Friday, November 16, 2012

FFF: The Prodigal

Every week Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

The Prodigal
Word Count: 600

The visiting room looked like a small version of a school cafeteria—a handful of long tables with chairs, and constant supervision. Allen sat where he was directed, then the officer went to fetch Wesley.

A moment later the guard returned with a young man in a yellow prison uniform. He was thin but muscular, with unkempt hair and a crooked smile. He entered slowly and sat down across from Allen.
“So,” said Wesley, “they tell me you’re my old man.”

“Something like that,” said Allen. The young man looked so much like a version of Allen from twenty years ago that it was difficult for him to reconsile. He’d been longing for this moment for nearly twenty years, and now that it was here, he felt lost. “I understand you like to be called Jeff,” he managed.

“That’s what they call me,” said Wesley.

“How much do you know?” asked Allen.

“Just that the same DNA test that landed me here turned your name up in some missing-person’s database.”

“That’s right,” said Allen.

Wesley—No, Jeff, Allen corrected himself—crossed his arms and frowned. “And now my Mom is going to jail. You’ll understand if I don’t feel particularly happy to see you.”

“I’m sure it’s… awkward,” said Allen, “but the woman who raised you—“

“She’s my mother, as far as I’m concerned,” said Jeff. “It wasn’t always easy for her, and she made mistakes—“

“She kidnapped you from a stroller,” Allen hissed. All the hatred he’d ever felt for that monster percolated to the surface. “I would have been a good father to you, if I’d had the chance. I sure as hell would have kept you out of this place.”

Jeff snorted. No, his name is Wesley, dammit, thought Allen.

“I’m sorry,” said Allen, retreating back into himself. “I didn’t mean… This is difficult, for both of us.”

“Yeah,” said Wesley. “Did you have other children?”

“My marriage couldn’t survive the trauma of losing a child,” said Allen bitterly. “Your mother lives in Boston now. We hadn’t spoken in fourteen years until a week ago. She’s planning to come and visit.”

“I guess you live within driving distance,” said Wesley with a crooked smile. His mother’s smile.

“It’s about an hour and a half drive for me,” said Allen. And in that moment the decades of rage collapsed in on him. The thought that his son, his only son, was living within a hundred miles of him, being raised by strangers… His failed marriage, the anguish, the torment all came together. He wanted to throw the table across the room. He wanted to scream about how he had been cheated. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.

But he couldn’t. The past was over. There was only the future. Allen took a breath, gathered all his anger into a ball and mentally pushed it away. A calm came over him.

“You okay?” asked Wesley.

“I have a bit of a temper,” said Allen. “It takes some effort to control it sometimes.”

“Sounds familiar,” said Wesley.

“Look,” said Allen, “I’m not trying to recapture anything. That ship has sailed. And I don’t know if I can help you out of here. Although God knows I would if I could.”

Wesley raised an eyebrow.

“You were supposed to be more than this,” said Allen.

“Well, sorry to disappoint,” said Wesley.

“I didn’t mean—“

“Yes, you did, old man,” said Wesley. “What did you expect? What do you want from me?”

Allen sighed. “Just to know you better.”

Wesley grinned. His mother’s grin. “Okay,” he said. “Come back next weekend.”

Edited by Carolyn Abram.

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