The Hangman
Foster Trecost
Everything seemed in order. It was a pleasant season and my thoughts were good ones, with little time wasted in regret. For these reasons I found myself searching the walls for a phone. I had just arrived in Chicago, enroute to Seattle by train, and as scheduling goes I had a layover. I had not seen my father in three years.
I could have called him the night before, but that might have given an appearance of anticipation: I was curious to see him, but not desperate, so I called from the station. "Andrew?" I asked upon his answer, though I knew it was him, his midday words already slurred. "Andrew," I said again, and then added, "Dad, its me." I had given up the more endearing term years before in favor of his first name, but when I heard his voice, like a sad and forgotten record, I was drenched by a deluge of pity, and I offered it up as a gift, or at the very least an umbrella.
"Stephan?" he asked with inebriated surprise. "Son, how are you?"
I didn't answer his question. "I'm at the station," I said instead. To answer his question would have been to forgive, and I preferred to keep him at a remorseless distance. I was yet to tell him which station, and unsure if I should. I had just referred to a stranger as dad, and he had replied in form. So peculiar, I was puzzled with what to make of the sound, as if I had been living in a silent world, and these were the first words I heard. They hung before me in alternating images: at first as an artist's masterpiece, and then as a noose. I studied the sound, and allowed myself to feel what I would, and then continued: "I'm at the train station. I've got some time. Why don't you meet me? We can have lunch."
"Yes, dad, lunch." Dad? I called him dad, and imagined a Rembrandt tacked to a gallow.
"Sure, son." Son? A van Gogh in the arms of a hangman. "I'll take a cab. About ten minutes, okay?"
Ten minutes can be lengthened in many ways, all of which were at work that afternoon. I had dismissed his ten-minute arrival as it was heard, and doubled his offering; it would take him ten minutes just to find his hat. These minutes, now standing at twenty, would double again through the course of anxiety. I paced between two ornate columns that seemed to support nothing, and was struck with the comparison: my father was nothing more than an ornate column— he served no purpose, a non-existent man in Chicago, a city I had never visited, never desired to visit, yet he was on his way to meet me for lunch, a lunch that would take an hour at most, and then he would stumble away. I had phoned a stranger, no different than had I picked a number at random. Except that he was my father.
When I caught sight of him, I saw something unexpected: he was nervous, which made me less so. His kerchief had wiped his brow twice since the door. He shifted as he walked, his eyes darted left and right.
The other recollections are what one would expect— he had gained weight, lost hair. The lunch was what one would expect as well— little said, less eaten. To recall the details now would serve only to tarnish his memory, and I see no reason for that. He was my dad, and for that hour, we sat as father and son. As I walked away he called out, "I'll see you at Christmas." Even still, I've no idea why he said that.
Foster Trecost began writing while living in Italy. He now lives in Philadelphia, where he continues to write, among other things. He has stories forthcoming in Flash Me Magazine and Under Hwy 99.