Stumbling Ahead, Chapter 2

The next day, I slept in, a little bit. It had been a long day, yesterday, and I drank a little too much. I didn’t get sick, which I was very happy about, but on my way through the house, I was reminded of something–I am a father. At least the boy thinks so, and after we thought to bring his mother’s purse to the hospital with us, and showed the clerk her I.D., I noticed that she had the same last name as I.

So, here I was with some sort of responsibility, consisting of what, exactly, I wasn’t sure. I thought to myself, “Why do I not have any memory of all this before yesterday? What happened to me?” I thought about it for a while, then decided that it didn’t really matter. I was who I was, and there was no going back. I made some coffee and had a few cups, then decided to wake Michael up and go down the road again, hoping that having Michael with me might bring some normalcy to my life. Things had just been too weird in the last 24 hours.

“Wake up, Michael,” I said to him softly, then rubbed his arm to bring his attention to me. I patted his head and said, “Wake up, little man. We have things to do and places to go.” Michael rolled over towards me, and rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?” he asked. “It’s ten o’clock,” I said quietly. “I am going to be late for school!” he said. “No, you’re not going to school today. We’re going to just relax and take it easy for a little while, okay?” At first, he looked confused, then it hit him. He remembered what happened yesterday: He did not have a mother anymore. He started to cry a little, but I didn’t want him to dwell in it, so I decided to get him moving to distract him a little.

“C’mon, get out of bed. Don’t you need to brush your teeth or something?” I said. “What about breakfast?” he asked. “Okay, I’ll make some eggs and toast. Why don’t you take a shower while I do that?” “I don’t want to take a shower,” he said. “Alright, then, go into the living room and watch T.V.,” I told him. My head hurt too much from the hangover I had to argue with him. “Okay,” he said, and he jumped out of bed and walked out of the room and down the hall.

Just then, I started to feel really weird. I thought to myself, “What am I doing? I have no idea how to do this! Maybe I should let him go to school.” “No,” I thought. “I’m going to do this my way.” I walked out to the kitchen and made some eggs and toast, like I told Michael I would do. I realized that it would probably help the hangover to eat something, too.

Sometimes, you never know what’s going to happen. Life can deal you a hand that you never dreamed of, and you just have to adjust. Should I be bitter, though? Should I run? Should I deny Michael? Maybe, I should put him up for adoption. After all, does he really need me as his father? I wondered, then, if we were close before. I wondered how attached to me he was. He seemed to trust me, although he had already challenged my authority once. “We’ll see,” I thought. “We’ll see.” I would ride things out for a little while, anyway.

I finished making breakfast and called Michael into the kitchen. He came bouncing in, smiling. “This is fun!” he said. “Can we do this every day?” I smiled, then said, “We’ll see how things go, Michael.” I thought to myself then, “I’m crazy. This is crazy.” But I said nothing more to him about it. “Let’s eat, and we’ll just see how the day goes, okay?” He smiled again, then sat down and started to eat. “Maybe things will be okay,” I thought. “Maybe.”

After we finished eating, I told Michael to get dressed. He said, “Why? I thought we were going to relax.” I looked at him, and was about to tell him to do what I told him to do, because I said so, but I thought better of it. “We’re going to do something fun,” I said. We’re going downtown.” “What’s fun about that?” he asked, with an innocent look on his face. I was beginning to see a pattern, so I decided I was going to have to make him do things my way, or this wasn’t going to work out. “You’ll see. Trust me. Get dressed. Now.” He muttered something to himself, but he went towards his room. “And brush your teeth, too!” I shouted.

After a few minutes, he came out. He was wearing a blue and red striped shirt, tie-dye shorts, and bright green tennis shoes. “Okay,” he said, smiling. “I’m ready.” I thought to myself that this was not going to be easy, but then, I realized, it’s really no big deal. “Who cares,” I thought. “He’s just a kid.” I smiled at him and said, “I guess your mom usually picks out your clothes.” Immediately, I realized my mistake. He frowned, then began to whimper a little. Eager to set things right again, I said, “That’s okay. You look fine. We’ll just have to figure things out as we go, right?” He was still frowning, but he nodded his head in agreement.

“Okay, c’mon, let’s go,” I said, and I started to walk towards the door. I looked back to make sure he was following behind me, before I reached out for the doorknob. He was looking down, and sort of shuffling his feet, but he was coming. I opened the door and we walked outside. I fiddled with the keys I had for a minute or two, trying to figure out which key was the correct one. I had had to do the same thing last night in the dark, when we came back from the hospital, so this was a little easier, but not much. I finally found the right key, and locked the door.

