Tripping With Dad – Part Two

family story

Short Story

 

I scanned the Pay-Per-View channel for something science fiction, but there was nothing. I didn’t recognize many of the films, so I chose based on actor and genre. I remembered that when I was a little girl, Dad used to play the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack around the house and occasionally he would point his finger in the air, thrust his pelvis at Mom and shout ‘Just like John Travolta, huh?’ Then they would laugh and fall into each other’s arms.

I poked Dad in the shoulder ‘This one’s got John Travolta in it!’

‘You’re kidding! I thought his career was dead! Wahddya know?’

My chest swelled at the thought of choosing something really good, something so good that it would change my dad’s ideas about movies forever. ‘I’ve chosen the movie, Dad.’

‘OK. I just ordered us some burgers. What’s this movie called, then?’

The smile on my face had started to ache, ‘Pulp Fiction.’

Once our overcooked burgers arrived we started the film and I almost instantly regretted my choice. Pulp Fiction is not the sort of film a fifteen-year-old girl should watch with her father. To make matters worse, a thunderstorm had passed overhead, which caused the film to fade in and out and freeze. When the screen went blank from time to time I swear you could hear our cells dividing. Our eyes stayed focused on the screen, every muscle in my body was rigid. We had both stopped eating once Samuel L. Jackson painted the wall with some frat boys’ brains. We never saw how that movie ended. After a particularly loud clap of thunder the movie froze just as a man with a ball-gag began to be anally raped. That image stayed on our screen for a good three minutes before either of us mustered up the courage to turn the TV off.

‘Well then…goodnight.’ Dad cleared his throat, scratched his beard and turned off the light by his bedside table.

‘Goodnight, Dad.’ I muttered as I pulled the covers over my head and made a cocoon of my shame. Just before I fell asleep, I made a silent vow that tomorrow, things would be better.

 

Once my hair was in a presentable enough ponytail and I had suppressed my residual embarrassment about the previous night’s viewing, I exited the bathroom. The hotel lobby was packed. Sequins and glitter moved across the floor in human form. Velvet-covered scrunchies bobbed up and down on a sea of pink and purple lycra. I skillfully manoeuvred past screeching children and their bellowing stage-moms, through piles of Pointe shoes and over towers of top hats to the front of the foyer, where I found Dad at the oasis of the ashtray. He was trying desperately to blend in with the wall and nearly succeeded.

‘Dad!’ I shouted and waived unnecessarily at him. ‘Sorry about before.’ I pointed at my head and shrugged. ‘Crisis. You know how it is.’ He shrugged back at me with arched eyebrows. He clearly didn’t know how it was. I scanned the room quickly; desperate to find one other father for him to talk to once I had to go backstage. My suspicions were confirmed. There were none. Even though Dad was great at playing it cool, I’m sure he felt like a blind man in a circus in that kind of environment: rife with overfed women and their overconfident offspring, the volume of the throbbing techno music turned up to eleven with the shrieks of prepubescent girls turned up to twelve and, of course, the elephant in the room that was my missing mother.

‘Not a problem, as long as I can smoke.’ He extended his pack of cigarettes and produced a lighter as I extracted one. I gratefully accepted the light and closed my eyes at the ecstasy of the smoke filling my lungs. Dad knew I smoked. In fact, it was pretty much the only thing we did together. If it wasn’t for smoking, we’d have nothing in common. A part of me thinks I started smoking for that very reason.

As I stood there in my blue spandex lyrical dress, pulling drags off my cigarette, I was aware that people were watching us, but I didn’t pay attention to them. Dad and I often got sideways glances from the public. Whether out at a restaurant or sitting at a traffic light we got those looks. My throat tightened suddenly. It was us against the world when I saw us through the eyes of strangers, and in that moment I squeezed his arm.

 

previous: Tripping With Dad – Part One

more by LEE ANNE HILL

photograph by Marcus Spiske

 

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