Rotten Tree by Justin Lee

Flash Fiction

My dad died in our yard. Most people that knew him say the usual things people say about someone who’s dead. All the good, none of the bad, and nothing too serious. It’s kinda funny. I’ve known him for all sixteen years of my life and the man they describe is nothing like the man sitting in the funeral home parlor.

    A few people are trading stories about him from the old days. The stupid hair. The girls. The cars. That guy sounds pretty cool. I bet none of them want to hear my stories. Like the one where my puppy snatched up one of our hens. When dad got home he stomped that pup till all it could do was crawl. It got under the porch of the trailer which was too tight of a squeeze for the old man. So, he made me crawl under there to get it. I was five. He said, “Look, all I want to do is make sure it ain’t hurt too bad. I may have lit it up a little too good”. I bought it. By the time I reached the little guy he was curled up in a ball, shivering. I grabbed him and crawled back out. Dad stood there except now he had his gun. He grabbed the pup and sat him on the ground. Told me to pull the trigger or he would do it ugly. I couldn’t even see the pup now because of the tears welling up in my eyes. I could tell from his voice that dad was pissed. I saw his foot raise up and heard a crunch. The pup never made a sound. Dad just looked at me and said, “Should’ve pulled it. Pussy.”

    I walked back into the visitation room. I could feel the room get tense when I walked in. There were whispers about why this was a closed casket. People felt that was a disrespect to the man they knew. I think they just wanted to find out if a man like that could really be dead.

    I saw it. Hell, I was there when it happened. He asked me to help get his scope lined in. He knew I hated that gun. I think that was one of the many disappointments in his life when it came to me. He walked up to the treeline at the edge of our yard to nail a target on an old maple. He looked back over his shoulder and told me to see if it was in range. I raised the rifle, but I must have forgotten to check the safety.

    The funeral home director came out and ushered everyone to the main gallery for the service. They let me have another minute alone with him. I walked up to the casket and waited for everyone to clear the room. I knelt down so I could be on his level and placed my hands on the lid of the casket. I’m sure it looked like a sad little boy trying to hold on to another second with his dad. All I really wanted to do was let him know that his son wasn’t a pussy.

    So I whispered real low, “I sure pulled it that time, didn’t I?”

Justin Lee lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two sons. He is an ex-Corrections Officer and is currently working towards becoming a Social Worker.