The Chief of Police came up to the young teenager waiting to see him. He extended his hand. “Dave, your mom called. You sure you want to go through with this?”
Dave accepted the hand. “Yes…I need to talk to him.”
The Sheriff nodded and led him downstairs into a dark, narrow hallway lit by a single bulb. Dave’s father was alone, on a cot, gently snoring.
“You going to be okay?”
Dave nodded and the sheriff walked away, leaving him outside his father’s cell.
Through the bars, Dave called out, “Dad. It’s me. Wake up.”
His father started. “What? Where am I?” His voice was thick and groggy.
“You’re in jail, Dad. You were drunk, broke parole and hurt Mom.”
His father sat up, rubbing his unshaven face. “I…I thought I was dreaming,” He blinked, focusing his bloodshot, swollen eyes in the gloom.” I’m thirsty. Can you get me a drink?”
Dave left, returning with a cup of water. Handing it through the bars, his father drank greedily. “Thanks,” He held the cup, staring into its emptiness. “Sorry state. Seeing your old man like this, huh?”
“I’ve seen you worse.”
He grinned. “Guess you have.” There was a long silence. “You look different - changed, somehow.”
Dave’s eyes never left his father’s. “Maybe I have. Your binge lasted over a week this time.
His father cleared his throat and shrugged.
Dave gripped the bars of the cell. “Why do you keep doing this, Dad? I had your pitching arm; you could have taught me so much. Why’d you do it?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You do know.”
“Said I don’t.”
“Then maybe this will help. Mom told me to ask you something.”
“What do I care what she wants?”
“She said to ask you about a game you pitched in ‘91 against the Seattle Mariners. What about it, Dad?”
There was a stone-dead silence. Dave’s father swayed back and forth on the cot, staring at him. He wiped his mouth. “It was nothing.”
“It wasn’t? Then why would Mom tell me to ask you about it?” He gripped the bars tighter, his knuckles turning white. “It’s why you’re in this cell. It’s why I’m standing outside looking in at you. It drained the life out of our family. What happened in that game?”
“None of your business!”
“You threw the game didn’t you? You needed money because Mom was pregnant with me and you sold out. Sold out on something you had a gift for and loved more than anything. That’s what happened, wasn’t it? Then you started drinking because you couldn’t live with what you’d done.”
“Shut your mouth.”
“No, Dad, I won’t. All I’m asking is this once you tell me the truth.” His father remained silent. “I guess you don’t need to say anything. I already know.”
His father stared at him. “You know nothing.”
“Don’t I? Why don’t you face up to what you did? You threw that game and you threw away your life and anything with meaning at the same time.”
Tears welled in his father’s eyes. He wiped them. ”That’s history, done and buried, means nothing” Anger filled his voice. “How’d you find out about this? What gives you the right to come in here judging me? I’m your dad. Show respect!”
“You’re my dad, and I’m trying to understand. But I’ve got nothing good to hold on to.” He bit his lip. “You remember my sixth birthday? They day you broke my arm with that bat?” He took a breath. “I took that bat and burned it, but you know what? I can’t close my eyes at night without seeing it raised, coming down at me.
“And you know what else? It never hits me, it just keeps falling. I wish it would hit me, and maybe it would all be over, but it never does. I can’t get it out of my head. It won’t go away.”
“You’re nothing but a sissy.”
Dave raised his chin, tears stinging his eyes. “Mom and I are leaving. You’ll never find us; never hurt us again.” He drew a breath. “But there’s something you need to hear first; and maybe someday you’ll understand why I have to say it.”
“Spit it out!”
“Mom and I forgive you - for everything.”
“Don’t patronize me…”
Dave turned and walked away, the vile voice behind him fading as he shut the door at the end of the dark hallway outside his father’s cell.
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