First line: He had enjoyed ten years of being totally irresponsible. (randomly generated line)
Last line: “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” (~Ernest Hemingway)
Exercise: Construct a character who is not present.
He had enjoyed ten years of being totally irresponsible. His visits were scattered whirlwinds of excitement and promise that always fell just short of expectations. In the decade since my dad left, I changed, my mom changed, and the world changed, but he stayed the same. Always a boyish grin and quick joke to distract from any semblance of real conversation—Heaven forbid we get too deep.
At first I believed he would come back and stay. Why wouldn’t he? He was my dad. So his first visit was hardest. It had been over six months then without warning one day there he was outside of school leaning against an old rusted brown car with sunglasses and a smile I had begun to think I imagined.
“Hey, kiddo,” he said. “Did ya miss me?”
I dropped my backpack and flung myself into his waiting arms. He was home. I was right and everyone else had been wrong. He came back. The rest of the day was a blur of sugar, games, and brightly colored lights, which ended in a stomach ache and my mom furious. I fell asleep to the sound of their muffled argument, but still I smiled because my dad was home. It was two years before I saw him again.
The next time I was a much wiser eight year old. When he breezed back into my life, I hesitated.
“Don’t you recognize your old dad?” he asked.
I stared at him. Nothing had changed except the car he drove, now it was a faded VW bug. But I was different. Hurt does that to a person, it changes them unpredictable ways, but it definitely robs them of their child eyes. I had a new dad now and was cured of my delusions about my real dad staying. But still the trickle of excitement seeped into me and I went with him once again for our day in Never-Never Land.
And so it went on as the years passed. He would always come without warning and be gone hours later. I don’t know what he did or how he survived when he wasn’t here. I didn’t even know where he lived. It could have been a mile or a thousand miles away. Every time he drove a different old car, but he was always happy and made me feel like the center of the universe even if it was just for a few hours.
Mom never said anything after the first time about his visits. She would just accept me home late with a relieved sigh and dry the inevitable teas that came later when he left again. But now she was gone and so was my stepfather. One terrible accident and now the stranger I had worshipped as a kid and tolerated as a teenager was my legal guardian.
“It will be different now,” my friend Emily said.I gave her a weak smile. “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”