Before you read the story… I just want to thank you for reading it, and reading anything else I've written for that matter, the beginning of this might be slow but I'm hoping it will turn into something good, so don't give up on it, thanks so much. I haven't written anything in awhile, especially not any original fiction so I'm very happy to have been given the idea for this story from somewhere out there. If you want to email me please go ahead my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only memory I have of my father is the image of a fairly young man looming over me, a cigar that must have been the size of my arm hanging from the corner of his mouth. I imagine the only way it could have remained there so long was because of his sticky lips due to a dry tongue. I don't remember it being lit. He certainly never took a drag from it. All he did was show me his left hand which only had four fingers. The one between the pinkie and the middle had been sliced to merely a nub. He'd tell me 'spoils of war son, spoils of war' and laugh in a big booming voice, mocking all the old movies that weren't so old at the time. He laughed until his cigar hung only from his sticky bottom lip until it didn't hang at all, falling into my tiny lap. It must have been the size of my arm.
He went to war again and never came back. My mother could have lied about the whole thing, I doubt I ever would have figured it out. But she wasn't very good at lying and I don't think she really wanted to keep it from me anyways. It probably never entered her mind that it might make a young boy feel uneasy.
"He got lost in the war," She'd say. "He didn't lose himself, the world just misplaced him." and she couldn't have been entirely wrong because it wasn't that he was dead. He just never came back. My mother thinks he was burned to ashes that blew away and became a little bit of everything. There was a bit of him that blew into the oceans and a bit that flew into the clouds to be rained down. She told me that he had blown down into canyons and caves even with all the rest of the dust.
My mother used to talk about heaven a lot, she believed in a god and said that wherever my father's body had blown, his soul was surely in heaven. She had heard of a city that was as close to heaven as you could be, passing telephone poles and redwood trees. It was a city built straight to the sky so at the bottom it was always dark from the shadows of itself. She pulled me up by my armpits and we ascended to that very city.
I never liked my mother much but I could tell she was the kind of women that a lot of people had been in love with. She tried to teach me to appreciate things that she never enjoyed herself like school and cigarettes and old movies. I was successfully a chain smoker by the time I was a sophomore in high school. When I crushed my cigarettes in the water dish at the kitchen counter, holding my hand up to keep my mother silent until after I could enjoy the soft hiss of the dead ash she would tell me it smelled like the ocean. After seeing the ocean only once when I was young I'd forgotten completely what it looked like being stuck in the clouds of this city, let alone what it smelled like. I think my mother had forgotten too because I doubt the ocean smelled like that.
She seemed to have forgotten about her notion of heaven out the windows as well, she'd never even bother to look out anymore and hardly ever left our apartment. If she needed something she would recruit me to 'kindly fetch it' for her. If it wasn't food or toilet paper or liquor, it was art supplies. When I was eleven, she dragged me out by my elbows up three flights of stairs to the one hundred and twenty eighth floor where the liquor store was and smashed her face next to mine at the cashiers counter, displaying our resemblance and mother and son then announcing to the cashier herself that anytime I came in to buy liquor it was to be allowed since it was for her. Why would an eleven year old boy want any for himself anyways? But by the time I was fifteen I was buying a little extra to hide in the far corner of my closet.
Our walls were ceiling to floor covered in her paintings. There was one in my room of my father just the way I remember him, looming and booming and four fingered. I kept an ashtray on the table right underneath where the ashes from his cigar would fall just in case the painting ever came to life. She had painted many of the people we came across in life, mostly the ones I did. Like Reese, my first real friend. When I spent the night at his house we would climb onto his parents huge bed and watch movies that they had illegally copied from rentals. The next morning we would crawl to the crack of his older brother's room and watch him do things to his girlfriend until she left and he'd pretend to be a lion, chasing us around the house and making us sit on his lap while he bounced us up and down when he caught us. I'd laugh because Reese did but it really only made me feel uncomfortable. Now he was hanging next to the window in our kitchen.
There were many of my old friends hanging around the house, with small teeth jammed into their small mouths watery at the edges because that's how my mother always painted them, as if they would drip drop away with time. But they never did and I was content to wander around our apartment bombarded from all sides with the faces of my past friends. Past friends for a reason, they had all found some reason to disregard me as too girly or too neurotic or too addicted to this, that, and the other.
Even Kent, who I learned to play the piano with, whose little sister had smashed his thumb with the back door and torn off the entire nail leaving only a disgusting smell where it should have been so that every time I even hear piano music I can't keep a straight face. Even he had disregarded me claiming that the smell of cigarette smoke was giving him chronic headaches. But there his painting was, right above the dusty piano that we really ought to pawn, maybe someday it will drip drop into the innards and destroy all the abilities it once had.
Nobody who had ever grown up here had ever heard a word about war, I had only known of it from my father's misfortunes, or fortunes, we couldn't really know. We knew nothing of anything unless it happened right here, insides the farthest walls of the outermost buildings. There were one hundred in all, arranged in a block pattern, each uniform and three hundred floors high. The closest to heaven you could possibly be is all my mother ever heard about CT. Every time I asked my mother what the C and the T stood for she would give a different but equally absurd answer, Court TV, Cold Tonsils, Cement Truck, Coconut Tennis. I constantly mulled over the reasonable options but nothing ever came to mind that seemed to fit the city.
Our apartment was number sixty-three on floor one hundred and twenty-five of building forty-nine. We were only three buildings away from The College, which is why I wasn't allowed to stay in the dorms like most of the new students. I was forced to cross the concrete pathways with steel railings that connected every other floor of the buildings together. Then to get to my classes I had to pass through the dorms with kids playing Frisbee in the halls and decorations on the doors and dirty bathrooms that they all loved anyways because it was part of it all. There was only one college and it was simply the next step of education after high school, there was no question about college, it was just something that you did.
On the night before my first day of college, I pulled a chair up to the table next to my bed facing the wall and my father's drip dropping face. The cigar my mother had bought me was hanging out the corner of my mouth, hopefully somehow mirroring the looming, booming, four fingered man staring back at me. And I had a smoke with my father to the next step of my life, to being neurotic and girly and addicted to this that and the other, and to finding something more whatever or wherever it may be. Just like he did.