Sunday, 3 March 2013

307: Father to Son

“Dear Son
I start this letter like this because I don’t know your name and don’t expect I ever will.  Your mother wants me out of her life and that will mean out of yours too.  We’ve been rocky since the off but when she found out you were going to be a boy, she decided she didn’t ever want to risk a chance you’d turn out like me.  I begged her to change her mind but all she agreed to was a letter she would give you when you turn 21.  So here’s hoping she keeps her word.

I’m not going to give you the same talk my father gave me.  “Don’t be like me, kid” made me want to be just that.  So I set out to become my old man and I was pretty good at it.  I learnt the best places to turn over, who to avoid and who to pay for protection and a cut of the action.  I learnt to lie and cheat.  I learnt to fight.  I learnt to kill.  I never did kill anyone but I know how.

When you read this I might have killed, who knows.  Your mother was the best chance I had of getting onto a better path in life.  She was so good and I wanted to be a better man for her.  I just wish I’d been strong enough to be one, not just to want it.  She always gave me just one more chance and I always used it up.  Until the last time.  She had no chances left for me, as I thought I might make it next time.

She’s the only thing I did kill.  Not her, I’d kill myself first.  But I killed her spirit and her trust and her light.  I thought there was always time to sort myself out.  Son, there’s not always time.  I might be dead when you turn 21 or maybe I’ll be doing time.  I think you’ll be doing OK though, because you have her influence in your life.  I don’t need to say don’t be like me because she will steer you right.

Maybe one day you’ll look for me, son.  I hope I don’t disappoint you.



Billy read the letter through twice, folded it scoring along the fold with a nail and slipped it back into the envelope.  Looked at the mother who sat opposite, hands folded neatly in her lap, tension barely concealed in her forearms, Billy asked “Why did you change your mind?”

She answered in a quiet voice.  “He turned up soon after you were born, with a job, a car and six months of staying out of trouble.  He offered to move us all to another town or whatever I wanted if I didn’t believe he could stick at it here.”  Then she smiled.  “I realized giving him chances let him fail but when he made his own choices, he could succeed.  And I knew he’d do anything to protect you and every little girl needs a Daddy like that.”

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