A FATHER ERASED (PROLOGUE)
The noonday glint of the glass doors across the street caught Howard’s attention for the hundredth time. This time though, he looked up. It was the little boy. And he was alone.
Two blocks later Howard caught up to him, but only after the boy had stopped by the curb. “Hello?” Howard said.
There was no response.
“Hello?” he tried again. The child still did not talk. Howard guessed he was eight. “Are you okay?” If the boy was in any pain, Howard could not tell. It seemed he was in a trance. Then at once he jerked to attention, released the brakes, and rolled on.
This time Howard followed at a distance. Once again, the boy stopped. Howard thought about giving up. But he’d come too far and he felt like he knew the child personally. He had watched him struggle almost daily as the boy entered the medical building. His emotional investment in the child was too great for him to turn back now without understanding his plight. At length his persistence was rewarded as the child wheeled himself into the driveway, then up the slight ramp in through the front door of a small dirty white block house.
Not knowing what he’d say, Howard stepped to the door and knocked.
After another attempt there was a voice. It was a woman’s, perhaps elderly. “Yes?” The door opened to reveal a pleated face, grooves the size of a large map size view of the Rocky Mountains. The woman’s head held a cap, ridiculously pretending to cover her lack of hair. The sight would have been comical if it had not been so pathetic. A threadbare gown barely hid the rest of her wan figure. The woman backed up and turned, leaving the door fully open. “Please come in.”
Howard stepped inside.
“I’m Myra, please sit down.”
That name sounds familiar, Howard thought.
“I knew you would come.”
Howard opened his mouth but made no sound.
The woman had prepared for this moment. “You don’t remember me.” Her tone was unaffected, straightforward. A pause. Myra could see that light was dawning.
Howard dropped his chin and lowered his head. To himself he mouthed, “Myra Stevens.” He did not look up. The implication of the boy’s identity surfaced at once. Myra Stevens was the grandmother of his ex-wife. Myra was his son’s maternal great grandmother. And Michael, his son, was in the next room.
Myra’s voice brought him back. “You can sleep here tonight. There’s much to discuss in the morning. We have little time. Can I get anything for you?"
Howard shook his head, but said, “How did you know I would come?”
“We’ll talk in the morning. Let me show you where you’ll sleep.”
The alarm rang and morning came, but Howard didn’t wake up. He’d never slept. So used to passing each night beneath a starry ceiling, he couldn’t well sleep below a man-made one, much less the same one under which his own son had slept.
“Michael made coffee,” said the old woman from where she lay on the sofa in the living room. She seemed to have not moved an inch from last night.
Howard sat at the far end of the couch.
“Shall we begin?” said Myra. “There’s much to discuss and not much time.”
“What is wrong with Michael?” Howard interjected.
“What will happen to Michael when I’m gone is of far greater concern to me,” Myra said. “I am all he has and when I’m gone he will have only you.”
Howard blinked hard. It was awhile before he could open his eyes. They’d become too sensitive, as if the light in the room was too bright despite the fact that very little sunlight shone through to the living room.
“James Digby, my lawyer, will be coming later so I can sign over the house and other necessaries to you, all of which will be kept in a trust for Michael until he’s of age. As Michael already belongs to you, there’s no problem of custody. His mother is gone, besides. As I said, you are all he has. You’ll also need a job. His social security won’t suffice. Digby can help you there. Michael also knows you’re his father.”
Howard’s face went blank. “What?”
The old woman paused. “I should have known this would be a problem,” she mumbled. To Howard she said, “Alright look, here’s the deal. In a matter of weeks, I will be dead. Cancer, see?” She removed her cap and pointed to her hairless head. “Now my grandson, Michael, he will have no one to care for him. Do you understand?” She spoke even slower than before. “You will have everything you need. I haven’t much to give, but I have enough. It will be yours and Michael’s. Do you know what you're being offered?”
Howard remained seated but said nothing. His eyes glazed over and the room blurred. His mind swam against a current of thoughts. At first he kept pace. But soon after, his mind began to drown in its delirium like water in a whirlpool.
“Howard. Howard?” Myra spoke.
He had waited so long for this day to come. Now, just like that, what he had wanted most in life had just been offered to him.
“Say something.” the sick old woman pleaded.
Then Howard stood and walked to the front door. He opened then closed it behind him.
(Any and all comments or criticisms gratefully received and appreciated)