Renaissance Online Magazine Fiction

MAY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 5

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PHILIP LOYD, a native of South Louisiana, is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. He counts Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald among his influences. Loyd lives in Texas, where he is working on his novel The Dreamer.


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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
[ 1, 2, 3 ]

The next morning, while my mother was frying up some eggs and bacon, I sneaked into my parents' bedroom. Nothing less than an atom bomb exploding could wake up my dad, but I hurried anyway. The smell of bacon had me worried.

Going through his closet, I found his uniform. It stood tall, just like my dad. But there was no medal. I searched his dresser from the bottom up, and when I reached the top drawer -- on my tiptoes -- I felt a box between his socks. I pulled it down, opened it up, and there it was: a big, black and gold heart-shaped medal with a purple ribbon. My dad turned over and I heard him moan. I smelled the air, but it wasn't the bacon that was waking him up; it was the coffee. I got the hell out of there.

That show-and-tell was the greatest ever. Freddy never said a word. Bernie Nipshaw must have thought I should be moved up to the third grade. Proff Giambruno hardly ever smiled, but now I could see his grimy teeth.

I showed the medal and began telling my story again, only this time I shot my dad three times and had the president of the United States himself give him the medal at the White House in front of everybody he had rescued. And there was a marching band.

I just couldn't stop myself. Open mouths were everywhere, and the longer I went on the more of Proff Giambruno's yellow teeth I could see. Finally, I felt his hand on my shoulder and it was just like waking up from a dream.

"Thank you very much, T.J.," said Proff Giambruno. That's my name, Terrance Jr. "You may sit down now."

As I walked all the way down the row I could feel everybody's eyes following me, everybody's except Freddy's. I left the medal on my desk so as he could sneak a good long peek at it.

"Class," said Proff Giambruno, "I hope you were all listening attentively to what T. J. had to say. War is a very important part of our history. Many people have died in wars. I should know; I've been there." Then he went on about something, but I wasn't listening. I knew none of the other kids were either. They were thinking about me.

I put my dad's medal back between his socks as soon as I got home. The perfect crime, I thought. I couldn't have been more wrong.

After dinner, I heard the phone ring. Our phone hardly ever rang.

I heard my dad and mother talking, but couldn't make out what they were saying through my cracked-open door.

My dad came into my room without so much as knocking. "I'm very disappointed in you, son," he said, pacing the floor. "How many times have I told you never to touch anything of mine?" I knew he didn't expect an answer. "That was your teacher on the phone, Professor Giambruno. He said you brought my Purple Heart to school. You're lucky nothing happened to it. What on earth would posses you to do something like that?"

"Uh," I began, my head down, "I just wanted to brag about you."

"I can understand that, son," he said, "but you simply cannot take things that don't belong to you."

"I know, but Freddy's dad is a cop and he's always telling all the kids how great he is. One time he brought his badge. I just wanted everybody to know how great you are."

"You just wanted to show him up," said my dad.

"Yes, sir; but that wasn't the only reason. I mean, when I was telling the story everybody was looking at me, listening to me. I just couldn't stop."

"But me rescuing POWs?"

"I just couldn't stop."

"And capturing the enemy general?"

"Are you super mad at me?" I asked, now looking up at him.

"No, son; I'm just concerned. You have to be careful what you say. Sometimes when you lie you can hurt someone, even if you don't mean to."

"I'm sorry."

"Just promise me you won't make up stories about me anymore."

"Yes, sir."

"Affirmative?" he said.

"Affirmative," I said.

He mussed my hair and patted me on the back. Then, half way out the door, he turned around. "Oh yes, Professor Giambruno said that the president of the United States decorated me himself -- at the White House, no less."

"Yes, sir," I said, my head now down.

"And that I was shot three times."

"Yes, sir."

"I'll remember that," he said, and he closed the door. Maybe he wasn't mad at me, but at the very least I know he was ashamed.

What would I do, I thought as I made the long walk to school the next day? I knew my dad was right. I shouldn't make up stories about him like that. I didn't want to be a liar. But without my stories I was a nobody. All the kids would be waiting for me; but when I didn't have anything for them it would be time for Freddy's sirens and flashing lights again. I was so afraid of facing everybody that I didn't even look before crossing the street.

Suddenly there was a ringing. I stepped back, tripping over the curb and falling onto the pavement. When I got back up my elbow was scraped, and bleeding. It really stung. I saw a bicycle going slowly away and that the rider was an old man. His fishing hat had fallen in the street, not that he'd noticed.

I pulled my sleeve down over my elbow so nobody would see and began walking to school again. On top of everything, my elbow?

When the bell rang for recess, I was the last one out. Freddy was clear across the playground. Everybody else was waiting for me.

"Well," said Bernie, eyes wide open, "what's next?"

"Nothing," I said.

"Nothing?" said Bernie.

"Nothing," I said.

I could see everybody turning towards Freddy, who had stood up and was walking towards me. I couldn't. I shouldn't!

"I don't know any more about my dad," I shouted, "but I sure can tell you what happened to me on my way to school."

"What?" asked Bernie, and everybody turned back towards me. I had only promised my dad not to make up stories about him.

"Uh, I was crossing the street and almost got run over by a car."

"So what?" shouted Freddy. "Harold's been run over twice." Harold Fenton smiled, several of his teeth missing. "What's so great about almost getting run over?"

"What's so great about it?" I came back. "Maybe just that the guys in the car were drug dealers.

"Drug dealers?" said Bernie, gawping.

"Yeah, three of them in a big, black car -- with guns. They tried to run me over but I jumped out of the way just in the nick of time."

"How do we know you're not lying?" grilled Freddy.

It was then that I knew what to do. I rolled up my sleeve and showed everybody my elbow, blood and all.

"Wow!" said Bernie. Freddy never grilled me again.

"Then what happened?" asked Bernie, and I could see that all the kids had their mouths wide open. I just couldn't stop myself.

[ CONTINUED: And Sometimes...the Truth Hurts ]

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