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A Father's Luck
Ironage Media writing prompt.
A Father's Luck
“Son, how has school been lately?” his dad asked.
“Fine,” he replied.
The ride had already been silent for thirty minutes, and the boy’s father was desperate to have some sort of conversation with his son. Being divorced was new to the father and something he knew he would have to get used to, but his son being seemingly unhappy was not something he was content with. It’s hard not to blame oneself in this type of situation. He was determined to change that.
They had been driving for an hour and a half now. They were far from any major roads and hadn’t seen another vehicle in about twenty minutes. Not a building for miles, only a wide view of trees and hill tops. The father was captivated by the view. Dad looked at his son, hoping to see the same reaction, but the son couldn’t care less. His eyes were glued to his phone, playing Tetris.
“Hey, that’s a fun game, isn’t it?” the father asked.
The son rolled his eyes. “I can’t play my normal games out here because there is no signal.”
Dad looked at his phone, mounted in one of the AC vents to his SUV. He noticed that his phone didn’t have signal either, but his app for his GPS was still showing where he was. He only had one turn left until they would reach their destination.
He slowed the vehicle as they approached the turn. The SUV shook violently as they went off the pavement and onto a dirt road. The father stopped the car to assess the road. He had never been on such a damaged road before. There didn’t seem to be any tracks from other vehicles. Plenty of long blades of grass had encroached into the path, and trails of ravines crossed over the road. He continued down the road very slowly with a wheel or two constantly loosing traction.
The vehicle stopped with a view of a large river. There were plenty of cleared areas to set up camp. Dad got out and took in the view. Vibrant green trees and not another person around. Sounds of animals scurrying around were clear with the only other sounds to counter them being the river and the car’s engine idling. The father looked back into the car, and his son hadn’t looked away from his phone.
Dad went to get the tent equipment out of the back of his vehicle. He laid it all out and messed with the pieces, trying to figure out which piece went where. The sun was already setting behind the mountain. Trying to prop up the pieces of the tent was difficult with only two hands. He looked back at his son who hadn’t left the SUV yet. “Hey, son, do you want to help?”
The son rolled the window down. “I’d rather sit here. I didn’t want to come out here in the first place. I wanted to hang out with my friends.” He rolled the window back up.
“Fair enough,” the father said to himself. “Last time I listen to a stupid podcast again suggesting to take your boy out for a nature tour. ‘He’ll love it,’ they said. ‘You’ll really bond together,’ they said.”
He managed to get the tent up. It looked like a small gust might knock it down, but it was technically up. All he had to do now was drive the stakes into the ground. Rain started to trickle down. “Just my luck,” Dad whispered.
He walked over to the car and opened the driver’s door. “Alright, son, I need to you to hold a light for me out there.” Dad turned the vehicle off and took the keys out of the ignition.
“I can just shine a light from here,” he replied.
The father took a flashlight from his pocket and handed it over to his son. “Let’s go, Sean, before it’s too late,” he ordered.
The son reluctantly took the flashlight and hopped out of the car. He stood in front of the tent and shined the light in front of his dad. He quickly hammered the stakes in as the rain began to pick up. The two quickly rushed into the tent after they threw in some foam mattresses and sleeping bags. They managed to get in while just a tad damp.
Father turned a battery powered lamp on after zipping the tent closed. “What do we do now?” asked the son.
Dad tilted his head to think. “Ah, well, we already had dinner. Hmm, well, we can sleep for now, and the rain should be gone by the morning. We’ll go for a nice hike once we wake up.”
Disappointment trickled through the son’s eyes. I just want him to have some fun here, the dad thought. He turned the lamp off, and the two went to sleep.
The father woke up suddenly when he heard his son opening the tent. The flashlight the son was holding blared into his eyes. “What are you doing?” the father asked.
“Just getting my backpack from the car,” he replied. His dad raised a thumbs up and rested his head back down. The rain was pouring even harder than when they had initially gone to bed. The dad heard the car door close and prepared for his son to shine the light into his face as he opened the tent door. He unshielded his face as he wondered what was taking his son so long.
“Sean!” he yelled out.
“Dad, a deer!” Sean yelled back. The father panicked as he heard his son’s footsteps running away from the tent and towards the river.
“Sean, get back here!” he yelled. No reply came back, and now he couldn’t hear his son anymore over the downpour. The dad got up and searched for a light, but realized his son took the only one. He charged out of the tent and could at least see the light coming from his son in the distance. “Sean, stop! Get back here!”
The father sprinted for the river. He was unable to see the obstacles ahead of him, running into branch after branch. He could make out the river when he came to it. He noticed his son running down stream. “Sean, stop!” he yelled again. He followed his son as fast as he could. Then, the light fell into the river. The father prayed that he only dropped the flashlight.
