Big Ed had a father, somewhere. Everyone had a father, except maybe Jesus, and Big Ed’s mama, bless her heart, was no Mary.
He’d asked her about his dad, when he was little.
“He ain’t someone you’d want to know,” she’d said flatly, in her tone that implied further questions would earn him a butt whoopin’.
He wasn’t ready to let it go though. He tried asking his auntie but all she did was tell him it wasn’t her place, to go ask his mama. He knew better but somehow Mama found out about his questions. Fortunately all she did was remind him, more sternly this time, to drop it.
So he did. It wasn’t like no one else in his neighborhood was missing a father, and it didn’t seem to bother them none. Big Ed resolved that it wouldn’t bother him none either then.
It did, though. He made up stories about his unknown father: he was a long haul trucker, a soldier off fighting somewhere, a millionaire inventor out in California. These stories, when his teachers asked Mama about them, left him too sore to sit.
“I told you, don’t you concern yourself with him no more,” she told him between swats.
So Big Ed’s stories about his father stayed in his head. At first, his father was a famous mountain climber who got amnesia when he hit his head on Mount Everest. As soon as he regained his memory, he’d come back. He was a spy captured by Saddam Hussein during a covert mission, and as soon as he regained his freedom, he’d come back.
Wherever he was, he’d come back.
Over time, as his father failed to regain his memory or freedom, Big Ed’s narrative shifted. Maybe his father had another family somewhere he loved more. Maybe he flat-out didn’t care about Big Ed and his mama. Or probably, most likely, he was dead, OD’ed or shot or stabbed over something stupid.
By the time middle school rolled around, Big Ed had accepted this last narrative. It wasn’t like too many of the men in the neighborhood were any different anyways.
He eventually found a father in the head of his local drug cartel. The Fox gave him praise, and discipline, and a sense of belonging.
If there was more to being a father than that, then maybe his own father should’ve stuck around to teach him. For better or worse, there were plenty of men in his neighborhood willing to take his place.
E.D. Martin is a writer with a knack for finding new jobs in new places. Born and raised in Illinois, her past incarnations have included bookstore barista in Indiana, college student in southern France, statistician in North Carolina, economic development analyst in North Dakota, and high school teacher in Iowa. She draws on her experiences to tell the stories of those around her, with a generous heaping of “what if” thrown in.
She currently lives in Illinois where she job hops while working on her novels. Read more of her stories at her website.