Short Story Day Thirteen – A Father’s Story

13. A Father’s Story
Andre Dubus

Click to access FathersStory.pdf

This is day Thirteen of my Month of Short Stories – a story a day for June.

This Sunday is Father’s Day – so I should rearrange my story order and have this one, A Father’s Story, moved to that day. Fuck it. I don’t hold much to the commercial holidays, the ones that are created simply to get people to buy gifts, stir the retail pot, make some cash – so I won’t stoop.

One interesting tidbit about Father’s Day – if you want to know where we stand. From Snopes – While Mother’s day is the biggest holiday for phone calls, Father’s day is the busiest day for collect calls. Yeah Dad, we’ll talk with ya, but you’re gonna have to pay for it.

Andre Dubus is a master of the short story. He writes without artifice… without messing around – he tells tales of humanity, of ordinary people faced with extraordinary moral choices and coming through them, without a perfect solution, but at least doing the best that they can. Then they have to wait and see if they can live with themselves.

Today’s story, A Father’s Story, is very good, read it and understand.

To add depth to the tale, read and understand a little bit about the author’s life. There is something to be said for the writer – like Pynchon or Salinger, that remains private so that his creations can live their lives on their own and you can judge them fairly and independently. But there is also something to be said for getting to know a little bit about the author, and trying to feel a bit about how he must have felt about putting the words down on paper.

Watch the youtube below and listen to the words of Andre Dubus III, the writer’s son (an author himself – he wrote the acclaimed House of Sand and Fog) as he talks about his father and compare him to the Luke character in the story, his love of opera, and open space, and his thoughts on being a human being.

In 1986, Dubus stopped on his way home to help a brother and sister. Their car had been disabled after hitting an abandoned motorcycle in the road. As he walked the injured sister to the shoulder, another car slammed into the three of them. The brother was killed and his sister survived because Dubus pushed her out of the way. Dubus himself was critically injured. He survived and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

I thought about how the accident had influenced the story, especially the harrowing scene when the father is trying to find out if the blonde boy in the ditch is alive or not. Then, I looked it up and realized the story was written three years before the author was involved in the accident.

A Father’s Story is about the author’s relationship with his daughter and how far he is willing to go to spare her suffering. It’s interesting what he says he would have done if it had been his son instead. But it is also about his relationship with God, and love, and imperfection, both human and divine.

It is not hard to live through a day, if you can live through a moment. What creates despair is the imagination, which pretends there is a future, and insists on predicting millions of moments, thousands of days, and so drains you that you cannot live the moment at hand.
—A Father’s Story, by Andre Dubus

Father’s Day at the Mall Food Court

I’m not a big fan of holidays. Especially the manufactured holidays, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Earth Day, or any of the others that arise not out of ancient pagan fertility rites but more modern constructions of the retail-industrial complex designed to make people go out and buy stupid presents – spend their hard-earned cash on superfluous consumer tripe rather than save it so it can be eventually lost in bad investments – like it should.

Now, I’m not complaining about my gifts, mind you. I may be stubborn, but I’m not stupid. Candy gave me a very nice pen – I’ll take some photographs in a few days. Still, I didn’t really want to celebrate – fight the lunch crowds – and said I’d eat some leftover beans instead.

But Lee was hungry so we went out to eat anyway. When asked where I wanted to go, I replied, “The food court at the mall.”

OK, I live in a Texas Suburb. Those of you a long way away probably are now thinking of big slabs of grilling beef and people wearing boots and ten-gallon hats. Those of you a little closer are thinking about typical American Mall fare – like what?… Cinabon, Steak Escape, Orange Julius (are these still around?) Dog on a Stick? – Jeez, I have no idea what a mall has in its food court anymore.

At any rate, that’s not what I’m talking about. This may be a boring Texas Big City Suburb, but the world is a much more diverse place than you think it is. My neighborhood mall is the Saigon Mall, a Vietnamese-Oriented complex constructed upon the carcass of an extinct Target, and its Food Court is a place of strange and wondrous sustenance.

Food Court Entrance to the Saigon Mall

Food Court Entrance to the Saigon Mall

My only disappointment is that the self-serve frozen yogurt place is gone. I’m going to have to find another place for my Durian ice cream fix now. Candy has a Cuisinart Ice-Cream maker… maybe I could make my…. no, better not. Durian preparation is probably something best left up to professionals.

We walked around a bit and examined the various purveyors of various cuisines – Lee was close to getting a pound of boiled crustaceans from the Crawfish Hut, Candy looked at a new stand that promised “Real Thai Cooking”, and I considered some Pho – but we eventually decided on sandwiches from Lee’s – an always reliable and delicious choice.

When ordering sandwiches, I tend to get the #1 combo – no matter what is in it. They have decided to put this at the top of their menu and they know better than I.

 My Sandwich - #1 combo with Thai Iced Tea.

My Sandwich - #1 combo with Thai Iced Tea.

My sandwich was not as blurry as this picture suggests. The fresh cilantro and other herbs along with the crunchy fresh-made baguettes really set these apart from the usual boring sub fare. There was some sort of very hot pepper hiding inside somewhere, I needed another tea. You can see the Boba in my tea – it was very good, though I have no idea what was in it.

After we had our sandwiches, we went down to the Boba Tea/Smoothie place. We always love this spot. Lee and I love Boba but Candy says she “doesn’t want any of those little snot-balls” in her beverage, which I can’t really argue with. The place used to be called Teahouse, but it has a new logo – “I (heart) Boba” – though the menu seems pretty much the same. The menu consists of a list of pretty much every substance on earth – thrown into a blender with either tea, ice, or some sort of “cream” mixture. I felt like coconut, which was number 114, and the list went on from there for a long way. Then you can get Boba, or Gummy Bears, or anything else, really, dumped in for extra amusement. I felt like some “snot-balls” today, so I had Boba.

Candy and Lee at the Smoothie Place

Candy and Lee at the Smoothie Place

Candy and Lee enjoying their smoothies.

Lunch Menu

Lunch Menu

Here’s the giant lunch menu outside one of the several restaurants in the Saigon Mall. I don’t want to sound like some ignorant American Redneck, but my honest reaction to this is, “What the hell is this stuff?” I see some shrimp arranged in a nice, attractive circle, but it surrounds some strange looking brownish sauce with white flecks – it looks like it might be too spicy, even for me. One dish is labeled “Salmon or Yellowtail” which is reassuring, but nothing in the picture next to it resembles fish in any way.

I hate the feeling when you order something at random and the waiter’s eyes get big and that concerned look crosses their face. They will shake their head from side to side, and say, “Oh, you don’t want to order that.” Sometimes I’ll stubbornly push ahead and insist, eagerly waiting until the plate of something arrives and is set down in front of me.

You know, those waiters are always right. I should listen more often.

Oh, I stumbled across this… Here’s something you should NEVER, EVER do in a mall food court.