A short story

Tommy Paley
Feb 14, 2018 · 7 min read
“A man in a shirt writing on printed sheets of paper” by Helloquence on Unsplash

February 11th, 2018

Hey Dad,

It’s me, George, your disappointment of a son.

I thought about opening with a simple and far less guilt-provoking line, but where’s the fun in that? Seriously, I really want to know.

I’m sure you are surprised right now, probably standing in the front entry way in your bath robe and ridiculous bunny slippers (I have a big problem with slippers that look like bunnies — it just sends the wrong message).

I know it was somewhat irresponsible and unfair for me to not contact you sooner, but I was angry, and you don’t want to hear from me when I’m angry (grammar and syntax are the first to go out the window followed closely by leftover ham — don’t ask).

I just needed time and space to think and even when I found the space and used the time, I still needed more and more and more. I’m like a time and space junkie.

I decided to travel. I needed to get away from it all. I booked my ticket and flew on up out of here. There were more steps involved, but they aren’t important right now. I realize it is somewhat cliché, and hard for you to grasp, but I am on a quest to find myself. It’s like one huge game of metaphysical lost and found, my favourite kind, which is why I had so few friends to play with as a kid.

Shouldn’t I be done finding already, you are probably wondering? No, dad, I shouldn’t. I’m actually quite complex. It’s not like there’s a map. I also have a life too — you can stop feigning surprise at that — I can’t spend all day on getting in touch with who I am and where I want to go in life. Three hours max and then I need a break and a warm bath.

But, yes, I travelled and I am sitting in an outdoor café in Paris right now. That’s right, dad, France! This is something you never thought I’d do! Something you never imagined your little George could ever do on his own. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! That’s an expression, if you weren’t sure. I’m not suggesting you rip up that portion of the letter, place it into your pipe and inhale the fumes or at least not until after you have read the letter and then it’s totally up to you.

Don’t worry — I’m safe and I’m happy. I’m working part time a local grocery store and I’ve made some friends. You’d like them — they spend all day and night discussing philosophy while almost literally injecting caffeine into their bloodstreams. On second thought, you’d hate them.

Why did I leave so abruptly? Well, I just felt the need to grow up and become my own man. To escape from the large shadow you cast and to enjoy some more direct sunlight at the same time. Staying at home would have been so easy, but if I had stayed where I was and followed the path you had carefully constructed for me, I would never have learned the necessary constructing skills needed to build my own path, which is essential in this modern world in which we live.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about our last conversation. It helped that I recorded it. I appreciated that you opened with a light-hearted joke before getting down to how I was wasting my life and that I’d never amount to anything at all in any way if I didn’t do something about it immediately. You sort of caught me off guard, although, in hindsight, it could have been the bout of vertigo I was struggling with.

You so badly wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer so that you could parade me around town as your success of a son, but that was never what I wanted. I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t hear me. For some time I was actually worried about your hearing, and then I realized you just didn’t want to hear those words coming out of my mouth. Your son was going to become someone of importance and that was that.

When the doctor or lawyer ships sailed — and I was so glad to realize that they don’t actually use boats — you settled on wanting me to follow in your footsteps, but thankfully you came to your senses and realized how unnecessarily hard that is to do even when you walked slowly.

I’ve wanted to tell you for so long now how I feel. I also sort of want to draw you a picture, but we both know how bad I am at drawing and how poor you are at interpreting those drawings. Dad, I want to tell you that I am sorry I’ve been such a disappointment to you. To be clear, I am sorry about disappointing you, but not sorry about what I’ve chosen to do with myself. I feel strongly that I am doing what I was meant to do. And what is that, you are wondering? I’ll be honest, I don’t have all the answers.

I am living life one day at a time as there is just no way to do otherwise. I am waking up each morning and putting my pants on one leg-at-a-time except for those days when I decide to try to jump or slide into my pants. I am also putting on a brave face whenever I leave the house which, to spare you the graphic details, is harder than it sounds. I am putting two and two together and it keeps yielding four. And I never look a gift horse in the mouth even when their owners insisted.

France is amazing, in case you were wondering! The people, the culture, the wine, the cheese and the spirit; I love it all. From the moment I first placed my foot upon the ground I’ve been head over heels in love. And as great as that first step was I didn’t stop there as that would have kept me standing one step outside the airport, and while it was pretty nice there, I wanted to see more, so I took a second step, which did not disappoint, nor did the third and in my excitement I then tripped as I was boldly taking a fourth step. Should I have quit while I was ahead? Perhaps, but, as you know, I’ve never let a little trip and subsequent visit to the emergency room stop me from taking steps.

I’ll be honest, my job isn’t incredible. The pay is as insulting as the work is illegal. My coworkers spend all day either laughing behind my back or just laughing at me depending on which way I am facing at the moment they start laughing. And my boss never stops yelling at me and, it may just be me, it’s as if we speak entirely different languages, which we do, but that’s beside the point.

You probably don’t understand. You are probably assuming that I have lost my mind or bumped my head. You must be so frustrated that your only son isn’t curing cancer or trading stocks or asking a judge for a short recess. You must be imagining my life at the moment and wondering if I really am your son or if mom enjoyed a little something on the side. Your blood is almost boiling; your receding hairline is fighting the urge to completely abandon your head once and for all; and your freckles have decided to join together for warmth, comfort and protection.

So, why am I writing? (Good question) To ask for your forgiveness? (I think) To let you know that I’m alive? (I am) To make sure my wireless printer is still working? (Is it?) I guess am writing because no matter how frustrating and intrusive and clean-shaven you are dad, you will always be my dad. Yes, I could declare myself an orphan, as you are always reminding me, but at the age of 23 that just seems like a waste of my time and money. And I know deep down inside that as disappointed as I know you are and as convoluted as it sometimes appears, you care about me. Sort of like how a father lion cares for a baby lion, only with a whole lot less licking and cleaning of my mane.

I know that as far apart as we are philosophically or geographically or on a cribbage board that we will always be close. There is a certain comfort in knowing that however much I screw up or burn bridges (figuratively) or burn bridges (literally), you will always be there for me or here for me if you were to hijack a plane on short notice (hint hint). And I know that as much as I’ve disappointed and frustrated you, you will be the first to jump up and down and give me a big hug when I eventually succeed. You just want the best for me and aggressively aren’t willing to settle on anything less.

So dad, I am doing well and I’m happy. And I’m young, as you were once, and I am figuring things out. Don’t worry, I’ve got this.

I’ll be in touch again soon.


The Bigger Picture

Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Submit your writing to biggerpicturemedium@gmail.com.

Tommy Paley

Written by

I write creative non-fiction, humorous and random short stories, unique and tasty recipes and fiction involving odd and funny relationships. I also love cheese.

The Bigger Picture

Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Submit your writing to biggerpicturemedium@gmail.com.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade