A gust of bitter cold air smacked Ken in the face as he stepped off the bus and into the cold December air. It had been years since the last time that he was this far north, he had almost forgotten the way that the wind could cut down to your bones if you weren’t careful. He hated the cold. Why would anyone choose to live up here? As the bus pulled away, he reached into his coat pocket and retrieved the bottle of whiskey that he snagged back in Indianapolis. It’s fucking cold out here. He pulled off the scraggy glove covering his right hand and started to open the bottle. He paused for a moment when its narrow opening neared his lips. What the hell is wrong with you? Can’t you stay sober for ten minutes? For her?
He dropped the empty bottle to the ground as he staggered through the gates and made his way along the path ahead of him. This is a pretty nice place. He hadn’t seen his daughter in seven years. She was in elementary school then, though he couldn’t remember exactly which grade. Occasionally, word used to trickle back that she had been asking about him. She wouldn’t want to know what I’m like. It’s better this way.
Every step forward felt like an impossible hurdle as Ken came closer to her place. I shouldn’t be here. I’ve got no right to show up now, after all this time. I should just go home. He debated what to do during the entire journey here, but when he finally saw her, he knew there was nothing else to do.
“Hey baby girl,” he said as he placed his hand on the headstone in front of him. “It’s been a while.”
“I hope you don’t mind me being here,” he said as he laid down next to her. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when…when you did it. I should have been. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened.”
At some point he quit wiping the tears away and just let them crawl down his cheeks. He laid there all night with his arms around that headstone. The clouds of warm breath escaping him slowly turned to a trickle. I’ll see you soon, baby girl.
About the Author:
Reid Smith is an up-and-coming author from Waukegan, Illinois, making his public debut in Straylight Literary Arts Magazine.