The first snow of the winter dusted the ground. Now the temperature was in the single digits, something like five degrees out. Not the kind of weather he liked. He killed the engine. The instant the heat cut out the chill began to fill the cab. He grunted. He'd wanted to sit a bit. He wasn't looking forward to this. He saw movement at a window, a curtain pulled aside, his dad peered out, then waved.
His dad stepped from the house wearing only a safety-orange hunting vest, boots, and shorts--boxers, for crying out loud. Michael waved. Clouds of fog left his mouth, but he wasn't shivering. Didn't seemed to mind the cold, even left the door to his cabin open. The cabin he'd build by himself. For the most part anyways. He'd gotten help for some of the electric stuff, things he needed a permit for. Same with the plumbing.
Harry tried to smile, but he couldn't quite manage it. He realized his grip was so tight on the steering wheel his palms were starting to hurt. He forced his hands open. Even with his fingers free they were locked in a half curl. He watched his father head back inside. "Come on, let's get this over with," he muttered to himself.
He closed the cabin door and stamped his boots on the floor mat. "How was the drive?" His dad called from the other room. "Find it okay?"
"Sure." Harry walked into the living room where a healthy fire crackled.
"How do we get to the part where you give me a hug, say, 'I love you pop' and we go fishing, huh?" Michael tried to smile, but it looked more like someone wanting to laugh at his own joke when no one else found it funny.
"Yeah...I don't think that's going to happen. And I've never called you 'pop' in my life." He spat the title, not trying to hide the disgust.
"No, no," Harry shook his head. His heart was pounding. His chest swelled, it was stiff and stuffy and heavy and gross. "I only came here to tell you--" he scoffed. "To remind you that you're...If I never see you again it'll be too soon. I want to make it clear, crystal clear, that you're not welcome in our life. You got that?"
"Leaving her," he shook his head, his hands fists. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to think of you. Mom shows the first signs of memory loss and you run for the hills. I still can't believe it."
Michael said nothing, only nodded slow. Why try and explain it to his boy? How could he? What was there to say? The anger in Harry's eyes was nothing he wanted to contend with. How could he possibly say what he was going through? His boy could only see his actions as abandonment, and in a way it was. He'd thought of himself as a coward too many times already. But the pain of seeing his wife get Alzheimer's was more than he could bear. Maybe he'd left too soon. Maybe he'd been looking for a reason to leave, he didn't know.
"This is the last time I'll see you." Harry said. He stood. "Don't come around. Not in a week, not in a year, not ever. Stay here," he scanned the cabin's interior and scowled, "stay alone. It's what you wanted. Don't even call."
Michael nodded, to himself for the most part. He said nothing, he kept his head bent. He didn't look up when the cabin door slammed, or when his son's truck started, or when the fire began to die down. He sat and cried. He didn't know what else to do.