The Late Night Visitor

novel

It was that evening when he first developed an affinity for guns—an unexpected knock at the door interrupted his usual microwave dinner of Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes. Action scenes from the television cast a luminescent glow into the living room as he played with his rubber wrestling men on the shag carpet. His mother was in bed reading another 400-page novel, which would steal her full attention from anything going on in the real world. But he didn’t mind because it was guy time with his dad, and scenes of Vietnam bloodshed and men practicing Karate didn’t really hold his mother’s attention too well.

After hearing the knock, his father looked to him with a silent glare that meant, Stay right there, and don’t move. He then rushed to the back room and came out loading bullets into his rifle. The heavy rifle reminded him of something from a scene right out of the wood covered television box.

His father looked to him again before opening the door and said, “Simon, keep your eyes open, okay?”

Simon nodded faithfully.

The door opened, and a shadowed figure of a man stood backlit in the yellow porch light that attracted fluttering moths.

Feeling alarmed Simon waited as he tried to decide whether to go and get his mother. He looked to the heroic men on the television screen and decided against it. Instead, he paced back and forth making tracks in the still freshly vacuumed carpet until he hurried to the kitchen area to pull a barstool over to the front window. He climbed up on it, so he would be able to see through the mini-blinds. He wondered if he would be seen if he peaked through. What if his father needed some backup against this late night visitor?

Simon heard murmuring of a conversation over the television box and took a quick peek to find his father looking disturbed and deep in thought as he listened to the stranger. Simon tried to get a clear look at him, but his father’s head seemed to block the stranger’s face every time he turned. He did notice that his father’s rifle was no longer in his hands but slung across his shoulder in a safe position.

Observing a few more movements, Simon could tell that the man was a few years younger than his father. When his father caught Simon’s eyes through the thin blinds, he shook his head in disapproval, so Simon hopped off the stool and went back to his wrestling toys with a few bites of his mashed potatoes, and he washed them down with a drink of watered down sweet iced tea.

After a long time had passed in the opinion of a six year old, Simon’s father finally came back into the house. He seemed tired and worn, but when he saw his son waiting for him, he sat down on the couch near Simon and leaned forward to say, “Son, always know that I love you. No matter what, or when, remember that your father loves you.”

Simon barely heard his father’s sincerity; his eyes were more focused on the rifle. Simon studied the scope that reflected light from the television set in its glass. His father put away the rifle, and they enjoyed the remainder of the action movie together before going to bed.

***

Almost 30 years later, Simon sat in front of his flat screen television that hung on the wall. In one hand was a remote control and in the other was his cell phone dimming into power saving mode with a text message still on the screen: I know you still have feelings for me, but you really need to understand that we’ll never be together again. Please don’t text me anymore. Goodbye, Simon.

He heard a noise hitting against the window. He knew it was probably branches being pushed by the wind, but he still picked up his pistol lying next to him on the couch to go investigate the noise. He took precautions such as these because he lived alone. Very alone.

Simon looked through thick, white, wooden blinds seeing that the sun was setting. This inspired him enough to tuck his gun into the back of his pants and step out into the windy evening.

The wind took control of this hair and clothes, blowing them wildly as he looked towards the remnant of the sun—a sky of vivid colors slowly fading to black. He remembered the text message again with a wince, which he had forgotten for a few seconds.

He wanted to talk to someone. He needed to talk to someone. And not just social jabber, but real talking. His friends were too caught up in their young families, which was expected during this stage of life. He knew is mother was too worn from the lackluster workday to start discussing anything deep, and his father… well, his father had become sick many years ago and was no longer with them.

It hit him; he knew what he had to do.

He walked over to his truck, pulled himself into it, reversed out of his driveway, and drove. He hadn’t been to his childhood home since he was 12, but he felt that just driving by and seeing it again for even a moment would give him some sort of understanding or direction or, at this point, anything at all.

Night fell as he drove, and the mighty wind caused his truck to swerve from time to time. The drive was a half hour out of town, and his reminiscing grew. He became possessed with strong emotions knowing he would soon see his old home again.

Simon put on his hoodie as some of the outside chill was making its way into his truck. The warmth of his hoodie reminded him of when his father would tuck him into bed and tell him stories. One of his father’s favorites to tell was of a time traveler who would have many different adventures traveling through the ages.

Once Simon asked his father if time travel was really possible. He replied, “Oh, it is very much possible. Everyone has their own personal time machine. It exists here and here,” he motioned to his head and heart.

Simon felt if there ever was a time that his mind and heart wanted to go back to a better time, it was now. And as he drove on, the wind pushed his truck into the other lane as dust storms temporarily blinded his view. But he kept driving, determined to go back. No wind, no dust storm would keep him from going back now. He desperately wanted it even more than life.

***

As he pulled up on the dirt road in front of his childhood home, the dust settled to a peaceful stillness. He was surprised that after all these years the dirt road had never been paved. He noticed that the old house had been kept up quite well—maybe a little too well.

And there, next to the family car was his father’s old truck. Simon didn’t understand what was happening, so he got out of his own truck and began to walk towards the house. His eyes focused on the door that would open up a world that had faded somewhere within his wistful memories.

Simon entered into the yellow porch light, waving a few moths out of his face, and knocked. There was movement behind the door and a long moment until he saw him—his father, Dad. He was free of wrinkles and thinner. He held that same rifle that he had once so admired, but this time, it was his father that he admired.

“Dad…”

His father softened when he looked into Simon’s eyes, “Son?”

“It’s me, Dad,” his breath was dry.

“You really did it. You really did it, Son!”

“I remembered the stories you told me. And I did it.”

His father froze for a moment. “But you weren’t supposed to come back. Even if you can. Is the future that bad?”

“Dad, you’re not there anymore. You—”

“No, Son! I shouldn’t know the future. I don’t want to know it.”

“But Dad—”

“Not even if it’s bad.”

There was a moment of painful thought, until his father carried on, “You married, Son? You got a girl?”

“Not anymore.”

“Any kids?”

“No.”

“You taking care of your mother?” He seemed nervous asking this question.

“The best I can, Dad.”

His father paused pondering the surreal situation.

“Did you come back to see me?”

“I couldn’t think of a better time in life than now, here.”

Simon saw his father shake his head towards the window, and then two little eyes disappeared behind some mini-blinds.

Simon said, “I remember this. I’m in there waiting for you. Mom is in the bedroom reading. But I never go in to see me; I just leave.”

“Son, I can’t let you in. There’s only room in the past for one of you and that’s not you; it’s him. You already had your time, and now you’re wasting your time being here. You need to go back and live. You must do the best with what you have even if it’s not what you would have chosen. I taught you that when you were little. I’m teaching him that now,” he nodded towards the house. “Sometimes in life we must be reminded of things we’ve forgotten more than learning new things.”

His father’s warming words were even more comforting than he remembered. Simon continued to listen with wet eyes.

His father continued, “You remember what I’m going to tell you when I get back in there?”

“Yes, Dad. I never forgot.”

“Then give me a hug and say goodbye. I think that’s why you’re really here.”

His father embraced his grown boy, and in the silence of that moment, Simon could hear the low noises of the television set that lit the room on the other side of the wall.

The next moment, Simon was walking back to his truck. He got in and turned the key, and when he looked back up, he saw the ruins of a foundation that once held up his childhood home, and his truck was parked on a paved road that was lined with new, little homes a few blocks down the street.

“Love you too, Dad,” he whispered as he began to drive back home, now ready to live.

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