by Paul Beckman
At dinner tonight Dad sat at his place in the kitchen and held his head up with one hand and spooned soft food into his mouth with the other. His lip was split and his right eye swollen closed and ringed in purple.
“How many days do you have off from work? Mom asked.
“Just two,” he croaked. “No need for a hospital visit but I tried.”
“Henry,” Mom said. “Maybe it’s time to swallow your pride and go back working for your father.
Dad spooned some blended meat and grunted an equivalent of “no”.
Dad wasn’t always a dummy but the day he quit working for my grandfather making custom eyelets for shoes and boots he turned into one for Consumer Car Tests. He tests cars going two or three miles an hour while strapped into his seat belt in different sitting locations. The car always plows into a six foot high steel beam turned vertical and buried deep in concrete. There’s also a programmable dummy strapped in and it can be read like an airplanes’ black box.
Meanwhile, I-Lets, his father’s company, with this name change implemented by my dad, along with major factory and marketing changes he suggested went from a once failing company into the far-and-away number one eyelet company in the country. His father took credit for the changes and refused Dad a partnership or a substantial raise.
Dad got a call a year to the day after he left the company. “Don’t be a dummy, Henry. Come back and we’ll work something out.”
“Tell me the terms first,” Dad said.
“No, dummy, come back first and show me the respect and trust and then we’ll talk.”
Dad hung up on his father.
For a dummy he was making good money but was always too tired or sore to enjoy it and to top it off he couldn’t qualify for health insurance. Mom told us all at dinner that she had gotten a job and was going to be a receptionist in a real estate office and would be studying to get her license and become a sales person. Mom’s only experience was selling cosmetics at a five and dime and often said, “If I can get people to buy that stuff I can sell anything.
Dad could only grunt with his jaw wired shut. He was out on sick pay for two months after his seat belt in the Korean car he was testing broke and he went through the window and into one of the steel beams. Now he has to eat his food using a straw.
When Dad saw Mom’s first couple of paychecks he offered to bring her into the business where she could make real money, but Mom was no dummy and stuck it out until she got her real estate license and then things changed for the worse as the economy tanked so Dad went back to I-Lets and working with his father where he once again got full benefits and no credit.
Paul Beckman was one of the winners in the Queen’s Ferry 2016 Best of the Small Fictions. His 200+ stories are widely published in print and online in the following magazines amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Blue Fifth Review, Flash Frontier, Matter Press, Metazen, Boston Literary Magazine, Thrice Fiction and Literary Orphans. His latest collection, Peek, weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. His website www.paulbeckmanstories.com.