28 Day Writing Challenge #18

By , Elk Grove, CA

Wash. Day 18:
The first instinct was to scream, it was written all over their faces. Emily remembered the man from the night when they were at the ice cream parlor. Carson remembered him from that night. He also recognized the bearded man from a night when he left Carson and his mother alone. And a day when the man shamefully cut off ties with Carson. That was at the library years ago. Now he stood before them, heaving from the effort of jumping the fence. He said nothing. "Hi." Carson said. His demeanor had changed from the calm therapist he had been to Emily, to a trembling kid. Trembling? Emily saw this and knew he must be afraid. It certainly wasn't the weather, it was still the oppressive heat. The bearded man walked closer and Emily defensively held up a hand. "What do you want?" She said. She was no stranger to confrontation. The bearded man's brows peaked in confusion. "This is my house." He admitted, but he was miles away from that statement. The ancient philosophy of whether or not we truly own anything had crossed his thoughts plenty. He paid the bills but he didn't occupy the space. "I'm Kevin. Carson's father." "I know who you are. I saw you-" Emily starts. Carson jumps in: "Dad, what are you doing here? I mean, you don't have to leave." Carson looked painfully embarrassed to be in this situation. "Does your mother know you're here?" Kevin says, noting that Emily has taken a step back. "Does she know you're here, dad?" Carson retorts, for lack of a better answer. It was his turn to chew out somebody, but he couldn't help but feel held back. "Emily, can you give us a minute?" He asks, and she nods before getting up to go back to the house. Carson feels vulnerable the minute she slides the glass door shut, but he holds his ground. This is the time. His time. He gestures for his father to take a seat. "I went looking for you yesterday." "Yeah," says his dad, clearing his throat," Because of the rain. I found a place." "I know." Carson said. He hadn't known. He had stayed up half the night worrying his dad was getting hypothermia. "Why are you here?" This was the ten thousand dollar question. "Can't I go to my own home?" Kevin was dancing around the answer. There wasn't one, a clear one. "I'm sorry to creep up on you but the key wasn't under the mat. I assume you took it?" Carson nodded. His dad was a filthier version of himself, and older. Not wiser, depending on who you ask. "Don't take this the wrong way, dad, but you never show up when I want you to and you, you always show up when I'm fine on my own. Like, this is literally the worst moment, alright? To start, mom doesn't know I'm here. She wanted me to send Emily away. Because, well, she's being rational." The words flood out of his mouth. He can't help it. Carson explains the circumstances of his life, from Loren to Emily to Neil to his mother. Finally, he has someone to listen. Even if it's this person. His dad digests the information like he hadn't missed years of Carson's life, so many moments when he could've used someone to talk to like this. They both sat in silence after the tirade. A man and his son. Veritable strangers even though they had the same blood running through them. "I came because I was approached by Ms. Crindle, the neighbor. She said someone was squatting. I figured, might as well check it out if she bothered to walk to the bench." Carson laughed. He felt as though a weight had been lifted off his shoulders from being able to spill his guts. But he wasn't %100 happy with his father. He didn't think he ever would be. The sun was setting by this point. His dad was waiting, almost expectantly, for Carson to invite him in. He mentioned the bench he slept on. Was he casting a line for help? "Dad, I think Emily should be alone, she doesn't know you." I barely do, he thought. "Sorry." He said, but the word meant nothing to him and less to his dad. Some people say the words 'I love you' like candy, but for his dad it was 'sorry'. The word had a bitter flavor, and no feeling at all. "It's ok." His dad responded, trying to hide his hurt. "The bench was washed by the rain." Carson waited for his dad to get up and leave. He thought it would be rude to leave first. Instead, his dad said something that made tears swell in his throat. The stars were coming out and the backyard was darkening. His father said, " Here and now, down there in that pit of jungled blackness is suddenly all the evil you will ever know." Carson's father didn't remember the rest. It was a line from a short story by Ray Bradbury, called the Ravine. Kevin used to recite it to Carson ever night. His father finally got up and started walking toward the fence. Carson watched him leave, and he finished the verse in his head. ' Here and now, down there in that pit of jungled blackness is suddenly all the evil you will ever know. Evil you will never understand. All of the nameless things are there. Later, when you have grown you’ll be given names to label them with. Meaningless syllables to describe the waiting nothingness. Down there in the huddled shadow, among thick trees and trailed vines, lives the odour of decay. Here, at this spot, civilization ceases, reason ends, and a universal evil takes over. You realize you are alone. ' He went back inside, said goodbye to Emily, and drove home to a warm bed. Mosquito bites on his ankle were the residue of that long night chat. A reminder.

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