Mom has been saying my dad and I should talk. I say, About what? Well, we’ve talked now. My dad talked, anyway. Yelled. Maybe I yelled too, I don’t know. We always seem to get to yelling. More than talking about stuff.
My dad told me how he sees things. That’s kind of how it works. He has an important perspective on things. Because he runs the biggest business in town. It must mean his opinions are smarter than everyone else’s. He gets to explain how things are. I get to listen. We’ve been doing this since high school. Only we get to the yelling faster since Ben’s been gone.
The other casualty was one of my father’s favorite drinking glasses. Monogrammed with his initials. I don’t know why people would want to put their initials on a drinking glass. Is that how you make sure everybody knows you’re here? “Hey buddy, that single-malt scotch you’re enjoying, that’s out of my fucking glass.” Or, “Look how much I matter in the world! There are glasses here with my initials on them. Thomas James Tillary.” I had a couple of friends growing up and in their kitchens they only had plastic drinking cups. I guess you can’t get those monogrammed.
Anyway, he broke a jelly glass. That’s what he called it. I don’t know why they call them that. It’s not like there’s some kind of drink you have in them with jelly in it. Maybe there’s something in the experience of enjoying whiskey from a glass with your own initials on it that is like jelly. I don’t know. What I know is that it’s apparently my fault that it’s broken, even though it was his arm that raised it high and then threw it at the kitchen floor as hard as he could. Because I wasn’t listening to his important views on things.
So apparently the problem is that I’ve had the easiest life anyone has had and I have done nothing with it. My dad has given me everything he has and I’ve made nothing of it. Plus I’ve made him break some glasses. I’ve been given everything my whole life and I’ve just wasted it. What’s the sign that I’m such a failure? That I’m not in big city Chicago, wearing a coat and tie and flying around as a fancy consultant. That I live in the little dead-end town where, by the way, he lives and thinks he’s the most important guy.
So I guess somehow those three years of college that were paid for by an athletic scholarship, that was his doing. All those long afternoons that Chris and Cross and Timms and I ran drills and sat and shot free-throws and threes over and over and over, that was all his hard work that I’ve wasted. He knew so much about it he used to tell me it was all about “spirit,” and “determination” and “character.” No, dude, you don’t have a clue. It was about coming out here day after day, month after month, and just working at it, the same things, over and over, when nobody was watching and nobody who supposedly had sense thought there was any point. “It’s never going to matter. Jericho has never had a good team. The bigger schools always win.”
And then you didn’t have to sit there for three years on the bench, watching your teammates blow plays you might have helped them make if the coach hadn’t had some second thoughts about recruiting and playing you. You think you know stuff but you don’t know a thing about humiliation, what it’s like to sit there and seem like a failure, just because doing that is paying the bill for your education.
And now you’re mad because after that I decide to come back this town where you’ve been lording it over everybody for fifteen years? Because it’s the one corner of the world that matters to me — the people, the country? Do you think you’ve established some track record that lets you judge?
I’m sick of his fucking lectures, and his yelling. He’s always been a little like that, but it’s gotten worse now. I feel like saying, I know you miss Ben. We all miss Ben. Go yell at the fucking wall. Go out to the northwest quarter, to the shelterbelt out there, and yell at the trees. The wind will blow away all the noise and no one will have to remember the shitty, small things you say and all the bluster when you got so wound up you threw your drink at the floor. And then got so wound up about that, like a drinking glass with your initials on it is such a goddamned important thing. With everything else that’s going on around here.