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Daddy’s Little Grill: Part 1

Calling in one last favour

Phones ringing in the middle of the night never brought good news. Ever. That night was no exception.

Groggy, disoriented, I scrambled for the cellphone on my side table, cursing as it clattered to the hardwood.

“Fuck.” Mouth thick with the remnants of too much red wine, I slid to the floor, desperate to stop the ear-splitting noise. Bleary-eyed, it took three tries to slide the green button across the screen and several frantic cries of ‘Hello’ from the caller before I squeaked out a greeting.

What the hell, Jo? Drunk in the middle of the week?

One hand dragged down my exhausted face. Try as I might, I couldn’t focus on what the caller was saying. Only on my father’s voice berating me as usual.

“Wait, what?” One deep breath wasn’t enough to engage my brain, but I made a valiant effort. “Let’s start at the beginning. Who is this?”

The caller huffed out a sigh of frustration. I could hear them counting to ten, not quite under their breath, as they took control of themselves. Something Dad always did.

“Josie, that is you, right?” The voice sounded familiar, but my still-drunk-self couldn’t place it.

You can’t even answer a phone, you dumb bitch.

“Yes,” I didn’t even try to keep the belligerent tone at bay, “I’m Josie. Who are you? What do you want? It’s awful late to be pulling any pranks, you know.”

“Pranks? Do you really think I’d call to tell you Dad died as a PRANK, Jose?”

Indignant and shrill, I recognized the caller. Someone from my past. Wish I’d left them there.

Flora is a hundred times the woman you are.

“No, I guess you wouldn’t, Flora. Not little miss perfect.” I pulled my ass back up onto the bed and flopped back onto my pillow, hoping she ignored the dig. She did. “So, the old guy finally bought it, did he?”

“Oh, god, Jose, I can’t believe he’s gone,” my younger sister’s wail so loud I pulled the phone from my ear to avoid hearing damage, “it was so sudden. Momma found him slumped over on the toilet. He had a heart attack while he was doing a number two.” Her voice lowered and I could see her covering the handset and whispering the last bit, like it was some deep, dark secret. I don’t think she appreciated the snort I let out when I laughed.

Of course my father died while taking a shit. His last dig at the world. And my baby sister went all wide-eyed and devastated. What a fucking surprise.

Flora never saw Dad as the dictator looking to control, not love, his children. Maybe he treated her better than the rest of us. Sounds closer to the truth. She was Daddy’s Little Princess. The rest of us were Daddy’s Little Regrets.

“You old fucker. Poor Mom.” I tried to be as quiet as possible, but the sharp intake of breath told me it was more of a loud stage-whisper. Don’t see how my words suprised her. She should know how I felt.

I guess I hid it too well.

There were four kids in our family. Daniel, the oldest, then me, the disappointment, Edgar the ignored one and Flora, the baby of the family and the favoured one.

I always suspected Dad resented Daniel because Momma got pregnant at seventeen. Out of wedlock. Forced to marry. If it hadn’t been for Daniel, Dad might have avoided getting married and saddled with a family and kids.

Instead, he missed out on an amazing son and gorgeous grandchildren.

Daniel joined the Navy at eighteen to escape out from under our father’s thumb, over thirty years ago. He hasn’t spoken to our father since. Our mother he sees every year when she flies east with Edgar’s family to visit us. Without Dad or Flora, who haven’t seen Daniel, me, or our families, in at least a decade. Edgar, Daniel and I are still as tight as when we were kids. Which we all love.

Edgar worked with Dad in his plumbing business. They were both welders, with Dad being a plumber and Edgar a pipe fitter by trade. He saw Dad the most frequently, but that didn’t mean they were close. They only worked together. Dad always saw Edgar as ‘less than’ himself, putting him down and ridiculing him as much as possible. Edgar worked with Dad, but never liked him. The feeling was mutual. At least, that’s the way Dad treated him.

Flora was the baby of the family. The one our parents doted on, in every way. Mom always wanted one more baby. One more baby girl to make her family complete with two boys and two girls. It took her longer than she expected for that to come to pass.

I was twelve when Flora was born, Edgar ten and Daniel fifteen. Flora wasn’t Momma’s baby, she was all of our baby. We shielded her from anything unsavoury or bad, more than we should have. Sheltered her so much she grew up entitled and arrogant, We shouldn’t have protected her so much. No going back now.

Then there was me. Daddy’s first baby girl. Daddy’s little disappointment, never his little princess. Dad always acted like I was a disappointment. Since I was a girl, not a boy, I was an automatic disappointment. Dad only ever wanted boys, so he always told me. Until Flora, anyway. She was the apple of his eye and he let no one forget it. Ever.

