Beau Johnson

by Horror Sleaze Trash on May 18, 2017

Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town.  Engrossed, he resides there, addicted to Words With Friends.  A Better Kind Of Hate, a collection of Beau’s shorts, will be out August 14, 2017, from Down and Out Books.

 


 

 

HAD SON, WILL TRAVEL

           

            The first time I met your Grandfather after he died was in a parking lot.  I was ten, chubby, and on my way to school.  I remember the morning being grey and overcast and somehow darker than it actually was.  We lived in a townhouse back then, rows upon rows of them, all attached in U’s with parking lots at their middles.  It was in one of these that your Grandfather first said hello to me again.  His actual words were: “On your way to school?”  I replied yes and then realized who he was.  At this my heart sped, then bucked, before plummeting as it mostly had since the day we buried him.  I cried—bawled; my eyes swimming and hot.  I was crying because of two things.  One was because I now knew I would never get over my father’s death, his presence my proof.  The second, tied to the first, was this: I thought I was broken, now dreaming when I was full-on awake.  Waking in the middle of the night is one thing, Ben, but on your way to school in the middle of October?  That was something else entirely.

            “It’s me, Michael,” he said, and slowly came towards me. “I’m here.”

            “You’re not real.”  I said, and I tried to back away but found that I could not; I could only look on and wait.

            “I’m real, son.  This…ability I have…it will take some getting used to.”

            “H-How?”

            “What can I say—I died.  I’ve lived.  I travel through time.”  I was ten when this happened, Ben, almost four years to the day we laid him to rest.  It was as if no time had passed at all.  He.  Was.  The.  Same.  My Dad.  And now here he was, standing in front of the boy he’d left behind claiming to be back through time.

            “Forward actually, before I got sick.  From where I’ve come from, you’ve just turned four.  You remember the big-wheel we got you?” 

            And that was all I needed, Ben: the weight which tipped the scale.  I ran to him, hugged him—cried into his belly and screamed for him to stay.  He could not, he said, but told me of the patience I would require; that yes, in time, we would see each other again.  Soon after that he disappeared, (blink and you’ll miss it) and when he did I didn’t know it would be another full year until I saw him again. 

 

                                                                        —

 

            “Mom has always known?”

            He nodded.  “Pretty hard for her not to.  I met her as a child, younger than you on our day in the parking lot.  But I also met her in college, near the end of our sophomore year.”

            I asked him why he and my mother would keep this from me.

            “Many reasons.  Your age for one, my maturity, another.  The lack of control I’ve had in the past.  Pick one—there’s an abundance.  We hope this thing—my genetic disorder—will not be passed onto you.  That is the big one, the one we’ve talked about most often.  Or just the situation itself; how unbelievable it seems, how incredibly bizarre.  Far from the norm, wouldn’t you say?”

            “I’ll say.”  I said, and it made him laugh, which in turn made me laugh.  So there we sat, your Grandfather and I, laughing like a couple of loons, but quietly, so as to not wake mother.  We were at the kitchen table.  I was eleven.  Your Grandfather no older than the age I now write this, but dead and gone as well, buried in a grave I had more than come to frequent.

            Amazing, Ben—simply amazing.

 

            —

 

            Bacon: the smell of it; the crackle it made before popping in the pan. This is what my father is cooking the day I turned twelve.  He was scratching his back too, just how he taught me, how I had hoped to one day teach you: where the walls come together in the kitchen, son—where they create their edge.  “Don’t wake your Mom,” he said.  “Let her sleep.”

            “She’ll be mad.”  I said/sang.

            “S’okay.  Today is just you and I, no lady-folk allowed.”   One of the best memories I now have, Ben: my father and I over bacon and eggs with juice near the top.   Delicious, every part.

