Vo l . 7 N o . 1 “He doesn’t want to come back here.” He frowned and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he sat at the kitchen table and gestured for me to do the same. “I was a little harsh, I admit. But cripes, Iris, he is so darn disrespectful. He needs a good hard talking to every now and then. I told him to do his homework and he said he would, and then I caught him on that lameboy or whatever the hell you call it. I took the toy away and he sassed me, called me an old dick. He’s just like his old man, I swear, sneaky, rude, lazy.” “Hey!” I stood up and leaned across the table. “That’s my son you’re talking about.” “I’m talking about the loser who walked out on you and failed miserably as a father.” Not a topic we’d ever really discussed. I’d been hurt, and my dad had been sensitive enough to offer me a shoulder to cry on and financial help, with no questions asked. It hadn’t occurred to me that he’d be angry with Bruce too, not that angry. “Well, Bruce is gone…” “Except for the half of his genes he left in Caleb.” I closed my eyes and balled my fists. How dare he criticize my son, especially after what he’d done to him? “You showed him porn,” I exploded. “And you encouraged him to enjoy it with you.” He laughed joylessly. “Christ, Iris. He told you that. Really? And you believe him?” “Yes,” I said trying to sound certain. “Are you going to tell me I shouldn’t?” I wished I could read his face. Sky blue eyes, hard well-scraped jaw, deep lines, as blank as Clint Eastwood waiting for someone to make his day. He didn’t think Caleb’s story even merited a denial. But Caleb couldn’t have made up those pornographic images. “Where’s the magazine, Dad?” “There is no magazine, Iris.” “Don’t you lie to me!” I yelled and stomped through the side door into the garage, which was perfectly swept, its walls lined with packed boxes, everything in its place. I opened his tool box. Nothing. I lifted the top layer. Still nothing. Had he cleaned up his act? Then it occurred to me that, now that my mother was gone, he wouldn’t need to hide the magazine so well. So, I tramped back inside and up the stairs. “Iris!” he said quietly but followed at a distance. Under the bathroom sink, behind the Costco toilet paper, I found the Hustler. I held it up triumphantly. “Handy location!” I spat at him. He shuffled like a schoolboy.
“You did lie to me!” I opened the magazine and paged through it. “You showed these pictures to Caleb? God, Dad, he’s only ten.” The pictures got me angrier and angrier, so that yelling at him was easy. My dad took the magazine, closed it and tossed it in the bathroom trash can. Then he covered his face with his left hand. “All right. I lied about the magazine. What father wants his daughter to know he looks at that smut? But I swear–on your mother’s grave–I did not share it with your boy.” The reference to my mother annoyed me. But under my certain glare, my mind was scrambling. My father’s story made sense. Caleb could have found the magazine just as I did twenty five years earlier. Perhaps he was grossed out by the images, and then when my dad punished him, he made up a story to get his own back. My dad watched me. An innocent man falsely accused and in danger of losing the two people he loved? Or a guilty man planning his escape? His version made sense; but so did Caleb’s. One thing I remembered from my one philosophy class in community college was the
At the Crossing Restaurant, Soldotna
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim