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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1705589
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“Go ahead and hate me kid, if you gotta.”

“Okay,” Andy said. He cut into his steak.

“We haven't seen each other in seven years, I guess I can't really blame you.”

“No,” Andy said, “ I doubt you could.”

“You're not going to help me here, are you?”

Andy put his fork down. He looked around the restaurant. He had started a fight here not long ago, and he was a bit amazed to actually find himself back again. He studied the man, his dad, across from him. He couldn't remember ever having dinner with him before. A busboy began refilling their water glasses.

Andy said, “Could I have a box to take this home?” He pointed to his almost untouched steak. The busboy looked at the steak and back to Andy, and Andy made a square out of his hands and pointed with his thumb toward the door. The busboy nodded and went away.

“I'm not very good at this,” his father said. He had a forkful of steak ready to go into his mouth

“At what Dad, raising children?”

“Jesus, you're brutal!” his father said. He put his fork down with the steak still attached, and wiped his mouth with a napkin. He sat back and looked at Andy hard in the eyes.

Andy returned the look, straight across the table.

“I don't have much money, kid, but I know you're in a bit of legal trouble...”

“Oh, that,” Andy said. “Yeah, well, 'No tin-can can hold a guy like me.'”

“James Cagney!”

“No, Humphrey Bogart.”

“No, that's Cagney; 'No tin-can can hold a guy like me, see.' That's James Cagney, see.

“Really?”

Really, see.”

“Thanks for that. You've been a huge help.”

They looked at each other and Andy lowered his eyes and considered standing, just walking away. The busboy came back with a Styrofoam container.

Andy lifted the rib-eye. He felt his father's eyes on him, but he didn't look up. He added the mashed potatoes and the string beans.

“I'm not very good at this,” his father said, "What I mean is, I'm not very good at begging--”

“Then don't beg,” Andy said. He got up and left the table taking his steak and mashed potatoes and string beans with him.

He was outside, just, feeling the cool air and the sorrowful wonderment of flight. He walked past a six long gauntlet of homeless people that sat on the sidewalk with their backs against planter-boxes. Andy was nearly past them all when he heard the door open. He looked back to see his father standing there, a napkin in his hand.

His father said, “Andy!”

Andy stopped and waited. He watched his father come toward him. When his father was there, standing close to him, Andy noticed for the first time they were almost exactly the same height.

“I just want to say to you, Andy, that I love you ver--”

“Okay.” Andy said. “No tin-can can hold you either, I guess.”

“No!” his father said, “That's right.”

“You been in prison, I guess.”

“Seven years,” his father said.

“That explains your great suntan.”

They looked at each other as the homeless people in there ring-side seats watched.

“Okay then,” Andy said, “I guess I'll see you around.”

“I guess you will! Here, I want you to have this.” He held out a wrist watch with a brown leather strap. The strap looked old and dried out with small yellow cracks.

"No, you keep it Dad, you're going to need to know what time it is."

"I want you to have it! It belonged to your grandfather."

“Okay,” Andy said. He took the watch from his father's hand and tossed it into the lap of an old man that sat on the pavement.

Andy walked away with his father's warm eyes on the back of his neck.

655 words-

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