            “It’s still the same amount of time,” he explained, “just…re-shuffled, I suppose.  Does that make sense to you, Michael?”  I said it did, and it was mostly true, but I wouldn’t fully comprehend the complexity of his life until I was much older.  In the time between my perspective on the matter changed a great deal, becoming far less stringent and much more elastic to the notions I had and was being taught; the linear line of time I had come to understand no longer straight and level, but bent, thus allowing me the father I’d been previously denied.  The possibilities seem endless once you realize what you have before you, don’t they—the gift perhaps a little more than life itself somehow?  I do not judge or know, Ben, but only offer comment on the things I’ve seen and felt.

            “I seem to be getting better at it.”  My father suggested.  “Not that I can control it—that I have never been able to do.  Lately though, something is different, like the pulling can be pushed, and the pusher, he seems to be me.”

            He took me fishing after that, up near Long Point.  This is a place he had taken me before, prior to his death.  We didn’t catch anything, not then, but we sat a spell and talked.  Opposite to what my younger self wanted, there weren’t many days like that one, Ben, as your Grandfather’s ability seemed to keep a schedule all its own.  Sometimes he would come into my life and stay for hours at a time, while others would end before they even had a chance to begin—you just never knew.  It wasn’t often that I would get a full day with him is what I’m saying.  I cherish that day at Long Point, Ben—always. 

            That day far from a little boy’s dream that was.

 

                                                                        —

 

Another memory I was never supposed to have.  Or was I?  We could go on and on.

            I’m at a baseball game, on deck and awaiting my turn at bat.  In the distance, past the outfield, were these big old willows, bunches of them.  I could see only half of him, but as the wind blew, all of him appeared.  It took me a second to register who he was and why he was waving.  Once I did though, well, everything seemed to fall back into place. 

This is not to say things were out of place, Ben—it’s only to express that the time I had been given to spend with your Grandfather…it is special, and seems bigger than it actually was, which will make sense to you one day, once you’ve experienced it.  And sure, yes, most boys do idolize their fathers, and I did mine—this the crux of what I am trying to express; that the love there, between father and son, there is nothing grander, nothing fonder.  Is it because we become men ourselves and have sons which will become men of their own?  I don’t know.  I’m only trying to say you that I love you, Ben, as much as I have ever loved him.

            “Where are you from this time?”

            “November, 1973.”

            “The year I was born.” I said, and he smiled. 

            “I was just there, watching you through the glass, all snug and in line with all the other newborns.  But before that…before I came here, something that happened a long time ago, it happened again.”  He approached me, rested both his hands on both my shoulders.  “This travelling is as weird for me as it is for you, Michael; I want you to realize that.  A younger version of myself appeared beside me—me as a teenager not yet fifteen.  We both looked on at you, amazed by you; that we had a son.  I remember it happening when it happened, from when I was younger, but to experience it from the other end—to see myself appear as that boy after I had become a man…”

            He shook his head, perplexed but knowing, and for the first time I noticed he had grey hair along the side of his temples.

            “You were so young when I died, Michael.  I don’t expect you to remember me having grey hair or not.”

            I think this was the first time I started to see it from my father’s perspective, that perhaps his life was a crazier jigsaw puzzle than mine.  This also led me to realize how selfish I had become, how utterly absorbed.   Sure, it’s easy enough to blame most of it on my childhood and the tools which had been taken from me by losing a parent, but as I grew, as I became a man, those things could only take me so far.  No longer was I the weepy little child who didn’t have a dad.  I had been given a miracle, as backwards as it was.  Where I should have been grateful, I was not, and this is what my father showed me.             

“There are other people in your life, Michael—your mother for instance, who quite possibly received the rawest deal of all.” 

            If anything, that is what he taught me, my greatest lesson learned: we must strive to become something greater than ourselves, no matter how hard the road ahead looks.  It took a while, but under those willows, his point was driven home.  I am thankful, Ben, for everything I’ve been given.  I would never want you to think otherwise.  For a while I was blinded, but he showed me and I grew. 

            Your Grandmother?  She has forgiven me—the lovely lady that she be.

