“I never sit when I can lie. I never walk when I can run.”
This from the man who uses an upturned putter for a cane. But the trooper ignores him and swings his flashlight from the backseat to me, waiting.
“He has a bad back,” I explain, blinking in the belt of light.
“Any whiskey tonight?” the trooper says.
“My father,” I say. “A few. Earlier. Not in the car. We were just...”
“I got an award tonight, a medal,” Dad calls from the backseat, Pendleton blanket draped over his legs. “Hey. Why can’t he hear me?”
“Just make sure he’s buckled,” the trooper says, returning my license. “Go home, chief.”
Up goes the window. The trooper’s headlights disappear into the night and we’re alone again, freshly debased. Two dogs tossed in their own shit. I finger the key but don’t pull onto the road yet. My throat burns with something sour and grimy, a familiar taste – god, is it embarrassment? – and I feel ashamed.
“Ho,” Dad coos. “I might as well be a little boy again.”
This from the man who cracked his spine in Saipan, who grinded knives before returning to school at 42, who put his grandkids through college, who buried wives, a brother, children.
“Forget him,” I say and pass back the bottle hidden under the seat.