Amends are meant to be made. But some are never carried through, no matter how badly one may want it because sometimes Lady Luck lives in the jaded, dirty floor of gas stop restrooms, with urine and feces and needles lain all upon her fragile self. But not for Jerry. For Jerry was a proud man. Not the sense of pride of actual individual merit of accomplishment, but because he’d just won the lottery not three weeks ago. He’d been paying “the poor man’s tax” since the Clintons held office. The hope he held onto for all those years had finally and literally paid off. He was now thirty-two million dollars richer. No more a middle-class working cog in the machine, vying with every other Texan for that jackpot. He simply took his winnings and hung his worn-out hat. Even though he spent his days by the pool, drinking and occasionally snorting cocaine or popping pills, he still felt a melancholy. And he knew why.
Jerry was a single man with an illegitimate child from an ex-girlfriend, Ellen, who didn’t want an abortion—at first. He wanted her to have one from the beginning, but she persisted against—a woman’s right to her body. But as the months went on, so did the time frame passed for a safe, legal, and what most would deem a humanitarian abortion. So, she went behind Jerry’s back and began dosing herself with alcohol, drugs, and self-harm to the fetus. It didn’t work. And Tyler was born. But he was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and other major developmental disabilities. Jerry was working overtime when she went into labor and didn’t make it to the hospital for their child’s birth. He rushed to see her and his baby as soon as Ellen informed him of the news. He had become complacent with being a father and was completely oblivious to Ellen’s recent misdoings. She screamed at Jerry in the hospital about how it was all his fault for coaxing the abortion concept into her susceptible mind. Jerry, in silent tears, said nothing and walked out of the hospital before anyone besides Ellen really knew he was there.
Tyler James Ferguson. They had come up with the name as soon as Jerry became comfortable with his impending fatherhood.
He claimed it is a name that CEOs and doctors have. “Isn’t it, Eleanor?”
She donned a grin worth a crypt keeper’s final partings.
Tyler’s day of birth was the last time Ellen would see Jerry. She didn’t bother asking for child support, parental custody rights, or anything of the sort. Jerry was much too emotionally worn down, like a firehouse that caught fire, but every fireman is on strike. It was a mutual parting, though, in their mind, both of them claimed the other one is the bad guy. And perhaps they both are, in their own macabre manner. Jerry attempted to bury his guilt of abandoning his only son in his work, taking every available shift. But now that he no longer needed to work, guilt seeped through his money-dazed mind.
One day, staring at his reflection in a mostly empty bowl of milk and oat cereal, Jerry decided he would face his fears now that he’d won the lottery. Maybe now he could buy his son’s affection. He hoped that would placate the decade that’s passed over him like a dreary, unending, sufferable winter. He hadn’t a clue as to Tyler’s likes. But any ten-year-old boy must love building blocks and cars, he thought. So, he put on the first pair of pants he found lying on the ground in his room and went to the store. He bought enough toys and a variety of them at that, that his son’s shelf would burst with plastic cars, puzzles, electronic gadgets, and video games that he probably never had before. His fingers trembled as he pressed the call button on Ellen’s contact information on his cell phone. He would have to call her mother if she’d changed numbers. The line rang for a lifetime, it seemed.
But then her tired voice broke the dial tone. “Jerry?”
“Hey, Eleanor. Listen…”
“Ten years. Ten years, not a word. I saw the news. You’re a millionaire now. What the hell do you want?” she spat.
Even though Jerry offered to buy Ellen anything she wanted—not to ignite any romantic flames, but because he could—she denied his offers, spitefully. “Money can’t buy us, Jerry! I assume that’s why you called.”
“I-I…I know. I just want to see him. My son. I have something for him. Please, please. He’s my son. And I’m…I’m just so sorry,” he broke down in tears.
“Well, good luck tracking him down,” she replied nonchalantly.
“I placed him for adoption. I couldn’t take care of him. I can’t be a mother, much less a mother to a child of so many needs. Goddammit, Jerry, don’t you dare make me feel guilty, now!”
“Where can I find him?”
“What’s in it for me?”
Knowing, or rather thinking that Ellen didn’t want his money, he asked, “What do you want from me? Anything. I just…I just have to make things right.”
“Ten mil. Under the table. None of that tax shit. You do that, and I’ll give you the number of the family that adopted him.”
“Done,” Jerry said, unhesitating. “But, how do I know you won’t just screw me? Give me a random number or something?”
“Guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. Is Tyler worth it now?”
“He always was and is,” Jerry replied.
"Give me the information so that I can wire transfer you the money. It could take some time. I don’t know how all that works yet.”
