1 comment



   The downtown street was bustling as I wove my way through the crowd. Cars honked at people crossing the street. The brick buildings loomed above us, their many windows staring blankly down at the mass of writhing humanity scurrying about their feet.

    The midday sun pressed down with unrelenting heat. Sweat dripping down my back, I cursed the hospital administrators again for moving so many of their medical offices to new off-site digs. They wanted the patients distracted when they left so they wouldn’t upset the ambience. I turned another corner as I headed to the public parking lot.

    Then, all thoughts of my recently completed doctor’s visit evaporated from my brain. A man stood on the edge of the sidewalk. Nonchalantly watching the crowd pass. His face was angled slightly away from me. But I recognized him.

    Confused, I stopped and was jostled from behind. The speed walker left an oath ringing in my ears, but it didn’t register.

    How funny that I could instantly recognize someone after more than forty years. Maybe it was just my imagination. A fevered mirage brought on by heat and stress, playing games with my mind.

    His buzz cut hair was light colored. Were there silver strands nestled in there? The white shirt and black tie I remembered from the nights when he came home from work as we were finishing dinner. The black nerd glasses, so ordinary in the 1960s, matched the pocket protector filled with pens and mechanical pencils.

    But he was dead. Long dead. As in I-saw-my-father-in-a-casket dead. This must be someone else. Isn’t it said that we all have a doppelganger, or twin, somewhere in the world?

    The man turned to face me as if he felt my scrutiny. I marveled at the resemblance. The hazel eyes watched me as I prodded myself to move forward along with the human traffic flowing along the concrete.

    “Excuse me?” I said as I stopped in front of him. The sweat dripped down my cheeks and neck. “May I ask your name?”

    He smiled and pushed his glasses further onto his nose. “You know my name.”

    “I do?” I stared at him unwilling to believe the impossible. This must be some type of a cruel joke. “Daddy?” I looked around as if seeking the prank camera team which should be sneaking up on us. “Why are you here? Where did you come from?” I swallowed and whispered the question which sprang to my mind at the first glimpse of him. “Where have you been?”

    He shrugged and reached out to catch my arm and steady me as another person rushed by. “I’ve been following you and your brothers,” he said.

    “Following us? Why?” I stared at him. Seeing this man with lines on his quiet face and felt the years of rage surface. “I thought you were dead. We all thought you were dead. Where have you been?”

    He pulled my arm slightly to begin guiding me toward a small coffee shop down the block. Several tables with umbrellas sat cordoned off on the sidewalk. We took seats at one of the tables as I simmered with questions.

    “Where have you been? Why do I, and everyone else, think you are dead?” The painful words exploded out of my mouth like bullets.

    “I had to go away,” he said. “But I have kept track of you, all of you to make sure you were OK.”

    “OK?” I said motioning my hands for air quotes. “You kept track to see we were OK? Do you understand our lives were destroyed? Everything changed. There were times we weren’t sure we were going to be able to hold it together.” I glared across the table becoming more irate at the calm face he presented to me. “Why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you stay and help us?”

    “I knew you would be better for the struggle,” he said as he waved the waitress over. “Look at how much each of you has accomplished. Each of you have earned success in your field.”

   Shaking my head, I listened to him order coffee. My brain was turning cartwheels trying to grasp the implications of my father being alive. I was still filled with questions about the how and why.

    As he lifted the paper cup to his lips, he looked at me over the top. “It was better this way.”

    Better this way? How could he say that? “What about Mom? Wouldn’t it be more fair to stay and help? She had four little kids to raise,” I said. “Alone.”

    “We were headed for a divorce, I think. You have even said that on occasion,” he replied. “Having children gave her a strength she didn’t have before. She became a true mama bear.” He paused, “Even with me.”

    “We could have accomplished success while having a father.” I looked at the action happening all around us. “So, if we didn’t need you then, why are you here now?”

    “It was time,” he said. He took another sip of coffee and watched me. His unblinking gaze a force boring into my head.

    “Time? Why is now the time?” I asked mesmerized by the power I felt radiating from him.

    Rising, he motioned down the street as a crash jarred the sidewalk. Screams are heard as people began to converge on the site just two or three doors down from us. He circled the table and motioned for me to follow. Mutely, I joined him dreading what we were going to see.

    Sirens echoed down the street as the crowd parted to allow us through. At the center, a large decorative stone pediment from on top of one of the buildings laid askew. Underneath, just visible was a black and white sneaker attached to a leg in black jeans. A trickle of blood flowed through the street dust toward the storm grate at the edge of the sidewalk.

    He looked at me. “I wanted to welcome you on your next journey.”

July 28, 2020 18:57

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

P. Jean
22:46 Aug 06, 2020

You were very clever in setting the stage , New off site digs, as describing a construction area. You used physical sweat and discomfort. I immediately found the protagonist interesting and sympathetic. Good job on the ending!


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.