"HIM"


     The father was angry and sat by himself at the end of the bar. He felt humiliated--having that little slip of an ex-wife walk in on him and the children--yell at him, and throw him out of the house. After all, he was only trying to teach the boy some manners. If she was doing her job he wouldn't have had to say anything. He sipped on his rye and eased the burning in his throat with sips of ginger ale. The father wasn't a drinker, but once saw this scene in a movie and felt like the misunderstood movie character who drank his anger away.

    

     The boy was five and not quite sure what had happened except that his seven year old sister told him that they probably wouldn't see their father for a while now. How come he asked her. Because you got him mad again and Mom had to come into the living room to stop him from hitting you. The boy wanted to know if they'd get to keep the toys he had bought. I'm pretty sure well get to keep them, but Mom says he really didn't buy them. She says he got them from a Christmas party at work. The boy didn't respond--he was busy twirling his new six-shooter and pulling up his belt and holster that were sliding down from his waist. His sister rocked in the big rocking chair burping her new blond doll.

     The mother, her face pinched with anger, sat at the kitchen table stewing. She sipped on her hot coffee and then got up and added some cold water to cool it down. It's a good thing I was here and listening in on "him" she thought. She was rehearsing her story to tell her sister later that evening. He was going to hit the boy. Over my dead body, I told him, and then I stood between them and stared at him until he turned redder than usual and left--leaving the front door open intentionally, but slamming the screen door hard.

    

     The father finished his shot of rye and felt his anger dissipate. Probably if I have one more I'll really feel good, he thought. He raised his hand to catch the bartender's eye.

    

     Why was he yelling at the boy, the mother's sister asked across the kitchen table over coffee and dessert. She had come from work and was wearing a nice blue dress and and high heels. The mother had on her housecoat. The children had finished eating and were playing in the living room. He was yelling because his sister asked him where he got the cowboy hat and the boy must have pointed at his father and said, from him. I'm your father I heard him say, raising his voice to the boy. I know that, the boy said. Well then say I got it from Dad and not from him. The boy didn't understand his father yelling at him and turned to his sister and asked, why is he yelling at me? That's when their father started screaming and threatening to spank him for not saying father. My name's not him, it's Dad. I heard him throwing toys back into the box he had brought and I walked into the living room and stood between him and my son. It's a good thing you were there, her sister told her. Thank God you were there, and thank God you were listening in on the conversation. The mother nodded her agreement.

     The phone rang and the boy yelled that he would answer it. He loved answering the phone. Hello, he said. The caller said, hi, this is Dad. I'm sorry that I yelled at you. You're a good boy and I shouldn't have lost my temper, the father said in a funny kind of voice. Let me speak with your mother. Who is it the mother yelled out from the kitchen to the living room. Who's on the phone? The boy took the phone from his ear and yelled back. It's him. He wants to talk to you. The mother pushed back her chair and in four steps was in the living room taking the phone. She lifted it to speak, prepared for an argument, but there was only a dial tone. She went back to the kitchen wondering what he had up his sleeve now.



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