A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word.
A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, well, the bird is the word.
My cell phone was ringing. I usually remembered to put it on silent before I went to bed. Then again, I usually didn’t come home and go straight to bed. I didn’t leave the shop until almost nine and on the way home I stopped for food, but as soon as I laid eyes on my bed everything else ceased to matter. I still had my jeans hanging off my feet.
Bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word…
I reached out in the direction of the sound and found my phone lying on my bed behind me. I didn’t even bother to look and see who was calling.
“What?” I grumbled into the phone.
“Are you sitting down?” My sister greeted me.
“Laying down. I’m sleeping,” I answered. I knew it had to be the middle of the night because I would have heard my alarm go off.
“Dad died,” she blurted.
That got my attention.
My eyes opened. It was 3:36 in the morning. Pam wasn’t much of a kidder to begin with. She definitely wouldn’t joke about Dad dying.
“When?” I asked quietly. I had a feeling the rehab stuff was bullshit but there was nothing I could do. Long ago I learned I couldn’t make someone get clean. Dad liked the booze. I couldn’t make him give it up.
“Last night. His liver finally gave out on him; at least that’s what the coroner said. I got a call from his girlfriend.”
I sighed heavily and rubbed my eyes. There was no way I could afford a trip to Sweden for his funeral.
“I’m surprised she called. Well, no, I’m not surprised she called you. She won’t talk to me.” My dad’s girlfriend was a terrible influence. She was two years younger than me and encouraged him to go out partying with her. He was a fuckin’ senior citizen. He had no business going club or bar hopping. Dad should have been playing golf and enjoying being a grandpa. Instead he was chasing around some gold digger with more tits than brains.
“Not surprised. She’s a fuckin’ dingbat. I don’t have too many details since I could barely understand her, but I’ll make some calls to try to get more info at a decent hour. I just thought you should know.”
“Thanks. You didn’t tell Mom yet, did you?” I didn’t want to deal with the call I knew would be coming from her. I wasn’t in the mood for an ‘I told you so’ from her.
“Not yet. I’ll go see her in the morning to tell her.”
“Thank you. I can’t deal with her right now. Hell, she’s still pissed at me for moving out.” I yawned and kicked my jeans off the rest of the way.
“She’ll get over it eventually,” Pam sighed. “I’ll let you go back to bed if you want. I don’t think I can though…”
“I don’t know if I can either,” I said honestly. “Are you going to Europe?”
“I have to go through my finances. I’d like to, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford it. If nothing else we can have our own service here,” she said.
“Yeah.” I was numb. The reality was going to hit sooner rather than later. My dad and I hadn’t talked much in the last few months but he knew I loved him.
The alcoholism made it difficult to be around him. When he was sober I liked being around him and hanging out. He was funny and really intelligent, but the booze made him aggressive and bitter. His personality just went in the shitter when he drank. I didn’t care for it.
“I’ll let you go,” Pam said. “Try to go back to sleep.”
“I will. I’ll call you later,” I promised. I knew she was going to have to tell Alex. That was going to suck.
Dad was more supportive than Mom was when Pam announced that she was pregnant. Mom was worried Pam would never finish college and end up working some shitty job. My sister wasn’t rich but she was doing fairly well as a real estate agent in Monroe. She was able to afford a nice little house for her and Alex and she drove a nice SUV. I knew money was still a little tight for her.
It was because of Dad that Pam didn’t have to drop out of college. He had taken on the responsibility of watching Alex while Pam was at school and/or work so she didn’t have to pay for daycare on top of everything else. Because of that, Alex and Dad got to be pretty close.
Unfortunately, not even Alex’s pleas were enough to get Dad to quit drinking. I sincerely hoped that Inga wasn’t hiding some terrible car wreck from us. Dad dying was bad enough, but finding out he took anyone else out with him? I wasn’t sure I could deal with that.
As it was I lay down again and stared at the ceiling. I could feel the heaviness in my chest. The emotion was setting in. I opened the Chrome app on my phone and Google searched for my dad’s name in Stockholm. Thankfully, I didn’t find any headlines. That made me breathe a sigh of relief.
I plugged my phone in to charge it and made sure it was on silent before I rolled over to go back to sleep.
Halfway to work it hit me. Steely Dan was my dad’s favorite band. ‘Dirty Work’ was on the radio and I broke down. I pulled over to the shoulder and let myself have a moment. There was no shame in crying right?
Of course it was better not to lose my shit at work.
My first concert was a Doobie Brothers show when I was eight. I was pretty sure it was the first time I got stoned. It wasn’t intentional but there was so much marijuana smoke in the air. Lynyrd Skynyrd was the opening act. I didn’t appreciate it back then. I was eight. The kids my age were listening to Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey, not southern rock bands.
After that I didn’t want to go to concerts with my dad anymore. He wasn’t cool enough. Then the divorce happened and it started this chain reaction of shit to occur. By the time I outgrew my angry, suburban white boy thing, my dad was a full-blown alcoholic. I tried to come up with ways to entice him to stay sober but nothing appealed to him more than a Jim Beam haze.
