Welcome to Great Falls – A Serial Novel – Part 25

November 9, 2014, Sunday

During times of solitude Kao had the hardest time figuring out his thoughts. It was why he kept himself active and why he kept people around. He knew his thoughts strayed to the darker parts of his mind whenever he was left alone.

He stared at his coffee mug before sliding it a few inches to the left just to see how much dust was on the table. He lit another cigarette and looked out onto the horizon. The sun had risen over the house’s peak and lit up the pine trees at the far edge of the property. Kao watched the light move towards him across the grass until the awning slowed its advance to where it became indecipherable.

Kao glanced at the half-inch of ash and flicked it to the ground. He listened for sounds from the house until he realized all the kids had left with his wife earlier in the morning to be with Saan. He was on his way as well but had been up late unable to sleep; he couldn’t help but see his son’s dull eyes as he looked up from the hospital bed.

He thought of a couple weekends before when he found Saan hungover and remembered writing it off as something kids did in high school. Kao never drank much at that age. He couldn’t have more than a beer or two without feeling guilty. If he didn’t wake up at his normal time, it was always from a lack of sleep, not booze.

He wondered if there was anything he could have done while raising his children and second-guessed many of the things he did. Maybe he should have retired earlier or spent more time with them in the mornings instead of going into his workout routine. He thought of how his parents raised him and the freedom they gave him at such an early age, but it was a different time and a different circumstance. Besides, it had been almost twenty years since they were a part of his life, and he wondered if that had anything to do with how his children turned out. Neither he nor Erica had called their parents about Saan’s accident, and Kao took out his phone to dial his father but it rang.

It was Erica.

“They’re releasing him, so I’m bringing him home.”

*****

Dennis didn’t mind his guests drinking, he actually encouraged them to finish the remaining bottles of liquor he had in his house. In an act of solidarity, Vanessa stayed sober as well. They were the only ones.

By noon, Brandon slurred his words when he actually did try to talk. It was the tail end of a three-day bender where he had a drink in his hand in his every waking moment. Given, most of those hours were just him in his loft feeling sorry for himself.

Dennis kept an eye on Brandon and set a plate of tri-tip and potato salad in front of him. With a stone face, Brandon devoured the food without chewing much. His face was wan, his eyes glassy.

Halfway through the afternoon football games, Brandon said he was going to sleep and walked into Dennis’s guestroom, where he lay down on the carpeted floor. Eventually, Dennis put a pillow under his head and laid a blanket over him. As a precaution, he set a trashcan next to him.

*****

Saan walked gingerly through the door and winced when his father hugged him. His arms were bruised and sore, as were his neck and left leg. He apologized and Kao told him, “It’s not necessary.”

“I’m going to bed,” Saan said. “Can you ask mom to make me a turkey sandwich?”

“Sure,” Kao said. “Light on the mayo and heavy on the mustard?”

Saan nodded and went up the stairs to his room. His father walked into the kitchen and took some cold cuts out of the fridge.

“Have the police been in contact with you?” Erica asked.

“Yes, I guess the other driver was being pursued after a convenience store robbery.”

“Did they say anything about the bottles?”

“They haven’t mentioned any of that. What did the doctors say?” Kao asked.

“He has a minor concussion and some soreness. His neck has stiffened up, but it’s not that bad. Thank God you got him to start wearing his seatbelt.”

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