“Go and find your father,” she’d say, but what she meant was, “Go fetch.” We never had to guess where he was so there was never anything to find—we only needed to retrieve. Like a dog whistle, the Rust House on the corner of 7th and Carnegie always managed to catch his ears as well as most of our money.
“Dinner’s ready,” I’d say when I got there, but what I meant was, “Why can’t you see how sad Mom is?” He’d make me wait as he lapped up another Iron City beer or three.
“Tina will take care of the tab,” he’d say to the bartender, but what he meant was, “My daughter needs to cover for me with her baby-sitting money.”
The walk home was like clicking through the radio. Drunken thoughts crackled from his mouth, acting as the static between stations—between his commentary on what was wrong with the world.
Reagan was terrible because actors were fake. The Steelers wouldn’t win another Super Bowl for at least a decade and a half. The Polish were ruining our neighborhood, stealing our jobs and overfilling our schools with their children.
Occasionally the station would be music, and he’d sing some song I didn’t know. His baritone voice echoed through the night air like an old wolf trying to remember how to howl, like an old dog lamenting its youth.
“Where’s the soul in Chinese steel?” he’d say, the dial inevitably clicking back to its only preset station. “Can a nation live without her own metals coursing through her veins?”
“Let’s just get you home,” I’d say, though I never knew what I meant.
GILBERT ACKERMAN — Gilbert is a writer and Indian food enthusiast who lives outside of Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Stefanie. When he’s not busy researching Warrior Cats lore, you can find him playing his harmonica terribly off key or getting lost in a book. You can connect with him through his cleverly named instagram, @gilbo.swaggins, or through his email, GilbertJAckerman@gmail.com.
Art by ETHAN BUNDY — Ethan is a writer, artist, and musician living in Portland, Oregon. You can find more of his stuff at https://themanwhofellinbuffalo.com.