It’s a hot day in August. My friends and I have decided to come to the country fair, as we do every August. It seems the fair is the only place in our small, fair town where one can locate an abundance of friends or food.
The rest of the year, it is the same. So against my mother’s wishes, I go to the fair to ride the attractions, eat the cotton candy and soft pretzels. Little did I know, of course, that I would be meeting and reconnecting with a “friend” that would change my life.
When I arrived with my friends, they all announced that they all had to go to the restroom…the price they pay for drinking so much water on this record-setting hot Sunday.
I am left alone while they accomplish this, but I am sixteen, well old enough to take care of myself. So I sit on the nearest bench. No easy task I might remind you, as every old or overweight person in our town shows up for the fair, it seems. But I manage to find one and sit.
While I am waiting, I am watching the line for the fair’s only roller coaster, the Head-Banger, grow and grow with adolescents seeking thrills. I chuckle as the man in the front sends away two small punks who obviously did not meet the height requirement. But it is here that I notice the man standing behind the two boys, I assume their father.
But he looks familiar to me…I suddenly recollect a picture my mother has in her room, on the nightstand, one she hides from me…a picture that the man who is standing before me with the two kids is in. This fair-haired man with the mustache and sunglasses is the man that abandoned me and my mother so many years ago.
This man is my father.
“Dad?” I say, just audible enough to be heard.
The man glances at me, but stops. He stares at me for a moment, then takes off his sunglasses and walks towards me.
“Michael?” he says, bewildered.
He gapes for a moment and stutters: “My god, you’ve gotten so big!”
The two punk boys, in their matching ACDC concert shirts and Mohawk haircuts stare at me.
“So,” my father asks awkwardly, “What have you been up to?”
“I’m interning at the library.”
My dad guffaws.
“The library? That old dump? Mikey, why don’t you intern at Gus’s place? He’s hiring a new waiter, I hear.”
“I like books, Dad.” I say, kind of annoyed.
“You like books?” one of the punk boys ask me. “You’re a wuss!”
I stand up from the bench. I look at my Dad, who’s grinning like the kid is a stand-up comedian. I just glare.
“Do you have a girl in your life, Mikey?”
“Uh, yeah. I’m dating Katie Shear, do you remember…?”
My father screams with laughter.
“Katie Shear? The same Katie Shear who peed her pants in second grade at one of your concerts?”
“Yeah, but…she’s different, Dad. She’s an adult and I think I love her,” I say, my eyes and voice swelling with tears.
“Oh, did she switch to Pull-Ups now instead of diapers?” he says. The two punks laugh loud at this.
“Mikey, if you’re gonna find your wife here in this shitty town, at least make sure she can control herself.” my father says, and he and his punk kids started to laugh again.
This was when I slugged him.
I punched my Dad right in the face crying tears of joy and sadness. The man I was punching was the man who abandoned me and my mother, the man who left and had kids (two little rotten kids) with a strange woman.
When I punched the man who ruined my life I thought I would have been happy. But instead, I cried about the no-good man who just happened to be my father.
I left my father then, laying on the dirt and grass ground holding his eye, surrounded by the awful kids he had spawned. I reunited with my friends then, and we rode the rides and ate the food, and I went home.
I never told my mother what had happened that year at our fair. Instead, I forgot about my father, the man who helped to make me. I did this because me and him, we never had anything in common anyway.
With my high I.Q., charm and brown hair, I’ve always been a momma’s boy.