When I pulled into the parking lot at work I parked in the same spot as always and headed for the front door. Des’s truck was already parked out front. The overhead doors in the bays were up. Mel’s tow truck was gone. Ras was parked in the lobby watching the news on the big flat screen above the counter. I went straight to the back office where Des was and shut the door.
Des was as guilty as anyone of being a smart ass, but he took family really seriously.
“My dad died,” I told him.
“Oh shit,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry to hear that. Do you need anything?”
“Not right now. My sister’s trying to arrange to have him cremated and sent back here, but Inga’s a dumb twat, so who knows what will happen.” I had told Des the deal with my dad before. His own father had passed just a few years before so I knew he understood what I was contending with.
“Let me know if you do need something, time off or to call in a favor. I can have someone fly to Sweden to deal with Inga if she does something stupid.”
“I appreciate that. I may take you up on the time off. I slept like shit last night but since it’s Andre’s day off I didn’t want to leave you short staffed.”
“I appreciate you coming in. I’ll do what I can if you need to leave. I’ve been where you are and I know how it feels,” he said.
“Thanks,” I nodded. The office door opened and Sookie appeared, cheerful as usual, with a giant cup of coffee in her hand.
“Oh… I’m sorry… am I interrupting something?” she asked when she caught on to the somber mood.
“No, it’s okay.” I wasn’t my usual, cheerful self and I knew she could tell. Generally I was a pretty upbeat guy. I didn’t let much get me down and I tried to leave work at work.
She gave me a look I couldn’t really figure out. “I’ll just be out there,” she said, pointing behind her.
“No, it’s okay. I need to get with Dawson about that Excursion out there.” I went out the door leading into the bay. There was a Ford Excursion pissing coolant at the far end. It seemed like one thing after another was fucking failing on that beast. So far the owner had dropped nine grand into it.
That was more than the car was worth.
The whole time Dawson was talking my mind was elsewhere. He finally stopped talking.
“You okay, man?”
“I’ve been better,” I replied. “Sorry, I’m listening.”
Only my mind wandered off thirty seconds later.
I officially sucked.
When I got back to the office I plopped down in front of the parts computer and put my head down. Des was gone; probably chain smoking and getting his morning flirt on with Rasul. Sookie, however, was parked in his place and listening to Spotify on the computer.
“Wanna talk about it?” she asked after a moment.
“Not really,” I answered. I didn’t want to go into it at work and bum everyone else. “I should just go home,” I sighed.
“I’m sure Des can handle it if you do. If something’s taking your mind off of work, it might be best,” she said, getting up to walk over so she was standing next to me.
I scrubbed my face with my hands.
“Yeah, probably.” I got up and started to walk to the door, but stopped halfway. “My dad died. Motherfucker drank himself to death.”
Sookie frowned for a moment before she closed the small distance between us and wrapped her arms around me in a freakishly tight hug. It was unexpected, but the longer she hugged me the more I knew I needed it. Of course that got the waterworks going again. To shut that shit down I had to push her away from me.
Her touching me brought up some other thoughts and emotions and I had enough on my plate. I walked out of the office and said, “I gotta get out of here, Des.”
“Alright,” he replied, waving me off.
I felt bad for walking out on Sookie like that. I hoped she knew it wasn’t personal. If anything it was because I felt too comfortable with her and we barely knew each other. I walked over to my car and got in. I put my head back and closed my eyes. A few minutes later there was knocking on the glass and I opened my eyes to see Sookie standing there, so I put the window down.
“I didn’t mean to… I just know how it feels and… the only thing I needed was a hug. It’s all anyone can do,” she said quietly.
“I’m not mad at you, Sookie,” I assured her.
“Okay,” she nodded. “I just wanted to say that. I didn’t know if I offended you or not.”
“Not at all. I appreciate what you were trying to do. It was a little too effective and I… Yeah…” I couldn’t have that conversation with her. Getting too involved with coworkers was a bad idea.
“It could have been worse,” she said with a small smile. “I could have blurted out something inappropriate.” She held out her hand and I noticed a small scrap of paper between her fingers. “If you need to talk, I’m good at listening.”
“Thanks.” I took the paper from her. Her phone number was written on it in much neater handwriting than mine. “And that inappropriate stuff was probably just the tequila talking.”
“Probably,” she agreed.
Sookie was a pretty girl. I liked her. She was funny and didn’t mind my goofy ass. Her comments about liking being spanked and called naughty had definitely caused some serious wood. I couldn’t tell her that, though. That was a bad idea.
“I’ll see you later,” I said before starting my car.
“Later. Drive safe.” Sookie took a step back to wait for me to back out of my spot.
I was careful not to spray gravel as I pulled out of the lot. Sookie didn’t need a face full of rocks. I didn’t know where I was going but going for a long ride sounded like a really good idea.