Willie Jr. had finally visited his father. After twenty five long years, Willie Jr. decided it was time to make amends with his dad.
After all, his momma had died this last summer, and it really put it in perspective for Willie Jr. that people are only one Earth for a short amount of time. Countless nights Willie Jr. stayed up in the hospital while momma fought against whatever was making her squirm her spine at night. It’s hard to see a person like that. Eyes rolling up and down back like slot machines. Nothing but animalistic gurgling sounds coming from the mouth. Hard to see a momma as anything other than a momma.
Willie Jr. brought his wife Sabrina along. Figures his father should meet her. She has rose-brown hair. Long and warm and free. Reminds him of the summers spent at his father’s. The few he spend a few years before the divorce. The few before his momma’s sickness.
The two got out of the car and made their way to the front door. Sabrina was holding snug to Willie Jr’s arm. He took a breath and pressed the door bell, but he didn’t hear it go off in the house. He then knocked twice.
There were footsteps behind the door. Growing louder. His father was wearing socks. He could tell because of the soft thuds. Thud thud thud. They grow louder. So loud he hears it in his chest. Thud thud thud. It’s like his father is running around in his breast. Then it stops. Right in front of the door. In it’s place, jingles and jangles and gears and gizmos go off. He’s unlocking the door. It swings open. So does Sabrina’s jaw.
It surprises her how Willie Sr. looks. He has thick black-framed glasses covering everything above his mouth like a mask. A peppered beard. Hairy forearms. A t-shirt with some throw-away band from the 80s tucked into some high-waist jeans. Running shoes. Just like his son.
“Hello, kiddo. Long time no see, am I right? Glad you got my invitation,” Willie Sr. said. He held out his arms.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Willie Jr. replied. He raised up his own arms. His father gave him a hug from the side. “This is my wife, Sabrina.”
“Sabrina? Wow…” Willie Sr. raised his stiff hand in the air.
“Yeah, I know,” Willie Jr. replied.
“Come on in, I made tea.”
“Your doorbell doesn’t work,” Willie Jr. said.
“Yeah, I ended up using the wires,” his father replied.
The three made their way to the kitchen where Willie Jr. and Sabrina took a seat while Willie Sr. prepared the tea. Spoons rattled. Birds chirped outside. The water boiled. Willie Sr. whistled.
Willie Sr. brought over two hot cups of tea and set them in front of his guests. “I hope you like white leaf.”
Sabrina nudged her husband’s arm. “That’s your favorite!”
“Yeah, it is,” Willie Jr. replied.
“Like father like son, huh kiddo?”
Willie Sr. sat down. He blew on the tea. “So, how have things been?”
Willie Jr’s lips were stiff. “What do you mean how have things been? Mom died. Things have been shit. But–”
“Willie!” Sabrina said. She glared at the side of her husband’s head.
“Hey, hey, hey. Let’s not talk about her, huh?” his father replied. “I thought we were going to go at least another ten minutes before you brought her up. Guess I was wrong, huh kiddo?” Willie Sr. took a sip from his tea. He was the first to even pick up his cup. “I don’t wanna know about your mother. I wanna know about my boy. What his life is like. What his kids are like. Don’t you wanna know about me?”
“She died five months ago.” Wille Jr. fixed his glasses. He’s always been good at handling stress and anger and whatnot. He had to be. Since his momma’s been sick. He’s been angry at his father, the doctors, himself, God. Couldn’t show that kind of weakness to his momma. Couldn’t show her that the disease was strong enough to take down two people. So strong he was. And strong he is now.
“I know,” his father replied. Willie Jr. finally took a sip of his tea. “So, how did you two meet?”
Sabrina and Willy Sr. talked away as Willie Jr. sat in between them. Sometimes he’d give a weak smile, or reply to the occasional question. But most of the time, he just sat there and thought about the drive back. It wasn’t until Sabrina jammed her knuckles into his ribs from under the table that Willie Jr. was forced to talk. “What have you been up to?” he asked.
“I’m glad you asked. Let’s go out back and I’ll show you.” Willie Sr. got up without finishing his tea and took his son and daughter in-law to his backyard. In the middle of the yard was a pile of rusted steel, nuts, bolts, dowels, sheet metal, rods, springs, fins, and other metal parts welded together to form a rocket ship. It was about thirty feet tall. It the cylindrical body came to a long needle point. A small window hung open by rusted hinges. “Here she is, kiddo. The Sabrina. Named after your mother.”
“What the Hell is this?” Willy Jr. asked.
“It’s my life’s work. I have managed to build this beauty over the last quarter century. And it’s finally finished, kiddo. I leave tomorrow.”
“That thing isn’t going to get off of the ground. I bet it doesn’t even turn on. Does it?” Willie Jr. asked. “This is what you’ve been working on all this time?”
“You betcha,” said his father. “I took up welding and astro physics. I learned it all, kiddo. Not a day went by when I didn’t think about your mother. I knew days after the divorce-”
“Sir, are you okay?” Sabrina asked.
“Sabrina, let him speak.” Willie Jr. said.
“I knew days after the divorce that I would never forget you mother. She was the most amazing human being I have ever had the pleasure to meet. But when she got sick. And she started withering away. And how you kept calling about her. I just couldn’t handle it. I thought about it all day and all night. I could never not think about her. So I decided to build a spaceship. To take me somewhere to forget. Far away from here. Some alien planet where no one looks like Sabrina.”
“I love you, kiddo. And I’m sorry I wasn’t there for your mom. I just couldn’t handle seeing her. I needed to finish this and get out of here. Well, get us out of here.” Willy Sr. turned to his son. “Would you like to join? I have space for one more.”
“I don’t know what to say. What about Sabrina?”
“Just you and I.”
“Willie!” Sabrina yelled.
“I don’t know,” Willie Jr. said. Sabrina took her husband by the arm and dragged him back through the house and to the car. She got into the driver’s seat and sped off.
“I can’t fucking believe you, Willie. You’re just going to buy the crazy old man’s ideas like that. You’d really consider leaving me like that? To go fucking play pretend in a broken rocket ship? That man needs some help. Look, well go talk to the local nursing home and see if we can get him some help. He clearly can’t be allowed to live on his own,” Sabrina said.
But Willie Jr. heard none of this.
He was too busy looking at the long needle nose of his dad’s spaceship poking out into the sky.
“Not a bad idea,” he replied.