Who’d want a woman like you? Couldn’t even do that right.

I shook my head, sending my inner bitch, who spoke in Dad’s voice, and tapped back into the phone call with my oblivious baby sister.

“Hold on, Flora, I missed the last bit. You forget, it’s after midnight here. I was asleep when you called.” Hands shaking from too much wine or too many memories, I gulped the much needed cold water my husband brought to me. Eyes closed, I relished the gentle kiss he pressed to my forehead before placing the glass on the side table and pulling me into his arms. He held me as I fought the tears for a man I hadn’t seen in years.

Tears for who he wasn’t, not who he was.

I cried for the father I wished he’d been for us. A father who loved and supported his children unconditionally.

The one who cherished his eldest daughter and was proud to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. The one who didn’t belittle her hopes and dreams, making her feel stupid for wanting to follow her heart.

You always were an ingrate, weren’t you? I didn’t send that inner bitch far enough away.

“Must you be like that, Josie? Today of all days?” Flora hiccuped, her sobs hitching her breath. “He was our father. He’s gone. Where the hell is your compassion?”

“Fine. Whatever, Flora. How is Momma holding up?” My frustrated sigh echoed around the room. “Have you called Daniel or Edgar yet?” I held my tongue and dug deep for the false compassion she needed me to have for a man who had none for me.

“Um, no. I haven’t called the boys yet. I was hoping you could do that for me. You’ve always been closer to them than I was.” Her nervousness came through the phone loud and clear. As our father’s favouritism of Flora became apparent, our brothers and I drifted from her. She and I had a tumultuous relationship, but we still talk. Barely.

“Momma’s doing okay, I guess. She’s not saying much.” Her words concerned me. Our mother always had something to say.

“Okay. I’ll call Daniel and Edgar in the morning.” Concerned, I addressed Momma’s silent state. “What do you mean Momma’s not saying much? She always has something to say. Now shouldn’t be any different. Sounds like she’s very much NOT okay, Flor.”

“She’s fine, Josie. Just call them tonight. Please? As soon as we get off the phone, you need to call them.” Flora’s insistence alarmed me. “Momma wants all of you home by tomorrow night. It’s the only thing she’s said since she found Daddy on his throne. She wants her babies home with her.”

Don’t matter to me where you live. You can go to hell for all I care.

“Okay, Flora. I’ll call them,” I had to get one last dig in, “but if you’d called Edgar before me, he would have been there already.” I said goodbye and hung up before she could say anything else. It appalled me she hadn’t had the courtesy to call Edgar before me. He was the one who stayed behind. He should’ve been her first call, not the sister across the country.

I didn’t understand what she expected me to do. I lived on the East Coast while Edgar was still in California, a half mile from Mom and Dad’s place. At least he’d still be up. It was only ten back there.

I shot my husband a grateful smile, telling him I loved him as I dialled up my brothers, putting us all on a conference call so we could talk together.

Daniel, stationed at Fort Story down the coast, answered first. We agreed middle of the night phone calls were rarely good.

“Hey there, Jose,” he yawned, the warmth in his voice making me smile, “what’s shaking, bacon? Who died?”

He was only kidding, but his joke broke my heart. Of all of us, I figured Dad’s death would hit him the hardest. Edgar picked up before I could answer my big brother.

“Josie, baby-girl, how the hell are you?” Edgar’s cheerfulness changed the tone of the call again, bringing us some drunken levity, “who died?”

“Come on, guys, really? You both had to ask me that?” I cackled, sadness creeping into my voice. Only my brothers could make me laugh tonight.

“To ease your mind, Dad died. It seems Momma found him dead of a heart attack. On the throne. Mid-shit.”

Daniel cursed, then laughed.

Edgar cursed a blue streak.

“What the fuck, Jose? Why the hell didn’t Flora or Momma call me? I’m right down the damn road from them.” I heard him getting his things together and addressed the giant pink elephant in the room.

“Ed, don’t drive, please? I can’t lose you right now. Get Krys to drive you over. You shouldn’t be driving.”

“She’s right, man. We can both hear the beer in your voice. Get Krys to drive. Momma would love to see you both. The kids, too.” I was glad Daniel was on the line with us. He’d always been our voice of reason.

We said goodbye to Edgar and planned our flight out to South Lake Tahoe, via Reno as usual. Daniel booked our flights online while I packed. We left our families behind and met up at the airport two hours later.

It was a bittersweet reunion.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction