Black and White

Jon knew he wasn’t going to like the coming “chat”, when he stepped out of the patrol car.

If only it had been a felony he was here to take care of, but unfortunately it wasn’t a felony to be a dick.

With a sigh, Jon closed the car door and walked slowly across the empty parking lot toward his father’s battered RV. 

I only hope we can get this over with quick …

The tall, scraggy figure of Samuel Reese was leaning against the vehicle. Jon couldn’t see Mom anywhere. Perhaps she had made the prudent choice and gone shopping for new poetry books, so she wouldn’t have to witness another shitshow?

“A real shame, isn’t it?” his father commented, as Jon approached.

“What is?”

His father nodded towards the empty field on the other side of the parking lot. 

“Desert Sun Stadium,” he drawled, hands in his pockets, chewing on a cigarette as always. “One of your only fine baseball venues here in Yuma, and now they gone and changed it, and for what—soccer?!”

It sounded like he had just been told there was a Grinch running around on the grounds. Maybe he had. It would soon be Christmas, after all. 

Jon stopped a handful of feet away from the RV and crossed his arms. He had his jacket on, but even the relatively mild Arizona December bore a chill he didn’t care much for.

“What do you want?”

His father threw away the cigarette and held out his arms in a mock gesture of surprise. “I just wanted to chat, like I said on the phone. You even come here in uniform. Are you gonna arrest me?”

“I got here straight from work.” Jon still had his arms crossed. “Carrie is waiting at home.”

The rugged face of Sam Reese seemed to soften. “Oh, Carrie …” he said. “How is she? How are the kids?”

Jonathan breathed deeply and decided to lower his parades. A bit. 

He had come straight from a 962—‘traffic accident with injury’—out near Asher. And that was over now. 

It was.

It really was.

“Listen,” he said. “I thought you and Mom were going to stay up in Wyoming the rest of the winter. So … let’s ‘chat’ and settle things here before we do anything else, okay?”

“Fine by me.” His father looked at him intensely. Those deep brown eyes that Jon had always found inscrutable.  “Why haven’t you let me take care of David?”

Jon was close to crossing his arms again. “I shared all the messages from his director with you. Even the embassy. You replied—once.”

His father took a step closer. His coarse voice was clear in the silence of the empty lot and stadium behind them. “That’s not the point. You haven’t told them to call us. Have you?”

For a moment, Jon was baffled. “Are you serious?”

The older man came up to him, so close now that Jon could smell most of the USA Gold pack his father had been through that day. “We are his parents, Jonathan. If David is going to die out there, they need to talk to us directly. I told you that. You conveniently forgot to reply.”

Jon steeled himself. “Dave is not dead.”

“He might as well be—in the hands of those terrorists!” Sam Reese pointed a finger straight at Jon’s badge. “They are killers.”

“I don’t know what they are,” Jon said coldly. “Some Islamist group or other, yes. But they are always short of money and this is what they do for business out in the bush. Nothing more to it. Or are we going to discuss 9/11 again?”

His father tapped Jon’s badge hard, then shook his head. “Not you, too.” He lit another cigarette. “You are not going to piss on me like your brother.”

Jon took a slight step back, so he didn’t stand with the breeze in his face.

“You told Dave to get lost,” he said quietly, feeling as empty inside as the stadium. “To never come home again.”

His father looked down. “I’ve tried to mend fences, but David isn’t willing to see things … ” He trailed. 

“Look, I’ll keep you and Mom in the loop. I promise I will keep doing that.”

His father made a dismissive wave with the cigarette. “—You think you are doing me a favor by forwarding these emails from, what-the-fuck’s-her-name, director Barbara Norton? Some sell-out pretty-pants lady who’s sending all our money to Africa but has no idea what’s going on with real working-class people—”

Jon waited patiently until this rant was over. In the back of his mind, he calculated when he could leave and with what excuse.

He also thought about what he was going to tell Carrie. She wasn’t exactly enamored with the old man, but at least they got along. Same with his Mom.

Where was Ellen, anyway? 

If only she hasn’t gotten lost again and I have to look for her … 

A harsh cough interrupted Sam’s litany, and Jon waited until that had passed, too. When his father was finished spitting on the asphalt, he threw away his half-smoked cigarette and put another in his mouth. “He never listened to me. I—we—only wanted what was good for him. He was always drifting from one place to another. No job. No … family. No nothing.”

Jon closed his eyes. His dad might as well have said, ‘Just like your wife’. But unlike his brother, Carrie had come home from her road trip. Started a family. Dave could never do that. 

And not just, Jon suspected, because he preferred men. There were ways around that, after all.

No, it was something else.

A deeper, more haunting calling that always kept Dave away from … what?

A life like his? Stability? But what did that mean?

And was it really so fantastic to live in desert town suburbia and try to pay off a mortgage with one paycheck?

Maybe Dave wasn’t crazy after all.

Jon glanced at the RV. And then thought about Biloxi, San Pedro, and all the other places they had lived … 

“Dave didn’t know what the hell he wanted for a long time,” Jon then said. “But he found it. He went abroad to help other people. And those organizations  aren’t sell-outs—not all of them, anyway.”

His father chewed the unlit cigarette in the corner of his mouth with great concentration, some hairs from his long mustache also being worked over at the same time. “David don’t know nothing. He’s always been running around blind.  Those ‘humanitarian’ organizations don’t change a thing. They just make the problem worse, distracting people from what’s going on at home.”

“Ever occurred to you the world is not always just black or white?” Jon tried hard to keep his tone level. 

“Asks the boy who votes for fascists every time one comes up for President,” his father growled.

Jon chuckled, but without joy. “Yes, everyone in the GOP is fascist, all Muslims are terrorists, and your 35-year-old son is ‘bad’ for … just being himself. For a so called progressive, you are truly one of a kind.”

For a moment, Jon’s father looked like a man who was about to draw a gun. Then he tugged away the unlit cigarette in his breast pocket.  “I didn’t come here to discuss politics or shit like that …”

“What did you come here for?”

“I want you to tell this Barbara to call me from now on. We can get in touch almost anywhere now.” He nodded at the RV.

Jon shook his head. “That’s Dave’s decision to make. And he made it clear he wanted them to contact only me if anything ever happened. You know that.”

“Dave can’t make decisions anymore,” his father said firmly. “He’s … he’s gone, Jonathan.”

Jon suddenly—reluctantly—felt the urge to put his hand on his father’s shoulder.  But he didn’t move. “We … have no confirmation about what has happened to him.”

When his father didn’t answer, he kept on. “Dave’s organization want to pay the kidnappers, and all the families have said they want to chip in—“

“I said that, too,” his father interjected. 

“Yes, but we haven’t heard from this clan or whatever it is since the last communication. I … don’t know why. No update from the French either, but they have their Special Forces on it. And they are good. Really good.”

Jon knew how that sounded, but it was all he could come up with. His father didn’t bat him over the head with a reply this time, though.

In fact,  Sam Reese had gone very silent. And pale.

Jon bit his lip. “So we have to be … ready for anything, of course. But until we know anything for sure, we just have to go about our business.” 

The spindly, old man gazed towards the empty stadium again. He crossed his arms tight as if the wind had gotten colder. “So, that’s it again? You always want to have it both ways, Jonathan. We have to play normal at all costs. But we also have to prepare … for every fucking disaster, right?” 

Jon looked away. But there was little to see out on South Avenue A, the biggest road near the stadium. It was late afternoon and most people had already gone home.

His father still had his arms tightly crossed. Then he said “Wanna go see the stadium? What they done to it?”

Jon hesitated. “ … Carrie is waiting at home. You, uh, know how tired Michael is at this time of day. She shouldn’t be alone for so long with him.”

“Yeah, yeah … right.” His father turned and studied the sign to the stadium entrance. “Any improvements? Can he talk more? Does he eat?”

“A little,” Jon said.

“Come on, son,” Samuel Reese said, almost pleading, “walk with me.”

“Okay.”

They went in to walk around the empty stadium.

“I always loved baseball,” Sam said. “You know that.”

“I know.”

“Not bad for a wacko old socialist, eh?” His father tried a friendly jab at Jon with the elbow but Jon didn’t return the jab.

Sam continued his musings, “Well, it’s like with this stadium going from baseball to soccer. It shouldn’t be changed into something it isn’t. Understand?”

Jon shrugged. They kept walking, along the bleachers which only flanked one side of it. To the other side, there was just a fence. 

“This stadium”, Sam Reese went on, “is a decent size although it sure isn’t Chase Field. Remember that game, son?”

“Which one?”

“The Classic. 2010. You and me and David. We actually got him to go, although he kept yapping about not understanding baseball … ”

“We also lost that game,” Jon said, with a grim smile. “Didn’t look good.”

“No,” his father agreed, “but do you remember that David said? He was surprised!”

“Surprised?”

“How much fun it was.” His father flashed a sly smile. “He had just been dumped by that guy, what-was-his-name?”

“Billy,” Jon said.

“Right. Billy.” Sam Reese trotted away from the bleachers, then suddenly halted in the middle of the pitch. “Five years and then wham—nothing. And David thought—for the umpteenth time—that the world was going to end because there goes another guy again.” 

His father paused then nodded to himself. “But we sure had fun even though our team got their asses handed to them by Meneses and his compadres. It was a great game.”

“It was, Dad,” Jon agreed. “It was.”

*

JON & SAM REESE, 5 DEC 2015

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Cover photo by Chris Moore on Unsplash

Man – photo by Luke Southern on Unsplash

Ready for the game – photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

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