 

                                                                        —

 

            “Your mother is the anchor I found; you, Michael, are the anchor I made.”   This was how my father explained it, how he found himself unable to go where one of us was not.  “I can feel it pulling me, whatever it is.  It never goes away, but seems to…expand whenever I’m about to leave.  Sometimes though, the harder I concentrate on a particular place—I can sometimes get there.  Mine and your mother’s wedding for instance.  As a spectator, I’ve watched us leave that church from three different angles.”

            “Can you change the past?”  The big question.  Out there.  Finally.

            “No.” he said, impossible.  There were rules.

            “But aren’t you?  Changing my life, I mean.  Coming in and out of it as you’ve done?”

            “Michael, who’s to say this isn’t the way our lives were meant to be?”

            “But…,” but he was gone—blink—from in front of my eyes.  Sooner than I’d like, I would come to know why this continued to happen.  Why whenever the bigger questions arose, your Grandfather would disappear all too conveniently.  It began at night, starting with a whisper.

            “Hey,” into my ear, above the shoulder he was gently shaking.  

            “Hey,” I said, groggy but quiet, as not to wake your mother.

            “Meet me downstairs.”

            “When are you from?”

            He didn’t answer.  Instead he repeated for me to meet him downstairs.  Something in his voice, Ben—it caused a chill to run my spine.  This would not be good news.  I could feel it.

            “You’re going to have a son.”  He said.

            “A son?”

            “Yes—his name will be Ben.”

            “Dad?  This right here, isn’t this changing things?  If you tell me his name, how do we really know I name him?”

            “I never said it would be you who named him.”  Silence, more.  And then I knew.  Suddenly, I knew.

            “No.”  I said, unbelieving.

            “I’m sorry, son; so, so sorry.”      

            “But dad, please—I don’t want to die!

            “I know, Michael; neither will I.”

            Denial came next, a mountain of it.

            “You can save me; tell me what to do!  How do I prevent it?”

            “I can’t, Michael—there are rules.”

            “Dad—

            “Do you think I haven’t tried?  Every time I get there, I’m always too late!”

            “Then just tell me…”

            “The rules, Michael!  Or whatever power allows me to travel: it won’t condone it.  I’ve tried to save you. I’ve tried to tell you—here and there, suggestions and advice.  Have you ever considered why I move on sometimes?  Especially when you’re in the middle of a question which might cause me to divulge some answer I’m not supposed to?    It’s not me who chooses to leave when this happens, Michael, but something larger than us both.”

            He was right of course, but it took me time to absorb what he was saying.  Time taken, I came to understand where he was coming from—how could anyone not?  I am no more special than the next guy.  If it was my time to go, it was my time to go.  And no, the irony is not lost on me, Ben; that I will be dying the same age as my father and that I too will be leaving behind a son—you, Ben, but before you are even born.

            “You’re writing to him?”  That was your Grandfather, as he stands behind me now.

            “Yes,” I said.  “Attempting to prepare him.”

            “Good thing you’re doing here, Michael.  Tell him something for me?  Tell him I will see him soon, and that everything ends; that it’s ending now.  He’ll know what I mean.”

            That was the last time I saw my father, Ben; twenty-four years past the day he died.

            At first it saddened me that I wouldn’t be able to do for you what my father had done for me.  The comfort I wished to give to do nothing but follow me as I died.  This was a bleak time in my life, son, as I came to terms with what I would be leaving you without.   However, I have been given hope—from just this morning. 

It was faint at first, but as I climbed the stairs my heart began to race. Your feet are what I heard, Ben.  The little pitter-patter sound they will come to make.  I followed them, the sound.  In doing so, your giggle came as well, from the bathroom on the right.  Into the bathroom, following you still, you weren’t there, gone back to wherever you came from. This is more than I could have ever hoped for, Ben, and it causes me to cry as I type these last few lines.  It’s a good cry, though, the type which sets you free.  It reminds me of a song, and one I hope you find, as it sums up my life more than I’d maybe like to admit: you can’t always get what you want, Ben, but you’ll find sometimes—you get what you need. 

            I look forward to meeting you, son.  But if I do happen to go before you arrive—know that you were loved. 

Always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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