“Dad!” the son screamed from the river. He was still holding onto the flashlight. The father didn’t think and jumped into the river for his son. Sean knew how to swim a little and was able to keep his head above the water. The river was raging from all of the rain, but the father managed to grab onto his son.
“Don’t let go, Sean,” he instructed his son. Sean held tight as the father kept them afloat. They moved faster down the river than any slide they had ever been on. Bumping rock after rock as the water continued to try and drown the two, the father managed to keep them floating. Eventually, they smacked a branch reaching out into the river. The father grabbed tight and pulled them to land as the water fought to wrestle them back.
Sean coughed water out while on his hands and knees. The father crawled over to a tree and rested. The two of them were shivering from the cold. They were unsure where they were and what time it was. “Are you okay Sean?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, dad. I’m fine, just really cold,” said Sean.
“We’re going to be freezing as long as we are wearing these wet clothes,” said the dad.
“I have clothes in my backpack, and the backpack is waterproof. I don’t have anything for you though, Dad. What are we going to do?” he said.
“Don’t worry about me. Just get those clothes on right now,” Dad instructed.
While his son got changed, he checked over his body. He already knew his wrist was broken. He smashed it on a rock, but he wasn’t sure if there were any other injuries he needed to know about. His body was so cold; he knew there might be a chance he wouldn’t be able to feel every injury right off the bat. The father was a part time EMT, which in this situation, he only knew enough to know how bad an injury would make his current situation. When he felt down his leg, he felt something wet that wasn’t water. He was bleeding a lot. He was bleeding fast enough that he knew if he didn’t find help fast that he was going to die.
The son finished getting dressed. “I’m ready to go back now,” said the son. The dad went to stand up and a shock of pain ran up his leg. His ankle was clearly broken as well. He made a loud grunting noise. “Are you alright, Dad?” he asked.
“I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me,” said the dad.
“Well, where do we go?” he asked.
The father looked around and had no idea where they were or where anything was. He remembered back to when he was looking at his GPS and remembered that there was a town to the east of them. “If we go east, we’ll find a town. We just need to go where the sun rises.”
“But there’s no sun out, Dad,” Sean mentioned.
The father knew they did not have the time to wait for the rain to clear. If he waited, he would clearly die, and his son would be too far away to hike out on his own. He thought as hard as he could to where they might be directionally, but nothing came to mind. I’m a failure as a father. I should have spent more time with him before instead of forcing him on the trip, he thought. With the smallest feeling in the world, the father pointed to a hill. “That’s where we need to go. That way is east,” he lied to his son.
I can’t afford to be wrong, the father thought.
“Are you sure that’s the right way?” Sean asked.
“Yes, I’m sure,” he lied again. If he doesn’t trust me, he’ll be scared, and that is another thing I can’t afford to happen, he thought.
They began walking, and the father let his son stay in front as to not let him see him limping. They walked for what seemed like hours. “Sean, wait up,” said the dad.
“Are you tired, Dad?” asked Sean.
The father took a knee, panting. He was becoming faint. “Yeah, yeah. Sorry, son, just give me a second to breath. I’m getting -- just getting old.”
“Yes, Sean?” he asked.
“I’m sorry for chasing the dear. I’m the reason we’re in this situation,” the son said.
“No, I’m the one to blame. I kind of forced you on this trip,” he said.
“No, Dad, I’m glad I got to spend the time with you. I shouldn’t have been so upset before. Besides, none of my friends would have jumped into a river for me.”
The father chuckled slightly. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“C’mon, dad, let’s go. We shouldn’t be far from town now. We can go get some burgers when we get there.”
“Nothing would make me happier,” the father said. When he stood up, he got very dizzy and had to kneel down again. Sean was already walking again. He forced himself to stand up. Everything went black for a second, and he fought to stay up. His vision went back to normal, and he followed his son.
They walked for about twenty minutes, and the father was struggling to keep up. I’m not making it much further. I just want my son to make it, he thought. “Sean, wait again.”
“But, Dad, we haven’t been walking for long,” Sean said.
“I know. I told you; I’m just getting old.” Dad sat down and sat next to a tree. His eyes felt like weights were pulling them down. “Sean. I need you to keep walking that way without me. I’m too tired. Once you get to town, bring back some people, and we can all walk out together.”
“You want me to go by myself?” the son asked.
“You’ll be fine. I know you will. I’m just going to sleep for a little. I’m just so tired. Promise me you’ll head that way and won’t stop,” said the father.
“I promise, Dad. I’ll be fine.”
The dad watched his son step away as his eyes began to shut. I just wish I knew he was going to be okay. I still don’t know if we went the right way. I’m not waking up from this, he thought.
“Hey, Dad!” Sean shouted, causing the father to open his eyes one last time. “The sun is out now.” He pointed to the rising sun in the direction they had been walking. The father smirked as tears rolled down his cheeks, and the son walked off again.
Now, I know. I’m the luckiest father in the world.