Gerald plucked two pieces of toast from the toaster, buttered both, and spread two dabs of peanut butter across them. He ate one as he shuffled around the kitchen, sat on a stool, and sipped a coffee as he glanced at his phone. He was late. His son Tyler sauntered in. His jeans hung around his ass with a chain attached to his wallet, and his shirt was two sizes too big. Gerald smiled and shook his head as Tyler grabbed the other piece of toast. Crumbs sprinkled on the floor as Tyler ate. Gerald remembered that his father swept the kitchen every morning. He whistled cheerfully as he pushed the broom into the corners and dragged it along the sides. Other times he grumbled about getting no respect and how the place was a pigsty. Gerald finished his toast and took a last sip. He could feel his father sweeping around his feet and tapping them—sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately. Tyler leaned against the stove and quietly ate as he stared out the window. Gerald hesitated, then pulled out the broom and started sweeping. Tyler stared at him, bemused.
The light changed to red. Gerald bobbed his head to the beat of Huey Lewis and the News as he crawled the last few inches, bouncing to a stop. The first car he rode in was his father's green Ford There were no seat belts in it. Then his father bought a Jetta with airplane buckles in the back seats. Gerald chuckled as he remembered his mom saying, “A European car?”
His dad smirked, declaring, “They deserve it.”
His dad’s voice popped into Gerald's head, “Taxi Dad.” Gerald smiled as he accelerated through the intersection. He realized his radio would not turn on if the driver was not buckled in. “Dad would burn the car," he chuckled to himself.
Gerald walked into the break room as Ted poured himself a cup of coffee. Gerald put his cup down, “You know,” he said, “I know my father at home, the rink, vacation, but not at work.”
“No take your kid to work day?” Ted asked.
“We went swimming.”
“Good for your dad.”
Ted poured Gerald a cup. Gerald picked it up and continued, “I try to imagine him in a coffee room—chatting about ratios, the kids, mom—but it’s all made up.”
“That’s how dads are remembered, I guess. I’m sorry for your loss, by the way.” Ted said.
“Thank you.” Gerald replied. Tim grabbed the cream from the fridge and added, “Can you imagine him as a teenager?”
Gerald choked on his coffee and sputtered, “God no.”
“I have trouble imagining my daughter all grown up.”
“My son’s almost there. How old is she again?”
“Two and charging. Her tiny feet are inexhaustible.”
“At that age, she’ll stay cute forever.”
Tyler asked, “Why isn’t dinner ready?”
Gerald stopped chopping spinach and said, “Not today, Tyler.”
“I'm sorry,” Tyler said and walked out of the room. Gerald started chopping again as Tyler returned. He took a seat on a stool and said, “I’m really sorry.”
“When is the funeral?”
“Friday. We fly to Halifax on Thursday. Your mom booked the tickets. She’s coming home early from her business trip. I insisted she not, but she arrives tonight.”
“That’s good, though,” Tyler smiled.
“I talked to your uncle. Your cousins will be there, and we’re staying for the weekend. We’re all spread out, you know. Vancouver. Calgary. Halifax. Well, not Halifax anymore, but still…” Gerald scooped the chopped spinach into a simmering pan of butter and continued, “You didn’t know Grandad that well. Your uncle and I talked about it, and we’re going to see each other more. You too.” Gerald said while raising his eyebrows.
“Uncle Jason can tell me stories about you.”
Gerald peeked into the oven, “No, he can’t.”
Tyler laughed, “Why not?”
“There aren’t any.”
“Were you as bad as me?”
Gerald shook his head.
“Grandad had stories.” Tyler grinned.
Tyler’s grin reminded him of his dad. He replied, “Dad didn’t!”
“He told me not to tell you.”
Gerald sits at the table with a pad and pen as he watches the steam from his tea. He thinks, ‘What to say?’ He spoke to his brother but got nothing new. He thought he knew his father. Some parts he knew extremely well. Other parts, he realizes, not so much. He sits there and tries to piece together a chronological story of Dad, but all he gets are memories from today. A moment in the car. At the dinner table with Jason. His fastidious dress. His jokes about Gerald's bell bottoms. When Gerald’s mom died, his dad’s eulogy surprised him. He heard about a woman and not just a mom. Gerald does not believe in god or heaven. His parents are nothing. They live on as memories, bits and pieces that will be fragmented and forgotten. ‘Skip the chronology.’ Gerald thinks, ‘What stories grasp him?’ He thinks of Tyler—that grin! Gerald taps his pen. He takes a sip of tea.