He was excited! Today was the day he got to go to “the City” with his Dad. Usually it was a family affair with Dad, Mom and himself. He had to sit in the back seat on those trips. Today was different. Mom was staying home so he got to travel with Dad and got to sit in the front. This was going to be a good day.
He couldn’t remember why they were going but it didn’t matter. When you are eleven any trip alone with Dad was a good trip.
Their shopping done, his Dad said he had to make one more stop to talk to some friends. The boy’s stomach started to sink. His fear was realized when they stopped outside the Legion on the way out of the city.
“I’ll only be a few minutes”, his Dad said with a nervous smile on his face. The boy had to stay in the car. No minors allowed.
It was a cool fall day but he was well dressed, so sitting in the car for a few minutes wasn’t going to be a problem. He watched the clock in the dash and as the minutes rolled by, he knew what was happening. Dad had “fallen off the wagon” again.
Fear gripped him. He was feeling alone and worried. How long would he have to sit in the car? What sort of shape would his Dad be in when he came out? What would Mom say? These sort of things didn’t normally end well.
When the alcohol took over, the minutes could turn into hours. His Dad would lose all track of time. They still had over twenty miles to drive home and needless to say he couldn’t drive.
Finally, he had no choice but to go into the Legion and see how long his Dad would be. He needed to use the bathroom. At least that was the excuse he’d use.
He walked into the building with fear and trepidation. This was a place where only men and their guests were allowed. He knew it was wrong to try and go inside but he needed to see his Dad. The man at the reception desk was an imposing figure to the young boy. The man told him he couldn’t be there.
The boy said he needed to use the bathroom as he’d been sitting in the car for over two hours waiting for his Dad. The man relented. Next the boy said he needed to see his Dad and find out how long he’d be. With reluctance, the man at the desk escorted him inside the bar.
There was his Dad drinking and laughing with some other veterans. A full beer on the table and a partial one in his hand. His Dad was clearly shocked to see him. The boy asked how long before they could go home. His Dad said, “As soon as I finish this beer.” The boy knew it was a lie. With a full glass on the table, he knew it would be at least a two beer wait. He went back to the car and waited. He fell asleep as there was nothing else to do.
Eventually, his Dad came out. The boy knew he was well into it. He walked with a slight stagger and had a giddy look on his face. He got into the car, started it, and began the drive home. He tried to make jest of the afternoon. The boy was frightened and sad. This was supposed to be a day for just the two of them. Fear and disappointment were his companions.
On the highway the boy suddenly yelled, “Look out!”
Wooden construction barriers were in their lane. The car was traveling fast and his Dad didn’t see the barricades or move over fast enough. They hit one. It broke. Pieces scattered across the road like shrapnel. The boy just wanted to get home. They made the rest of the trip in silence with the boy watching the road with even greater intensity.
But what else was he to do, he was only eleven.