[a work in progress]
“‘Hey, we had a kid together and now I’m dead.’ What the hell kind of letter is that to send to somebody?”
Matt was talking to an empty room; he couldn’t even remember Cassie’s last name… Dixon? Davis? To be fair, they weren’t friends; they just screwed once, and they were both so wasted that night that neither of them even knew if he finished the deed. Well, they know now, it seemed.
He kept staring at the page, as if the words would somehow appear in front of him like some magical Harry Potter shit that would help all of this make sense, but those words never came. Fuck. A dad? He’d thought about it, sure, but it’s not really something he ever wanted to get too invested in. No one would accuse Matt Edison of being ideal parenting material.
He grabbed his phone from the counter, looked at it, then put it back down. What if this was just a prank? Admittedly, it sounded like some kind of joke that ends with Ashton Kutcher walking through the door, but Matt didn’t feel like he was being punked. He felt…he wasn’t even sure what he was feeling, but he knew he had to get to the bottom of this or it was going to kill him.
He picked up the phone and dialed the number at the bottom of the letter.
Matt wasn’t expecting someone to answer so quickly. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out.
The silence continued until a voice on the other end rang through.
“Matt, is that you? This is Jeff. Jeff Fowler.”
The strained voice sounded like it belonged to someone who had forgotten what sleep was.
“Yeah, it’s me.” He managed to breathe life, barely, into a few words. “I…I don’t know what to say, man. This is just… damn man, I’m sorry for your loss but maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
“I get it, believe me. It got real weird around here when Cass was diagnosed and then right after that we found out that D wasn’t…that…he was…”
The awkward silence was broken by the excited voice of a child in the background.
“Hey kiddo, Daddy’s on the phone right now. We’ll go get some ice cream when I’m done, ‘k?”
“You sound busy, I should let you go.” Matt felt a panic attack coming on.
“No! Please don’t hang up! I was hoping we could meet up and talk. I’m on leave from work, so we could do it whenever’s good for you. Please, Matt. It would mean a lot.”
The plea didn’t sound like it came from the confident triple-letter star athlete of Fairview High. It sounded more like a desperate man teetering on the edge and begging for a stranger’s hand to save him. Matt responded before he could talk himself out of it.
“Danberry’s on Woodlawn has decent burgers and the best ice cream anywhere. I can meet you there in an hour.”
“Danny loves Danberry’s! We’ll see you at six – uh, better make it 6:30; the kid needs a bath if he’s going out in public, and that will take some time.” Jeff’s tone was instantly lighter.
“See you then.”
Matt stared out the window, tapping the edge of the phone on his upper lip.
…the fuck did I just do?