Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: A Moment of Clarity
By Michele Therrien
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“Daddy’s busy. I’ll play with you when I get home.”
“You won’t get home ‘til after I’m asleep.”
Martin winced at those last words from Jaiden as he shifted his position on the well-worn barstool at his favorite drinking hole. In the background a TV blared, but no one paid attention. In fact, the sound was barely discernable above the drunken conversations and sounds of the bartenders mixing drinks. He sighed and pushed away his third beer with a swollen, callused hand and tried hard not to think about the tears in his little girl’s eyes as she watched him leave the house.
His pride and joy; his little princess…all she wanted was his time. All she wanted was his love. Martin loved her dearly, yet never seemed to find the right way to show it. Course I could have showed her that I loved her by staying home tonight, but I was busy. He snorted in disgust.
Yeah, he was busy all right; busy drinking himself into another stupor to forget how sad he was… how tired he was. But no matter how much he drank, he couldn’t forget his daughter’s words, or her face, or the memories it brought back of his own childhood.
“But Daddy you promised we’d play ball today!”
“I’m sorry son. Daddy’s work comes first. Gotta pay the bills.”
His own father had drank himself literally to death just a few years ago, but even that hadn’t been enough to convince Martin to give up his habit. This wasn’t the path he’d chosen for himself. He hadn’t wanted to drink. In fact, he’d promised himself that he’d never treat his kids the way his father had treated him.
So much for that promise, right Martin? You’ve gone and broken that promise too, just like all the other promises you’ve made. You’re such a loser. Martin sighed hopelessly and reached for his beer. There was nothing else to do. He simply couldn’t stop now. He didn’t want to think anymore. It only made him angry with himself. Drinking was easier.
Something drew Martin’s attention to the glowing television and mindlessly he stared at the picture of a man and woman and their kids, laughing and having fun together. It wasn’t even a show, it was a commercial of some sort, but it struck him how he was missing out on Jaiden’s life. Someday she, as he had with his own father, would distance herself to keep from being hurt by his broken promises. And like other times before this, Martin heard a voice in his head. Just walk away. You can do it. Go back to your wife and daughter before it’s too late.
Frustrated at the war in his mind, he pounded the bar with his fist, causing all within earshot to look up at him and stare. The woman, three stools down, whom, like him, was a regular here, glared at him through thick glasses that hid her sagging, sunken eyes. The bartender, Derek, paused a moment to shoot him a puzzled look.
“Everything alright there, Martin? Haven’t touched your beer.”
The question made him stop and think. Was everything really all right? And then like lightning, the thought struck him. He knew so many here. Many of them he knew better than his own wife and daughter back home. How right was that?
Martin stood up from his place at the bar, leaving his third beer untouched on the counter. He didn’t need to be here. His place was home, with his wife…with Jaiden. He wobbled with uncertainty for a moment on legs that had fallen asleep as he’d sat warring with himself on the barstool. His eyes met Derek’s and he slowly shook his head.
“Going home. I can’t do this anymore. My family needs me.”
“You want a cab?”
Martin shook his head and turned for the door. With renewed hope, he headed home.
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