To read the published piece, click the link Under The Weather
Rain on a windshield, dripping down the way your skin must in this Louisiana heat, turning everyone into the little green Army men I used to throw rocks at back when the temperature wasn’t enough to keep you inside. There’s a smell in Creole country far stronger than the accents of the people that might be helping push your car out of a ditch. No one’s helping me push my car out of a ditch though.
I’ve got to carry these ashes all the way to the ocean to keep Robert from haunting me. That’s what he said at least when I was on speaker phone with him from the hospice center. It wasn’t as formal as you’d expect, the guy's last wishes. They weren’t original either.
“Pour me into the ocean.” He said, like he was the first person to think to do it. That was everything he said, like he had come up with it all by himself.
“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, Jonathan.
“Good things come to those who wait, Jonathan.”
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Jonathan.”
Behind all the yelling were these bits of sage advice. Robert must’ve not thought I’d ever leave and find out that nothing he said or did was original, especially beating his kid. Even then, the last thing you should tell a dying man is that he’s derivative. Even if you really want to.
That drive from Phoenix to the Atlantic is long, not that you didn’t already know. The shoebox in the back of my Cherokee seems awfully heavy when I’m not staring at it. None of my radio presets work after about an hour on the interstate, and I’m too lazy to try to find out if music gets any better the farther east you go. I don’t think it does.
Robert wasn’t a nice guy, or a reputable professional, or a loyal friend, or a good Dad; that’s why I’m making this drive. It’s the last thing he would have expected, for me to take a long weekend to dump him off some pier like the extra weight he always was. I’m not doing this for him.
Now I’m in a ditch. That’s what happens when you do the right thing; everything falls apart. One disintegrating wiper blade later and I’m in Louisiana looking out one cracked windshield. I guess I dozed off, which you could have predicted.
I can hear Robert laughing in the back seat like he did when I touched the eye of the stove in second grade. He told me to, and I cried for almost two hours after I did. The whole time I just stared at my skin bubbling up, turning charred black like the edges of public school burger meat.
"No need to cry over spilled milk," Robert said turning his back on me like the father of the year he was.
I’ve still got that scar on my hand, like a benign tumor always present to remind me how hot stoves can get and how far you should trust people. “As far as you can throw them.” Dad would say.
I can really feel that scar right now as I’m putting every bit of my energy into pulling this steering wheel to the left like it's going to help, but it's not.
“The rain’s not going to stop, Jonathan.” I can hear Robert saying in his condescending tone.
"The rain’s going to pour and pour until it carries us away. You’ve got to get me out of here, Jonathan. You can’t leave me here.”
Dad’s begging me now like the time I put him in the nursing home, except last time it was over the phone. Now he’s haunting me like he said he would. Even when I couldn't see him he was always a phone call away, forever in the backseat.
I’m about to be in the middle of a God-made river, maybe sooner than I think, ‘cause the water is coming through the floorboards now, and it’s muddy.
“You got to get me out of here, Jonathan!” The shoebox yells at me taking on the desperate tone of a man who can imagine what drowning feels like.
I don’t think I will get him out of here though, ‘cause the water’s up to my calves now, and I can hear new noises as the car shifts.
“Slow and steady wins the race, right Dad?”
“Get me out of here, Jonathan!” He shouts at me, the way he always did. Like I was just another thing in his way.
“One ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure Dad?”
“One in the hand’s worth two in the bush?” I say.
“Two birds one stone, remember?” I’m the one yelling now.
“Should I take a rain check, Dad?”
“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings right?!”
“It’s really raining cats and dogs out there.”
The Jeep starts to move as the brown water reaches my chest. I get angrier and angrier as the sound of rain collaborates with the sound of the blood pumping in my head.
I start beating my fists against the steering wheel when I hear him saying how I’m a “chip off the old block,” how “every cloud has a silver lining” how he’s got “bigger fish to fry.” Maybe I should just take it all with a grain of salt.
That’s how it was and it never really stopped, those tracks he left on me. Scars or words they’re all the same.
“I have to pour you out.” I say, lifting my head above the water line that’s still creeping up the inside of my car.
“All roads lead to Rome, huh Dad?”
This time he doesn’t say anything, and I don’t have to pour him out anymore. ‘Cause the shoebox in the back seat isn’t in the back seat anymore, and everything it held is gone too. Swept away by heavy rain.