I suddenly had a flashback of yesterday, and got a little nervous. I looked at Michael, who was halfway down the walkway from the door, still shuffling his feet a little, and kicking small pebbles into the grass. “Okay,” I thought. “Today is a new day. Maybe things will get better.” I didn’t believe it, though, and said a little prayer to whomever might be listening in heaven. “It’s got to be,” I thought. “Things can’t get any worse.”

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Stumbling Ahead, Chapter 1 (Part 2)

I asked the boy if we had a car. He told me we did, and he showed me where it was. I asked him where the keys were. He suggested I check my pockets. Sure enough, they were there. There was also a wallet with money in it, and a driver’s license that said, “Steve Henderson”. I assumed then that that was my name, and resolved to do my best to remember it. Perhaps, for starters, I’d try to remember that there was a wallet in my pocket.

We both got in the car, but then I realized I did not know where the hospital was. Feeling lucky for the moment, I checked my other pocket and found a phone. I had to go back inside the house to look up the phone number. I called for directions, then got back in the car and started off.

We went to the hospital, and entered the emergency room. We asked about the boy’s mother and were shown to a private room. We waited for a few minutes, then the doctor came in and told us that the woman had been declared dead on arrival. We were both very sad to hear that, especially the boy. I thanked the doctor, and he left the room. The boy had been crying for a while by then, and I reached out to give him another hug. He was glad of that and latched onto me right away.

I realized then that I still did not know his name, so I asked him. “Michael,” he whispered, still crying a little. I said to him, “Michael, let’s go for a ride, okay?” I took his hand and we walked back to the car. When I started the engine, I happened to notice that the gas gauge was almost on empty, so, I decided to look for a gas station before we got too far.

We stopped to get gas shortly after leaving the hospital. I seemed to have plenty of money in my wallet, so I used some of it to pay. I got back in the car and we drove off. Michael asked me if I was going to go to work today. I thought about it for a second, then told him, “I’m on vacation.” That seemed to satisfy him for the moment, so he stayed quiet for a little while, albeit a little bit of crying under his breath.

We drove for a while in silence. I couldn’t remember anything about the city we were in, so I just stayed on the road the hospital was on. It took us all the way through the city and out into a less populated area. I finally asked Michael how he was feeling, and he said, “Okay, I guess.” I realized that I was getting hungry, so I asked him, “Would you like to get something to eat?” “Yes, please,” he said. So, we stopped at a diner on the outskirts of the city. I was glad that I thought of it before we got too far away, as it didn’t look like there was much past that point on the road.

We went in and got something to eat, and while we sat there, I decided to ask Michael if we had any other family nearby. He said we didn’t, which I was sort of glad about, since that meant I had less people to deal with. We finished our meal and got back in the car. I asked Michael if he would like to go home, and he said he did. With Michael’s assistance, I found my way back to our house. I was happy to be somewhere that I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions, and Michael seemed almost content as well.

I turned on the television, and we both sat on the couch. I gave Michael the remote control, as I had no idea how to operate it, nor did I remember anything about the stations. He put it on a music video channel, and left it there. We sat there for a while. Eventually, I thought to look at the clock. It was about nine o’clock at night, so I asked Michael what time he usually went to bed. He said he could stay up as long as he wanted. I wasn’t sure if this was the truth, or if he was playing on my bad memory, but I decided that he had been through a lot, so I’d let him do whatever he wanted.

Around eleven o’clock, I noticed that Michael had fallen asleep. He looked like he didn’t weigh much, so I put one of my arms under his legs, and one arm under his back, and lifted him up. I carried him to the nearest bedroom, and it had all the toys and things that little boys like, and the sheets had Superman symbols on them, so I concluded that it must be his room. I laid him on the bed, then pulled his shoes off. He woke up a little, so I checked a few drawers in the dresser and found some pajamas. I helped him put them on, then pulled back the covers. “Get into to bed,” I told him, and I pulled the covers over him.

I decided to go into the kitchen and check the refrigerator, as I was a little thirsty. There was some soda, a jug of milk, some bottled waters, and a case of beer. I decided to have a beer. I sat down on the couch in the living room, and drank the beer. When I finished that one, I went back and got another one, then another. I realized then, that I must be used to drinking a lot of beer, as it didn’t seem to have a strong effect on me, at least that I could tell.

I woke up around four o’clock in the morning, realizing that I had fallen asleep on the couch. I got up and decided to look for my bedroom. I went into the third room, as the second was apparently an office. I noticed on the dresser a picture of me, Michael, and the woman that had died, Michael’s late mother, and, apparently, my late wife. I did not feel sad, as I had no memory of her in any way, except as dead, when I had found her the day before. I got into bed and went to sleep. I had no idea what I was going to do in the morning, but I decided I’d figure that out then.