She provided him with the necessary information, and she gave him the number to the Richter family. He sighed as they hung up. She hasn’t changed a bit. He dodged a bullet with that venomous snake, he thought to himself.
Nervous, he dialed the number.
It went to voicemail. It was a cheery voice of a man. “This is the Richter family. If you leave a brief message and a phone number, we will get back with you as soon as possible. Have an amazing day!”
He hung up before the beep and tossed his cell phone on the rug before him. He felt he couldn’t leave a message in the world that could possibly explain what it is he is after. Jerry bit his lip hard to keep from weeping. Even when there is no one around, he didn’t like to cry, although it made him feel better when he’d allow himself to act humanly. His inward connection to himself is like a severed cord, and each piece is scattered in two distant locations, unable to find the other.
The next day, Jerry didn’t bother shaving, or even brushing his teeth. He had slept, but his puffy, heavy eyelids begged to differ. He looked at his cell phone, on the floor where he’d left it after drinking himself to sleep. He picked it up and saw that he had a missed call but no voicemail. It was the Richter’s number. His pupils expanded, and a bead of sweat began to emerge as he considered calling back. He owed it…to Tyler. Not to himself, but to Tyler. Everything he owned and ever will be, he begged to give to his only son that he abandoned so shamefully. But as the hands on the clock drew closer to the five in the evening, the hands of Jerry were occupied with every drug he could find in the house. It was the only way he knew how to cope with the pain, the anxiety, the piercing fear that invaded his psyche. With every snort and every pill popped was an opportunity lost. Even though he owed everything to Tyler, he couldn’t find it within himself to face reality. He didn’t know how to be a dad, or if the Richter family will even allow him to visit with their son.
“Their son…” Jerry said aloud, to nobody in his large empty estate. He let himself sob this time.
After an afternoon of flying as high as Benjamin Franklin’s kite, in addition to a thirty-minute tear-spilling episode, Jerry mustered the courage to call the Richter family back.
"Hello, Bronson Richter speaking,” the same joyous voice from the voicemail message said.
“This-this is Jerry Fletcher. I’m…I’m, uh, I’m Tyler’s birth father.”
The line stayed silent for a moment.
“Oh, wow. Um, hello. I thought this day might come, but you know, things come at you at unexpected times.”
Jerry suppressed a ‘tell me about it’. “I-I-I…can I see him?”
“Hey, listen, buddy. I don’t think that’s such a great idea. Tyler is living a nice life here with a wonderful family who absolutely loves and adores him. I think seeing you would only confuse him. He wouldn’t understand there are two fathers.”
"It’s better for Tyler. If you genuinely love him, let him be. Please, think about that. And you’re slurring your words. I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea you see him, in your condition. Whatever that is,” Bronson replied snark in his tone. “We’re done here.” And so were his pleasantries.
Jerry sat on the couch with his phone in his hand, devastated. He hadn’t prepared for this. He assumed that everyone in the Richter family would be on board so that he could reunite with his son. But his only hope vanished, just as quickly as he’d vanished a decade earlier. Jerry stood up and screamed. He wouldn’t allow tears this time. No. This is rage. Unbridled rage. And he was going to take it out on nobody he felt deserved it more—himself.
Jerry soon grew distant from society as the months passed. Most of his nights were spent at the bar or strip clubs. And although he was never lonely in the company of women, his heart couldn’t be further away from another human soul. But Jerry didn’t believe in the “heart” or the “soul” anymore. It was approaching winter and Jerry still had a fortune.
Three years later, somewhere along the way, redemption became estranged figments of Jerry’s life. He grew quite a drug habit and blew through most of his money. He didn’t think the day would come. But it did. He didn’t have to live in the streets because he still owned the house, which he thought of selling to support his habit. He decided against it because he didn’t think he could live a life outdoors. He found ways to support his habit, but gambling seemed to pay off the most. He was good at it and made just enough to make ends meet; he could snort, inject, and pop all the drugs he desired. His luck—or chances—seemed infinite. But it wasn’t always like that.
Two weeks later he lost it all on a college football game that was supposed to be a sure thing. Now, broke, addicted, and unemployed, Jerry was left wishing Lady Luck stayed around a little bit longer. But he wouldn’t use her for the amends he wanted to make with Tyler. He knew Tyler would be loved and live a good life without him. He couldn’t even lie to himself. Jerry knew he’d trade his amends for an eight-ball. Sometimes Lady Luck returns to her dirty restroom floor because life is a fickle void of macabre. It ruins and creates lives simultaneously as it bestows another. Oh, how Jerry wished. He truly did.