The Writers Voice
Favourite Literary Website
He heard his mother coming downstairs. He heard her walk slowly across the
foyer, across the dining room. Suddenly, there she was in front of him -- her
fingers twisting themselves together, as if she were cold.
"Isn't there a football game this afternoon, Errol?"
"Yes, a home game with Baldwin."
"I can't believe you're missing it. First home game of the season! ... When
I was your age ... "
"It was different then, Mom."
"You really should get out more, Errol. It isn't fair, staying here alone
"It's O.K. Mom, really. There's a test in logic Monday ... I've got to bone
up on that."
She got up and walked to the window and pulled the drape to one side. As she
looked out, she said to herself, "No you don't."
No he didn't. There was no test Monday. He heard his mother crying last night
and he knew she'd be alone again this weekend. He looked up at her standing
at the window and thought ... "What an asshole he is -- the least he could do
is be home on weekends." He noticed her arms were folded, her hands clenching
and unclenching into fists.
"Mom, you're making me nervous. Why don't you get away from the window --
you know he's not coming."
"I think I'll make a pot of tea. Are you hungry, Errol? You didn't have much
for lunch." She let the drape fall back into place slowly, like the closing
of a stage curtain, then she turned and walked to Errol sitting at the little
Winthrop desk in the corner. She reached out and cupped his narrow shoulder in
her hand. "What will we do, Errol? Whatever will we do?"
Errol glanced up from his papers, his mother was still looking back across
the room at the window. "I'm not hungry, Mom," was all he could think of to say.
These moments were more frequent, now that his father had been assigned to UN
Headquarters in New York. In the beginning he called and explained why he
couldn't get home, but his reasons grew tired and automatic. It was rare to find
him around the house on weekends now, and even when he did come home there was
a heavy silence. The slightest noise could be heard -- the closing of a door,
the clearing of a throat and the almost incessant sound of his voice on the
When he talked to his mother, he called her "Dear," it was a word Errol came
"Do you think I could have less starch in the collars, Dear?"
"I'll speak to Mady, Dear. If it's a problem I'll let you know."
It was "Dear" this and "Dear" that. They had been "Dears" to each other
for years, so long in fact, you might think they had forgotten each other's
Errol listened to them and heard the silence, like a canyon, between them. He
wondered how long they would stay together -- who would get him? His mother?
His father? Was he, like a family heirloom begotten in better times, destined
to be chosen by one of them? It wasn't a choice. Not really. It would have to
be his mother, she was the only one who knew him. His father was little more
than a hazy figure he saw occasionally, a man who had no time for him. Whenever
Errol thought of his father, he saw a mental image of an extra man at a
party, an invitee to even up the balance of male and female.
... but his mother wasn't well. He knew that, and he dreaded the day
something would have to be done about it. She would have good days during which
flowed from her, she would make plans for tomorrow. But when tomorrow came
the plans would be forgotten and she would be sick again. He was 17 now and old
enough to do something about it ...
"There's something wrong, Doctor. It's as though something slips and all of
a sudden she can't remember -- like amnesia."
"Are you alone with her now, Errol?"
"Yes, Doctor ... she's sleeping."
"Where's your father?"
"I don't know."
"Errol, I'm not a neurologist -- neither are you. Amnesia's not a joking
matter, you know."
"I know it isn't, Doctor."
"There's retrograde, anterograde, hysterical -- it takes a specialist to
know. Why don't you have your father call me?"
"It doesn't matter to him, Doctor."
A very troubling call to Doctor Waltzer. He thought the real problem was
Errol, and he checked his records -- childhood diseases, that was all. The worst
had been a severely sprained ankle at the age of fourteen. He decided to call
Errol's father, and after two futile attempts to reach him -- he forgot about
He remembered it again when the hospital called him. She was in ER; Uterine
hemorrhage -- Errol was with her, not her husband -- Errol.
Doctor Waltzer called the police, who eventually found Errol's father en
route from UN Headquarters to Washington, DC a day later. He was shocked, and
"no idea," she was ill. He was a day late and a dollar short.
The funeral was a social affair. Errol sat in the family room watching people
he had never met come and go. Some of them stopped to remind him how fortunate he was to have such a distinguished father.
"He is very close to you, Errol, I know you'll do all you can to make things
easier for him."
"He is the backbone of the Delegation, Errol -- a true patriot."
None of these people, not one, had ever met his mother. It was odd, he
thought, his father was as much a stranger to him as his mother was to these
He stood and walked to the casket to get away from them -- to see her pale
face once more. Seeing her there, he tried to think if they had ever been a
family. Except for today, this day, the day of her funeral, had they ever done
anything together - had they ever been happy in each other's company? He
couldn't remember a time when his father wasn't waiting for a call.
