You learned three things from your no account deadbeat of a father:

–Always wash up after you put on aftershave. No one wants to smell like you all day after shaking hands.

–Always shine your shoes. To do that, of course, you need to wear shoes you can shine. Tennis shoes are for tennis.

–Always weigh down the body with something loved ones will recognize. It won’t give the cops anything to go on, but it’ll let the family know to keep quiet and start grieving. Why should they suffer not knowing?

You were six at the time, so none of this meant much to you. This was his big parenting moment, taking you aside before they put him away.

The aftershave thing was indirect. He never bothered. The priest at our parish favored Old Spice, too, so while everyone else came away from mass thinking of a high school locker room, we always thought about him.

Ten years. That’s what armed robbery earns these days. That’s with time off for good behavior. That’s a first. Why did he wait until he was behind bars to learn that trick?

Ten years of “uncles” coming around to check on us, give us an envelope of cash now and again, try to get in my pants. Ten years of you putting up with being called “Teddy Two-Nuts Jr.” as they cuffed you on the head. Just because Vinnie Cruz lost a ball to cancer doesn’t mean your father’s stupid boast about being all man should follow you like a rabid dog.

You tried, God bless ya. Twelve years old and you told Moe Scalsi to call you Theo or you’d knock his nuts up into his throat. Lucky he laughed at that. Said you oughta be called Teddy Three Nuts. “The balls on this kid.”

Things tapered when they realized I wasn’t going to repay their charity with a lay. You made sacrifices. Bagging groceries instead of going out for eighth grade football. Dropping a few bills in the coffee can. Helping to keep the lights on.

You hadn’t seen that no good, so-called father since you were eight. It was part me not wanting him in your life, part him not wanting to be seen like that, and part, I swear to God, of you not giving a shit. How’d he look? Wait, don’t tell me.

Still, I see the influence. Those damned shined shoes. You did it this morning, didn’t you? For a trip to the penitentiary, for Christ sakes.

Old bastard had a point, I suppose. If he’d known then, point four could have been, “Don’t wear your pants hanging off your ass.” People look. People judge. You’re a good kid. You should know better.

While you were up there, I decorated the house for the party. Welcome home sign over the door. Streamers, balloons. Wait until you see it. Big deli tray coming tomorrow. I hope people come or else we’ll have those little roast beef sandwiches for every meal from now until Labor Day.

Are you all right? I know it’s a lot to deal with right now, but it was for the best. Surprised he fell for it. You two never went fishing in your lives. Only time you were outside together was to walk from the house to the car and the car to the convenience store. Ten years can mess with a man’s mind, I suppose. Give him hope.

I hope it felt good for you, but not too good. Tire iron can do a lot of damage. It was about the act. Redemption. Let’s not start a pattern here, Okay?

Was everything where I left it for you? The rocks? Body bag? His old bowling ball? That’s a nice touch, I gotta admit. I’ll bet he slipped out the back of the truck and into the reservoir without a splash, right down to the bottom. Next stop, hell, for all I care.

Now hang up, son. Time to get home. We need to look excited tomorrow.

Hey, before you go. I’ll bet you reek of Old Spice. Wash your hands before you get here. I can’t stand the smell.

~ fin ~

John Kenyon is an Iowa City-based writer and editor. His short story collection, The First Cut, is available from Snubnose Press. He also edits the crime fiction magazine Grift, and its website at www.griftmagazine.com. He has published widely, including Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, Pulp Modern and elsewhere.