Faulty Instinct

Darren L. Young

Sheer violence of stimulation bombarded Will’s intake.
Unfamiliar faces careened by, fixed atop bodies blended amongst the choppy
crowd. Loud noises from unseen sources barked directives toward alien ears.
Motorized carts loaded to the brim with worn baggage cut a path within the
chaos carrying disabled, yet fortunate travelers toward distant destinations.
Somehow Will managed to make his way through the confusion with a determined
outlook. Just before reaching his gate, Will paused in front of a series of
dimly lit monitor screens. His flight was on time, but an hour still remained
before departure.

Will peered through the crowd and spotted a storefront that
flaunted a guaranteed escape. Walking toward the establishment his anxiety
subsided. One seat was available within. The seat looked like a makeshift
arrangement. It was built on top of a wall separating the dining area from the
bar. The surface of the barrier had been converted into a table-top. Will
grabbed a stool and sat down in between two other solo travelers. As he pulled
the chair forward he peered down upon the booth within an arm’s length below.
He inadvertently spied upon a family in the midst of enjoying their meal.

A server rushed by.

“312 wheat please,” Will said with a raising hand
and voice. “Tall!”

Will removed his cell phone from his three days unlaundered
denim pants pocket. He collected his thoughts for a moment before hitting send.

“The wedding was really something.” Will said.

“I can barely hear you,” his mom said. “The
wedding went well? What all did you do?”

Will cupped his left ear.

“For the bachelor’s party, we roasted Kody.” Will said.

“Did you have anything to say?” Mom said.

“Yeah, I brought up some old stuff from childhood,” Will
said. “Remember Kody’s big head?”

“The big head?” she said. “Yeah sort of.”

As the waiter proceeded to set down the beer in front, Will
removed the hand from his ear and cupped the glass before it made contact with
the table top. He brought it to his lips and sipped.

“I made a skit about it,“ Will said. "Big head
stuff.”

Will set the glass down.

“You know, I  had
doubts about whether the roast would be a success, but it turned out
magnificent. Everyone brought genuine insight. Kody has some really witty and
sincere friends.”

Will reached back for the glass.

“Remember Mark’s wedding?” Mom said. “His best man
made such a great toast.”

Will swigged down the top quarter of the container’s liquid
content. A bitter aftertaste coated his mouth.

"Yes, I remember Mark’s best man was his wife’s cousin,”
Will said. “Honestly, I was quite inebriated during the event. But my
recollection leading up to it is clear. Mark didn’t have a bachelor’s
party.”

A robotic pronouncement blasted from a loudspeaker outside
the bar.

“Everyone was,” his mom said. “It was such a
great time.”

“Wait, it’s coming back now. I remember making out with
two bridesmaids,” Will said. “And didn’t dad give a speech at some
point?”

“They just couldn’t resist your uniform,” his mom
said and then groaned. “Your drunken father made a fool of himself like
usual.”

Will observed a family walking in front of the bar amidst the
chaos. The husband and wife shielded two children with gentle smiles.

“He does tend to do that,” Will said. “He was
mostly sober for Kody’s wedding.”

“How is your father?” mom said.

“He’s doing well. He just sold a house.”

The televisions within the bar spewed sports jargon.

“Why’s he selling property?” mom said.

“Getting ready for retirement I suppose.”

“I babysat your nephew this weekend,” she said,
changing the topic without a pause.

The booth to his front had cleared. Will cupped his hand over
his mouth to belch.

“It’s too bad that Mark didn’t make it out to the
wedding,” Will said.

“He had drill,” Mom said. “You know how busy
he is.”

“Kody was pretty bummed out,” Will said.

The loudspeaker outside spouted a notification about someone
waiting for their party.

“Does Mark’s absence have something to do with
dad?” Will said.

“Oh, surely not,” Mom said with a guarded tone.

“Well, why doesn’t Mark talk to dad?”

“I wasn’t aware of that,” Mom said.

Will brought his free hand to his forehead, “Mom they
haven’t spoken in years. Practically since Mark’s wedding.”

“Well, I’m not involved. It’s between them.”

Will motioned toward the waiter. “Another…”
Will said as  he motioned with his free
hand toward the empty glass.

“Okay. Let’s go back at bit. Well actually, way back,” Will said. “Remind
me. Why did you get a divorce in the first place. I don’t recall the details
very clearly. It happened so long ago.”

“You remember,” his mom said. “He was mentally
abusive.”

“I’m not sure that I even know what that means,”
Will said. “Anyway how can you
blame him? Weren’t you the one who cheated on him with a younger man? And then had the police escort him away
from his own house as he returned home from work?”

The waiter brought a full glass. Will grasped it.

“That was a long time ago,” his mom said.

“Exactly. And just because your marriage failed, doesn’t
mean that you have to carry on the grudge. During my graduation and at Mark’s
wedding – the only times that you two have been in contact in recent years –
let me remind you 15 years after the divorce, you were still bitter toward him.
There must be more behind it.”

“He drank too much,” mom said.

Will took a swig from the container.

“You’re absolutely right. There is no doubt about it –
he is an alcoholic. So when he became mentally abusive, was he drunk?”

“He drank very often.”

“And why do you suppose he drank so much?” Will
said.

“Will I don’t like where this…”

“Mom, you have to stop this constant berating of all of
dad’s actions. Let it go. Your marriage failed. It’s unfortunate. You weren’t a
good match. And life goes on. But yours hasn’t. You’re still carrying the
burden. And now you’re influencing Mark’s decisions in a negative way.”

Will took the glass down halfway. He brought it down to the
counter with a thud. The froth rose to the rim.

“It just occurred to me that for a very long time,
throughout my entire young life I had no idea what family meant,” Will
said. “I recall a time just before starting my undergraduate degree during
freshman orientation, this sad realization was made clear. Although, I didn’t
notice it at the time. It was during a group activity led by the Resident
Assistant, when I was supposed to jot down on a worksheet the five most
important things to me. I wrote down something like my T-bird, lifting weights,
and my favorite metal band. But that’s all
that I could think of.” Will swigged from the mug, “Much to my
surprise and dismay, when we went around and shared our thoughts, everyone else
had listed family at the top of the list and love of specific family members
just under. Looking down at my unfinished list, I was embarrassed. When my turn
came around, I didn’t want to appear superficial or materialistic, and so I
followed their example and spouted out the something along those lines. But it
was a lie. When the RA collected the
papers, I didn’t hand mine in. Why is that? Why do you suppose that I didn’t
consider writing down family in the first place?”

There was no response. Will waited, but the line remained
silent. He wondered if she had hung up.

“Mom, dad folded his hand long ago. Please stop the
competition,” Will said. He pressed end.

Will placed a twenty under his half full glass. He walked
toward his terminal and past the radiant departure screens. At the gate his
plane had arrived. He stood as he waited for the passengers to exit. The mass
confusion subsided for a moment as Will watched smiling strangers greet their
loved ones.


Darren L Young was born and raised in the rural Midwest. He served for
10 years in the United State Army before settling down in Arizona, where
he earned a Master of Science from Arizona State University. Darren has
publications in Dual Coast Magazine, Heater, Gravel, and Black Mirror
Magazine. He can be found at www.darrenlyoung.com.

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