|Short Story Sample
made my dad the coolest man alive was the skip in his step. I’d try to follow along as he skipped—sort of
a lilting step—when we’d head off together down the sidewalk on Parsons Drive. Sometimes we’d set out
in the other direction down West Genesee Street. No one else’s Dad had a bounce like that. And to me,
no one else had a Dad as wonderful. No matter where we went, I was happy to be by his side, to be his
One time he lifted me onto his shoulders as we headed down West Genesee Street to McArdle’s Gas
Station. Two blocks away on the corner of Maple Drive, this was the hangout for my Dad and his buddies
from high school. They had all returned from the war with wives and dreams, and this was the place to
still be boys. For me, it was outlaw territory. I kept quiet and would have stopped breathing altogether if I
could. Cars whizzed by and I held onto Dad’s hair as if riding bareback through an uncharted high desert
Inside the gaping door, where the big greasy auto lift lay idle inside the “pit”, my eyes rested on a
gigantic red soda pop machine nestled against the far wall. Like a puppy on its first day in a new house, I
would not have asked for a soda, but someone must have read my mind. Soon I was perched on top of
that machine with an orange Ne-High in my hands. The cold wet bottle was almost too large for me to
handle, and I gripped it with both hands, steadying each side with the insides of my knees. It would take a
while to finish the drink.
Dad started up the stairs with his friends, Eddie and Ray. “Stay right there,” he called over his shoulder
as he climbed the narrow wooden staircase to some mysterious room. I wouldn’t have moved if a bomb
had gone off. I savored the soda pop, and inhaled the tangy aroma of grease and oil and gasoline.
I took small sips, my eyes darting from corner to corner taking in all the greasy rags and jacks, wooden
boxes filled with wrenches and other strange tools. I gazed down into the dark pit where the empty lift lay
quietly waiting for the next car. Like me, it kept its place in silent anticipation. Wiping my hands on the
legs of my pants, I wondered where he had gone to up those stairs. It was not for me to know, and I
accepted that with all my heart.
I sat there in a soundless reverie. Every once in a while a muffled burst of laughter reminded me I had
not been abandoned. In fact, I was guarding the empty garage. There were no cars to repair, no one
pulled into the pumps out front. I listened carefully for Dad’s voice, for some kind of clue; who was up
those stairs with my dad besides Eddie and Ray. It sounded like a crowd, like a party. I’d hear a peal of
laughter, but then, silent as midnight.
There were footsteps, then Dad. They all came down the rickety wooden stairs. Dad was a different
person when he was with his buddies—friendly and happy, always smiling. Their cheerfulness filled the
empty garage and I was filled with contagious warmth of belonging.
Bouncing on his shoulders, still exhilarated from the thrill of being included in the adventure, I asked Dad
what was upstairs, what were they doing up there?
“Visiting Hank,” he said.
“Who’s Hank?” I needed to know; had forgotten about the need for model behavior.
“A friend,” he answered the question and that was the end of the conversation. And that was the last I
thought about Hank until one day, not long after our trip to McArdle’s, he showed up at our house.
Not only did he show up at our house, apparently he was going to be sleeping in the room that was going
to be the nursery when the baby came.
I don’t know if Hank spoke English. I don’t know because he never actually spoke to me. He had funny
eyes like I had never seen before. Though he stayed hidden in that room, my curiosity often got the best
of me. I couldn’t follow my mother’s orders to leave him alone. About the second day he was there, I
knocked on his door. The door opened enough to let through a sliver of light, just enough for the
strange man from the garage named Hank to offer of a piece of Double Bubble gum amid a flourish of
giggles. Then the door clicked shut.
This became our daily routine. I liked the gum mostly because of the cartoon inside the wrapper. I would
sit on the stairs, carefully opening my gum and wondering about Hank.
One morning I got out of bed, and feeling that something was up, scurried down the hall to my parent’s
room. The door was open and the bed was empty, neatly made up as though no one had been there all
night. My heart raced as I ran down the stairs and around the house. No one was home. I was alone. I
pulled open our kitchen door, crossed the mudroom and pounded on Aunt Helen’s kitchen door. My
knocks echoed the way knocks do when no one is at home. I tore back through the house, up the stairs
and down the hall and hammered on Hank’s door. I could hear him in there. His door opened, slightly. He
was beaming as always and held forth the usual bounty of gum. Taking it, I cried, where’s my Dad? He
laughed and laughed and closed the door.
I ambled down the hall; back down the stairs, clumping my feet one step at a time, I collapsed onto the
second to bottom step, gum clenched in my fist. I opened it carefully, slowly removing the waxy paper
from the pink, sugary lump so it would be perfectly whole once released. I examined each comic strip
picture over and over, waiting to hear a sound; waiting for something.
I’m not sure how much time passed, it could have been an hour and it could have been a day. But at
some point, Helen appeared; she was excited and a little breathless as she scooped me into her arms.
My mother had had a baby girl—my parents gone to the hospital to get the baby, and wouldn’t be back
for a while. I was going to spend the night at her house in the special little bed.
I left with Helen through the upstairs door leading to her part of the house. She held my hand as we
passed the door to Hank’s room that would soon be the nursery.
I never saw Hank again.