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 ]

All the way home I admired my bloody elbow. Three drug dealers running me over -- that was a nice touch. I knew I shouldn't have lied. I wasn't proud of it, but it hadn't hurt anybody. And the way everybody was staring at me. It was great. I decided I would treat myself to a box of King Dongs. But the instant I walked through the door I lost my appetite. My mother was standing in the kitchen. I could tell she had been crying.

"Oh, my baby," she said, rushing towards me. "I've been so worried."

"About what?" I asked.

"You. Oh let me see," she said, looking me over, stopping at my elbow. "Oh, dear," she said, sniffling; and she almost started crying again.

"It's nothing," I said.

"Nothing?" she said. "Six drug dealers run you over during a high-speed chase and you call that nothing?"

"Where did you hear that?"

"Mrs. Nipshaw just called. She said Bernie came running home from school screaming that six drug dealers with machine guns ran you over. Oh dear, what with everything you hear on the news these days, you just don't think it will happen to you."

"Mother," I said, taking hold of her shaking hands, "I didn't get run over. I tripped on a curb, that's all."

"Tripped on a curb?" she said. She stopped sniffling.

"Yeah, that's all."

"But -- why the -- I'm calling Mrs. Nipshaw right this very instant. If I were to get my hands on that Bernie, why I'd -- "

"No, mother -- don't call. I did tell Bernie something like that. It isn't his fault."

"But, why?" she said.

Because all the kids wanted a story -- a good story, not tripping over the curb."

"A story?" she said.

"Well, Dad told me not to tell any more stories about him in the war."

"Him in the war?"

"Yeah. When I told all the kids about him being a parachuter, getting shot, and about his medal, well, everybody loved it."

"His medal?"

"Yeah, his Purple Heart."

"Let me tell you something about your father: the war hero," she said, staring me down. It wasn't a good stare. "Your father wasn't in any war."

"But his uniform is in the closet."

"Oh, he was in the army all right, but he wasn't in any war. He never left Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and he certainly wasn't a paratrooper. He was a cook."

"A cook?" I said, stunned.

"Yes, and the only shots he ever saw had needles on them."

She couldn't mean it; she was just mad. "What about his medal?" I said.

"His medal?" she said. "Well, now that's the best story of all. He stuffed too many potatoes in the oven one day -- didn't even know how to bake potatoes, and the whole thing blew up in his face. Well, not actually his face, but you're too young for such details. There's your medal."

"You're lying," I screamed, but my mother just stared me down.

"Go to your room," she said, pointing, and I did.

I lay in bed with my hands on my head. How could she lie like that? I knew she didn't want me to be like him, always off on one adventure or another. She would say anything to keep that from happening. But she wasn't a liar like I was; she just loved me. Still, I couldn't get her face out of my mind, how scared I had made her and the sight of her crying. Now I knew what my dad meant about hurting someone. Now I knew, I could never be like him.

That following Saturday night, as cigar smoke filled the air, I sat listening to my dad as he wrapped up another story. He was running through the jungle with snakes falling all over him and the enemy closing in. He used one of the dead snakes to lasso a helicopter and pulled himself to safety.

"They shot me three times," said my dad, "and I was decorated by the president of the United States himself -- at the White House, no less.

"Wow," somebody said.

I sat back and closed the door. The president of the United States? The White House? Shot three times? Then I remembered. Then, I knew. Mom was right after all. He was just making it all up. He was no hero. He was just a liar.

I lay back in bed, my hands on my head. I had always wanted to be just like my dad, but not anymore. I didn't want to be a liar. I didn't want to hurt anybody, especially not my mom.

I turned over in bed, scratched my head, then realized: I was exactly who I'd always wanted to be. I was just like my dad.

* * * *

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