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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #802984
Story for Writer's Cramp
{c}You Have to Know When to Hold’m…
Author: Joe Umholtz
Writer’s cramp entry 1/17/04

“Look!, I told you. I’ll be home the day after next. We’ll celebrate his birthday then. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is it’s his birthday tomorrow and tomorrow is when the party will be and you won’t be there. You’re his father and he hasn’t seen you more than once or twice in the past six months. That certainly sounds like a big deal to me. Just yesterday he was reminding me how last winter the two of you would play in the snow, building snow forts and having snow ball battles and how on his birthday you took him skiing for the very first time. You should have seen the look on his face when he talked about it. He was so sad when I told him you weren’t going to be here this year.”

“I’m doing this for us, you know. I thought we agreed that I’d give this a shot. The payout is huge! One million dollars! I’m only two competitions away from winning. If I win tonight and again tomorrow it’s all ours. If I win he’ll never have to worry about paying for college. We can finally buy a nice home. You know I’m good. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t have made it this far. I’m only three hours away by plane. Tomorrow is the last day of the competition. Winner takes all. I promise, as soon as its over I’ll hop on a plane and I’ll be there. It’s only one day and imagine the kind of birthday he’ll have next year if I win.”

“That’s one day too many,” she said sadly as she hung up the phone. In the next room their son Michael played his video game, lost in a world of exploding mushrooms and flying cherries. She watched him as he laughed and giggled and wondered how she was going to tell him that his dad still wasn’t going to be there tomorrow for his birthday. He had been so sure that he would come. He missed having his dad tuck him in at night and read him bedtime stories. She found him yesterday staring sadly at the skis they had bought him for his last birthday. She knew he wanted to go play on the slopes with his dad in the worst way. She wished they had never decided to try to win the championship this year but she knew if they hadn’t done it this year it would have been next year or the year after that. It was all he ever talked about ever since she knew him. The oven timer interrupted her daydreaming. “Oh well, If Michael can’t have his dad here he’d at least get his favorite cake,”she thought as she went back to mixing the icing.

He listened to the dial tone for a minute before hanging up the phone. They had been married ten years and she had never hung up on him before. Part of him was angry and part of him was scared. A voice in the back of his head warned him to stay focused.

Put these thoughts out of your mind. You’ll be home in a couple of days and you can make it up to everyone then. It should be easy if you win the million bucks and to win you need to stay focused.

He knew the voice was right. He began to prepare for the nights competition.

Walking out the door that night in the crisp cool air he couldn’t help but think of his family. He knew Michael was in bed by now, fast asleep with his stuffed animals to keep him company. He knew Linda, his wife, had probably had her hands full putting him to bed with all the excitement over his birthday the following day. She was probably relaxing in a chair, reading before getting ready for bed. He missed holding her as much as he missed kissing Michael good night. Crossing the street he entered the casino under the sign that flashed “International Poker Championship! Semi-Finals Tonight! He took his place at the table. The competition was stiff. Over the past six months they had played at casinos around the world, narrowing the field until tonight there were just four of them. Tomorrow night, there would be only two and one of those would walk out of here with a million bucks. For four hours they played, each having their ups and downs until finally he had the hand he wanted. He stared down at the four Aces and knew in his heart that this was it. He was going to the finals. Savoring the moment he looked at each of his opponents and then out at the hushed crowd. For a moment he swore he saw his wife and Michael but it was only his tired eyes playing tricks. He looked back at his cards, paused a moment in thought, and made his play.

The next morning he walked out the front door with a steaming cup of coffee and savored the cool fresh air and the warmth of the cup in his hands. As he took a sip, the first snowball hit him in his shoulder. Spinning around he saw Michael on the other end of their front porch winding up and taking aim. A big grin was on his face. “Hey dad, it’s my birthday! And you made it!” With that the second snowball hit him square in the chest. “Boy it sure was great to be home,” he thought as he scrambled to return fire.
© Copyright 2004 Rasputin (joeumholtz at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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