My dad has had an on-again-off-again affair with the golden nectar known as beer. Sometime in the ’70s, he discovered a particularly noxious brew known as Olympia Gold (“Oly” for short). I’m told it had the body of water, and a flavor reminiscent of cold piss.
Oly Gold was lowcal before lowcal was a thing.
But whatever. I never tried it. What I did do, as a kid, was every time he asked me to get him a beer from the fridge, I shook it up. (This was when beer was still sold in steel cans, with pull-tabs. I’m old. Shut up). I could hear the roiling pressure of the trapped gases awaiting their released, but he usually didn’t.
Followed by, “CHAD!!!”
I either thought it was funny enough to risk the butt hurt I could be subjected to, or I had some latent resentments I harbored against the man… Probably both. It wouldn’t be the first, or the last, time I’d done something passive aggressive.
Yeah, I got issues. But I loved the man, and wanted his attention. And the “shake up the beer game” was one of the ways I got it. When a kid isn’t feeling the love, he will resort to desperate measures to ensure it. Lack love is usually why kids act out.
It’s their way of saying “Notice me.”
Dad was gone more and more, working later and later hours. As I got a little older, the beer game lost its luster. I stopped trying to get his attention, retreating more and more into myself, and the world of books, movies, magazines.
But I still loved my old man. Knew when he wasn’t home. Even if he didn’t have time for me, I knew when he was there, and when he wasn’t. I mean I still had hope, you know?
I remember a night when I couldn’t sleep. The clock ticked eleven, twelve, one, two… I wasn’t up reading: I was worried about my dad. Was he okay? Why wasn’t he home? Around two o’clock, there was a noise: the sound of a door being jerked open at the far end of the house.
I heard the master bedroom door open, the pad of my mom’s feet in the tiled hall.
I followed her.
Down the hall, through the family room, and into the kitchen I followed her.
There was my dad, standing in the doorway separating the breakfast nook from the entryway, swaying a little–listing from starboard to port, and back again.
The sour notes of cheap beer, piss, and bar smoke wafted off him in waves. But the piss wasn’t his. No, there was a quivering dark bundle under his left arm.
My mom asked “Mont, what’s going on? Why are you so late? Where have you been?”
“Dad,” I asked, “are you okay?”
My mom turned to me, asked me what I was doing up? Said I couldn’t sleep. She directed me back to bed. The last thing I heard as I walked to my room was:
“Why are you so late? I was really worried about you.”
“Because… Dog?” my dad intoned like a question. Because what he had under his arm was just that: a quivering Cockapoo we later named “Puppy.”