views with a word here, a word there. How people can instill their own hate and anger, their own bitterness into us just by repeating their catalogue of fear, day after day. I was raised to believe my father was a sorry, good-for-nothing man. And for a long time, I accepted it as truth. But as I grew older, I started to doubt it. Even before he died, I started to doubt it, but I wasn’t strong enough to act on it back then. Now I know. I finally recognized the truth for what it was. I was conned.

I allowed myself to be conned.

My father was a gentle person, an uneducated farmer kind of guy. But he was smart. I got my math genes from him. He was also wise enough to know that hard work means everything. That being generous and kind is far more important than being smart or right. He loved animals. And he loved me and my brother. More than I realized, until it was too late.

Some of my fondest memories are of treehouses and fishing, of following behind him as he rounded up the cows for milking, of walks through the woods looking for Christmas trees. Of him showing me just how beautiful bell peppers get when they ripen to red and purple.

I regret not getting to know my father better. I’m sorry I didn’t talk to him more. I’m sorry I didn’t learn more about him, his life.

I’m sorry I was so stupid.

Don’t waste the time you have. Trust your instinct about people. And talk to your father… your mother, your brother or sister. Whoever. Take pictures. Record their stories.

Maybe you’ll look back and think it was a total waste of time. But I bet you won’t.

Do it. While you still have time.



Flash.Fiction: The Tunnel

Time for another Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest entry.

The prompt:

Photo Copyright K. S. Brooks

I had hunted up here before, but in the cloak of mist I had lost my bearings.

After a while, the quiet became unnerving. I quickened my pace, hoping to come across a familiar landmark or perhaps even a logging road.

I saw the looming shadow of a structure ahead and called out. No answer came, but I proceeded forward, hoping someone might be there to help me find my way. I stopped short when I saw the barn. I knew where I was now, yet it was impossible. That barn burned down thirty years ago.

And my response (249 words):

Having grown up in the city, I had only ever seen pictures of the barn. But my mother had told me stories of how she played there when she was young. How in its cavernous rooms and loft, she and her cousins reenacted stories of swashbucklers and detectives. Of treasure hunters and monster-killers. How, one year, her father built tunnels through the stacked, bailed hay so they could pretend they were in an old castle with secret passages.

So how was it, considering I’d never been there, that in this dream it was so real? I’d never had a dream this real before. Yes, I’m known for my wild imagining, but I’d never been able to process smell and touch like this. Never smelled freshly mown hay or had mist dampen my face. Never felt the roughness of weathered wooden walls beneath my fingers. Not in a dream.

As I always imagined it, hay filled the loft. I couldn’t resist. I climbed the ladder, and as I did, I noticed a hole about halfway up the stacked bails. I scrambled up and into the tunnel. Even though I was no longer a kid, the shaft seemed to accommodate me with ease.

For what felt like a long time, I crawled on hands and knees, somehow unafraid of spiders and snakes. And when I emerged, my mother, my dead mother, and her dead father greeted me. Behind them stood past friends and family, smiling.

Welcome to Paradise, my mother said.