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Image by Chris Briggs
A Father-Son tale with a difference

I’m a carpenter—a framer to be exact. My son Nick is, too. He nabbed a cushy union job—hanging drywall in an office-space in Hartford. Seven-to-three. Coffee break at nine. I hear his snores when I brush my teeth in the morning. He’s twenty-five now. I was a father at his age. I told him he had one month to find a place and leave.

I’m framing a dormer on this mansion near Boston. It has a long, curved profile—like an eyebrow. When I arrive in the morning, it peers out through the trees. I think of Nick while I finish my spliff and grab my tool belt from the truck.

Up on the roof, my framing gun misfires and shoots a nail through my palm. I glance down, my vision splotched white with pain. Two inches of galvanized metal poke through the back of my hand. Drops of blood fall and pool on the plywood floor below. The pain breaks, and I yell and bite my lip. Then, I hold the wound up to the light.

The nail and my hand make a perfect ninety-degree angle—the metal head sunk into my palm, barely recessed beneath the skin. I swear again, but I can’t lie—I love the sight of a perfect shot. On the highway home, I take the steering wheel between my knees and light my smoke with my good hand.

When I get back Nick is hosing his motorcycle down in the driveway with my power- washer. The compressor groans and coughs yellow smoke into the morning air. My wood pile is neatly stacked at the end of the driveway—soaked in the autumn sun.

Nick drapes a towel over the handlebar and turns to me, cigarette clenched between his teeth. The metal nail gleams in the morning light. He points the nozzle and pulls the trigger. The force from the spray bends the nail back beneath my skin. When I come to, the asphalt feels hot, and I’m staring up at the sun. I drive to the court-house and file the eviction papers before I check myself into the ER.  

When I come to after surgery, I see the cruel eye of the dormer imposed on the hospital’s white wall. The rough opening for the window has a pink tongue and it laughs and speaks.

What have you done to your son?

When I arrive home, there’s a wet puddle in the driveway, where Nick’s bike used to be. It’s still October, and the snow falls lightly. I gather kindling from the shed and start a fire in the stove. I bring three logs in from the wet pile. While the fire smokes, I peel the bloody bandage off my hand. The surgeon operated from the back, so the wound on my palm is just a tiny speck. I trace a finger over it and feel the small bump of scabbed flesh. The fire dies as the wet wood hisses in the night.

Image by Thomas Franke

Pete Prokesch is a writer and lives in Watertown, Massachusetts. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Four Way Review, Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, BlazeVOX Journal, The Westchester Review, White Wall Review, and The Bookends Review, and he is a reader for Epiphany. He also works in education and designs green-building construction courses.

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