A Story of a Father’s Reflections

“So we’ll create the world and then I’ll build a house for you and put the chest in it so that you can have all the supplies you need, ok?” Ethan was sure that this would be enough. After all, the last time hadn’t gone well because of a lack of supplies. “And then you can create whatever you want, and I’ll give you the armor that you need to fight off the monsters so you don’t die and lose everything.”

It probably should have been enough, but somehow, Ethan hadn’t broken through. “Mm kay” came the reply. Ethan scrunched his eyes and thought. He knew that meant there wasn’t commitment yet…what else could sweeten the deal?

“Ok. And, and Dad, I promise I won’t accidentally light your house on fire this time.” Ethan knew that this was a sore spot. The house his dad, Gary, had built in the video game last time they played had been really cool.

Gary remembered the conversation well; too well sometimes. He remembered the hope in Ethan’s voice, and his determination to solve the problem of why Gary wouldn’t join him. He didn’t remember Ethan’s eyes in that conversation though, which might be just as well. The plaintive hope that had been there – the unwillingness to believe that Gary didn’t care about the world they could create together.

Gary wondered, how long had it been since Ethan had last asked? 10 years? Must be about that. Some lasts announce themselves, like when Ethan had pulled out of the driveway for the last day of high school. It was a little moment of celebration, and they had all four stood there on the front porch for a moment before Ethan hopped in the car.

Other lasts slip by unnoticed, sometimes never noticed. Like the last time that he had held Ethan’s hand as they walked down the street. It wasn’t a planned last. It just was. Neither Ethan nor Gary had noticed it, and yet somehow they went from a world where they often held hands walking down the street to a world where they never did without even knowing it.

And then there were the lasts like this one. The lasts that probably shouldn’t have been. The lasts that, if there was a way to go back and do it over again, Gary would. Somehow he hadn’t believed that a day would come when Ethan wouldn’t ask him to play video games any more. Some days, he had secretly even wished the day would come.

But today, he regretted it. Today, as he walked down the street alone, feeling the crisp cold of fall under the grey sky, his hands swinging freely with no hand to hold, he realized that there must have been a last time that Ethan had asked that of him. “Please, Dad?” Ethan would have said.

Gary wondered how he had responded – “What did I say?” he asked himself. Probably “Mm kay.” Seems like that’s what he had usually said. The crushing weight of appointments to keep, the concerns about whether there was enough in the checking account for the mortgage that was coming out next Monday, the worries about what was happening politically in the world…somehow these had conspired to cloud his focus. There just wasn’t time for frivolity like video games. Of course, it didn’t help that they hurt Gary’s pride; that his kids were better at them than he was. But even Gary didn’t know that about himself. He just knew that the games weren’t as important as the next thing on the list. “Gotta keep food on the table,” after all.

As the breeze picked up, Gary wished he had brought a hat to protect his thinning, greying head against the cold – not that he looked old yet, he thought. He had reached the halfway point of his walk – the part where he would usually turn around, but he decided to go further despite the discomfort. Somehow, this tiniest act of penance comforted Gary somehow as he scolded himself. It wasn’t that he hadn’t known that parenting goes quick – that one day your kids are coming home from the hospital in a car seat and the next they’re moving out. He had heard that often enough. Seems like everyone had said it to him. What they hadn’t told him, he realized in his own admittedly pathetic self-defense, was how to make the most of it.

How long had he been walking? Maybe too long now. The flurries surprised him. No, they weren’t flurries – it was beginning to snow. He hadn’t seen that in the forecast. When would he see Ethan next, anyway? It had already been six months. A small tightness formed in his chest and throat and his eyes burned a little – maybe it was just the cold, but Gary knew deep down that he was just hiding from his own sadness.

The snow looked like it might stack up – it was beginning to gather on the still-green grasses and the leaves. The sidewalks were turning the darker brown that comes with the wet, and he could hear the moisture begin to stick to the tires of the cars driving by.

In his state of self-absorbed inattention, Gary didn’t notice the brown car go by in the same direction he was going. His toes were getting cold and his cheeks were starting to pinken as he walked into the breeze. The driver didn’t notice him either – didn’t pick him out as someone he knew as he focused on the road and on his destination.

The snow was coming fast, and with only a quarter mile left to the house, Gary felt his spirits lifting with the newness of the landscape’s rapid transformation. He decided that sometime, maybe the next time that Ethan was home, he’d ask him if he wanted to play that game…whatever it was called. The old gaming system was still there, after all – Ethan had that fancy new one.

Gary rounded the last corner to his house. He was feeling much better now. The walk, the snow, and the newly resolved plan gave him a good feeling – almost as if he had already set right old wrongs. But now, he saw the car in the driveway and his face flushed with embarrassment as he saw who was there. Gary felt silly now. What if he said no? Still…<whump> a snowball caught Gary by surprise and he heard the delightful sound of Ethan – grown now – laughing his warm belly laugh. When was the last time they had had a snowball fight anyway?

Written in response to the Reedsy writing prompt:  Start your story with one character trying to convince another to take up their favorite hobby.