copyright © 2006 by Adam Hahn

Carrie's Father
by Adam Hahn

Lights Up

Carrie's father has never looked this good. He stands on his porch like a champion wrestler or a minor god, like a man ready to tear into pieces anyone who has made one of his daughters cry. Carrie is inside, probably still crying, which everyone knows is my fault.

Carrie's father looks strong because over the last six months his beer gut has melted away. His big fat man muscles, his twenty years in a railroad machine shop muscles, are on display for the first time.

Carrie's father looks healthy, because the porch light is much dimmer than hospital fluorescents. His blotchy skin and the dark smudges under his yellow eyes are invisible.

Working-class Midwestern men of Carrie's father's generation don't seek medical care at the first signs of illness. Not for headaches or deep, rasping coughs. If they can get out of bed and go to work, they're not sick. I don't know how many times Carrie's father had to find blood in the toilet or watch his moles double in size before he talked to a doctor.

Carrie is a nice girl. She's cute, she's smart, and she's funny. For a year, she has been everything I could want in a girlfriend.

Sarah is also a nice girl. She is beautiful, she is brilliant, and she is hilarious. When I started talking to her, it was never my intention to become more interested in her than I am in Carrie.

Things happen.

When Carrie's father did see a doctor, it was too late. He was given two options. The first was comfort by ignoring the tumors and treating the pain they caused. He'd spend most of every day asleep or drowsy, but he could enjoy a few more months with his daughters. Even with his health insurance, his last days on earth would wipe out his family's savings.

The second option was a fight. He could go through chemical, radioactive, and surgical hell for one chance in a thousand of living another two years. Even with his life insurance and the house his parents had left him, this would guarantee leaving his daughters nothing.

With one daughter in college, two more on the way, and no word from his wife in thirteen years, there are more important things to Carrie's father than his comfort or survival. He hasn't spoken to a doctor since he picked a third option: living with the pain, accepting his fate, and going to work every day until he is physically unable to get out of bed.

I'm trying to be a nice guy about this. Sarah and I didn't do anything but talk before I broke up with Carrie. I came here tonight to say I want to be friends, and I do.

I don't know this yet, but we will be friends. I'll be here to watch Carrie's father's muscle disappear the same way his fat did. I'll drive the car when he's ready for his last trip to the hospital but won't let Carrie call an ambulance. I'll be there when everything remaining of Carrie's father is lowered into the earth--everything but a house, three modest college funds, and a sizable life insurance policy.

I'll see the way Carrie takes care of her younger sister Beth and her older sister Megan. I'll make lame jokes, and she'll give me that half smile which is more a thanks for my effort than an indication of actual amusement.

I can't say anything to Carrie tonight until I get into the house. Her father doesn't move on the porch, and I don't get any closer than the center of the front lawn. We don't have to speak. We're both waiting for me to step onto the porch or go home.

At the funeral, I will be suddenly and madly in love with her. Six months from tonight, when Sarah will have her third boyfriend after me, I will want to spend the rest of my life with Carrie.

It'll be too late. Carrie and Beth will move to Chicago with one of their aunts. Anyway, she won't need me anymore.

Lights Down

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