Feed on

Another dusty sunset filled the rearview mirror as the wheels on our car scraped against the pebbles.

“Bella, they used to shoot movies down this road; makes one hell of a dust devil for car chases, don’t it?” Chris’s tone wasn’t questioning, rather, it left no room for an answer. Dads typically aren’t called by their first name from their children, but I never saw Chris as much of a dad. Even in our old family photos, I would see the same stiff and uncomfortable man, unsure whether he should pose and hug me for the picture.

“Friday nights me and the boys would ride up to the river, drunk as all hell, camp out and do some fishing. Good days.” He never liked to sit in silence, so on the long road trips where he would take me back to my mom’s, he filled the time by telling me stories of his life before I was a part of it.

“Hey, I saw you throw something into the river yesterday. What were you doing at the river?” I asked him. “Just wondering, I know you don’t like to go there since the incident.” Kendrick, Chris’s deaf brother, was hit by a drunk driver the year I was born. Lisa, my mom, always told me to keep quiet about the incident because it wouldn’t be good for Chris to return to the state he was in after it happened. Maria and I rode our bikes down to the river yesterday, that’s where I noticed him, standing motionless with his feet submerged in the coursing water. Noticing my abrupt statement, Chris’s hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“Oh, I uh, saw something in the water I thought I recognized. Piece of scrap metal from somebody’s old shed I assume; it was shining up from the road, the way the sun hit it just right.” Quickly, I looked at his face to see any trace of dishonesty in what he said, but all I saw was the same opaque expression he always had.

“Really? Well, Maria and I saw you while we were biking, so it thought I’d ask.” Surely, I thought, he had a reason for returning to the river, but what was it?


That rest of the car ride home was filled with silence. Unlike our usual routine, Chris didn’t seem on edge with the prolonged absence of words or conversation. Very slowly, I looked back up at his hands, which were now tapping the wheel, bouncing with the tune that must have been playing in his head. Whatever he was doing down at the river will forever be a secret to me. Xanax bottles, all of them empty, filled the space under my passenger side seat, and one rolled out from underneath, fitting itself in the small space between my feet. Yellow hues reflected from the bottle and onto my skin, creating a tinged pigmentation that reminded me of a skin disease. Zipping up my jacket, I looked out of the window and watched the white lines on the road race past the car’s wheels. In that moment, my father didn’t feel the need to explain himself, and I didn’t see any reason for him to; it felt like, for once, we had found a way to communicate and understand each other.


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