His father was well dressed, he wore a dark three piece suit, black shoes and
a dark gray fedora. He looked vaguely ambassadorial as he stood at the ticket
counter watching people come through the arrival gate.
He was waiting for his son.
He saw him walking with his head down, a young carelessly dressed boy wearing
a backpack and a dark red sweater with a large "C" crocheted into its front.
There was little resemblance between him and his son.
"Errol," he called. "Errol, this way." They looked at each other
cautiously. The boy looked down again. "Good flight?" he asked.
"Your luggage will be at carrousel 4, I heard the announcement."
Errol continued walking. "I don't have any luggage."
"But it's spring break -- you have two weeks, Errol." He hesitated, then hurried to catch up with his son. They walked past the carrousel and out the
revolving doors to the curb. Against all regulations prohibiting parking
in front of the terminal, there was a diplomatic limo waiting for them. The
driver flipped open the trunk and came around to open the rear passenger door.
Errol and his father climbed into the back seat. The driver took Errol's
backpack, put it in the trunk and closed the lid. He waved a brief thank you to
policeman on duty, got in and drove off.
"Why don't you have luggage, Errol?"
"I'm going back to school tomorrow morning."
"But it's closed, isn't it?"
"No. Doctor Schroeder is working on a math project. He invited me to work
with him. It's a great opportunity."
"Why did you come home at all then?"
"I wanted to see the old house before you sold it."
The father turned and looked out the window of the limousine. "I'll drive
out with you after lunch."
Errol shrugged. "You don't have to. Aren't you busy? You're always busy."
"I work for the government, Errol. It's not my fault I'm busy. It's not so
bad at the moment, there's a new administration." He turned to look out the
window again. "Besides. I've changed the locks on the house."
"Why'd you do that?"
"I'm putting it up for sale, the agent said it was a good idea to change the
"Everything still there?"
"Until Saturday. Then everything's going into storage."
"Well almost everything. The furniture, silver, the glassware. They'll all
be yours some day."
"I wanted to go through the photo albums."
"I think they packed them with the books. There's a lot of books -- she read
a lot ... "
"There was nothing else to do -- she was alone all the time."
They rode in silence for a time with the full width of the rear seat between
them. Errol's father seemed desperate for something to say ... "You ... you
like math don't you?"
"It's pure. It's something you can depend on."
"Right or wrong, you mean."
The limo pulled into the V.I.P. parking garage at the UN, it paused a moment
at security then parked at the US Delegation on the first level. The father
snapped to his professional bearing when he and Errol got out ...
"We'll be two hours or so William. Then we'll be taking off for Connecticut.
Why don't you get something to eat while we do."
The dining room was quiet and nearly empty when he and Errol sat at a table
for two by the window overlooking the river. Errol ignored the view and stared
at his father ...
"Are you going to re-marry?"
"I don't know. I haven't given it much thought." They sat without speaking.
His father leaned forward, " ... the man with the goatee. See him?"
"Yes, I see him."
"He's the delegate from Belgium."
"Is that why you eat here? All these important people?"
"A lot of work gets done at lunch."
"Must have been pretty boring coming home to Mom and me at night."
"Oh, no -- you learn to leave all this here when you start for home -- how's
"Not bad. Tastes like the food in the school cafeteria."
"What did you mean when you asked me if I was going to re-marry?"
"I thought you would, that's all. It's almost a year now." Errol pushed his
plate away and sat back. "Maybe marriage is not for you .... maybe it never
"Now careful, Errol. I'm your father. You've got no right ... you don't
know the half ..."
"I know the half I saw."
"There's another half. My half. You never heard my half, did you Errol?"
They stared at each other for a second or two. Each of them blind to the
feelings of the other. Finally, his father stood and reached into his side
"Here's a set of keys to the house. I'll get William to drive you to
Connecticut. You can spend the night there if you want. What time is your plane
"11 in the morning."
"He'll pick you up at 8:30 ... how are you fixed for money? ... do you need
"I'm all right."
"I'm glad you're doing well in school, Errol." He looked down at Errol and
drummed his fingers on the table, He smiled weakly -- such a strange boy, he
thought. A lot of his mother in him. "I have to go, Errol. I have a meeting
this afternoon. You can find your way to the garage by yourself, can't you?
William should be back from lunch by now."
"Don't worry about me. You'd better go, you'll be late for your meeting."
"You're going to be all right, aren't you?"
"I'll be fine. I just want to pick up the photo album, I want to have the
pictures with me. I'll spend the night there and go back to school in the
His father looked at his watch and shook his head. He put his napkin on the
table and turned to go. "It didn't have to be like this, you know."
©Harry Buschman 2004
Critique this work
Click on the book to leave a comment about this work