As he ran across the street to get to the meters, Owen Harper was nearly hit by a car.
“Watch it dumbass” the driver of the car yelled. In return, Owen threw an obscene hand gesture.
When he had parked his car at the broken meter, he had hoped the traffic warden would miss it. But because the universe hated him so much, a ticket was waiting for him when he arrived at his car as well as a Nice Try Loser written on the bag covering the broken meter. Owen snatched the ticket that was placed between the windshield and the wipers and crumpled it.
When he got to the to the driver’s side, Owen noticed that a wheel clamp had also been put on his car. Frustrated by how his day was going and the fact that he was running late to pick up his son, Owen gave the wheel clamp one, two, three hard kicks before he started jogging to the school. By the time he got to the school, Owen was a sweating, out of breath mess.
“Hey Owen,” Carys Fletcher, one of the school’s teachers, called out.
Still struggling for breath, Owen asked if his son David was inside. Carys’ face took on a look of pity.
“He left with his mom. Because of parent career day, it was a half day,” she said. She gestured to the ‘Parent Career Day’ banner she was removing from the school's entrance.
Owen mumbled a quick thank you as he turned and started the short walk to his ex-wife’s apartment.
“You’re late,” Katie sighed as she opened the door.
“Well, who’s fucking fault was it for not telling me about parent career day?” Owen hissed at Katie as she let him into her apartment.
“What are you talking about? I thought David was going to tell you?” Katie crossed her arms over her chest and frowned.
“Yeah, well he forgot.”
Behind him a new voice spoke. “Could you tone your voice down a bit? According to Dr. Lipchitz, the tone of a person’s voice can affect the atmosphere surrounding a baby, whether they are in the room or not.”
It was Katie’s new wife, Lisa Hallett.
“That’s a load of bull. Plus, that man isn’t even a real doctor,” Owen told her. “You’re every bit bonkers-in-the-brain if you believe that wanker.”
Lisa gasped and wrapped her arms around her pregnant belly as if to shield her and Katie’s unborn baby from Owen’s words.
Lisa opened her mouth, a few choice words at the tip of her tongue and ready to be thrown, but was cut off by Katie stepping in between them.
“Lisa, why don’t you go tell David that his dad is here?
Lisa narrowed her eyes at Owen before leaving to do what Katie had asked. Katie waited till Lisa had left the room before pushing Owen into the kitchen.
“Why do you always have to be a dick? Also, your opinions on my or my wife’s beliefs mean nothing. Also, if I ever hear you disrespecting Lisa again, you will never be allowed to step foot into this apartment again. Understand?”
With a scowl Owen nodded.
Katie took a step back and asked, “how’s that jellied eel thing you wanted to start?”
“I met with a Mark Lynch a few days ago. You know- he’s the guy whose face is plastered on all the benches at the park. He owns some warehouses.” After a few silent moments, Owen asked his ex, “Do you think David will like London?”
“Oh god, please tell me you didn’t get evicted again?”
“I didn’t get evicted. It’s just that the warehouses that I need are in London,” Owen sniped back.
“Owen you can’t keep doing this to your son. I’m not sure how much longer David can take this. Every few month it’s a new place and a new job. Too much instability is bad for him.”
“Let me guess, you got that from Lisa’s Lipchitz book”
“I’m being serious, Owen.” Katie put her hands on the island counter.
“And I got it all planned out, Katie,” replied Owen
“Until you find a place, I don’t think David should be staying with you.” Katie turned and walked away.
“It will only be temporary. Just until your living situation smoothes out.”
Owen shook his head
“Tad,” an excited David called out.
Before turning to face his kid, Owen made sure that any trace of annoyance or anger was wiped from his face. And he turned around at just the right moment to catch David as he ran into his father’s arms.
“Ready to kick those losers’ butts?” Owen asked.
“Born ready.” David high-fived his dad. David grabbed his tad’s hand and yanked him towards the door, slowing down only to pick up his football bag.
Of all the parents shouting encouragement to their kids, Owen was the loudest.
“YOU GOT IT SON, KICK IT!”
As David got ready to kick the ball another player from the opposite team crashed into him and he fell. Owen ran on to the field, ignoring the calls of the other parents and coaches.
“I’m a doctor,” he told the referee.
“You okay, David? Are you hurt?” He asked as he helped his son up.
“I’m fine, tad,” David laughed. In a whisper he added, “you’re not even a doctor, dad”
“Well, what they don’t know won’t kill them. Also, the goalie’s weak on his right side. You kick there and you’re sure to score a goal.” Owen smiled.
“Bye, tad.” David pushed his dad toward the stands
“He’s good,” Owen shouted out to no one in particular.
As he was walking back to his seat, Owen heard several cries of watch out! but didn’t have much time to think about it as he was hit in the back of the head by a runway soccer ball seconds later. Just before he slipped in the unconscious, Owen heard laughter and a soft Tad?
Owen pressed the ice pack harder against the small bump that had formed on the back of his head. He was very grateful that Jasmine’s grandmother, Estelle, had given him the last remaining ice pack when he woke up. Now, he was walking David back to his moms.
“Are you sure you’re okay, tad?”
“I’m alright, son,” Owen said and with his free hand ran his fingers through his son’s hair. “You did score the game-winning goal.”
“Only because the goalie was laughing at you.”
“But you won didn’t you?” Owen said to David.
“Yeah we did.”
“Just don’t forget your about your dear old tad when you become famous.”
David found his football bag more interesting. “About that. I’m not sure I want to play professional football when I grow up.” Owen understood. At ten years old, you still have a long time to think abo- “I want to be a yoga instructor like Lisa.”
Owen bit his bottom lip hard to stop himself from cursing.
“Yeah, Lisa took me to her studio and it was so cool, tad. I even got to teach a class!”
Though he equally hated Katie for ending their marriage suddenly, he hated Lisa even more. Lisa was the one that suggested Katie take yoga classes when they were already pressed thin on cash. Lisa was the one that suggested Katie stay longer to so they could work on relieving all of her stress. Owen dreaded the thought of his son following the same career path as the one who stole his wife.
“Are you sure you want to be a yoga instructor?” Owen asked. “Wearing tight spandex and having ho- lonely ladies staring at your butt all day?” David laughed. “You can get scholarships for any fancy university you want playing football.”
“I could.” David switched the bag to his other shoulder. “And teaching yoga could be my fallback.”
“Fallback? You’re only ten. How do you know what a fallback is?”
“I heard mom and Lisa talking, and mom was saying something about all your schemes and how you needed a fallback,” David said. Owen closed his eyes. He wished he could tell that woman to mind her own business. “Tad?”
David hesitated for a few moments before asking, “Are you really moving again?”
“I’m not sure. But, do you know what London has?” David shook his head. “The exhibit for that Star Trek show you like. That’s cool, right?” Although he nodded his head in agreement, the ten-year-old looked close to tears. Owen knelt down so that he was face-to-face with his son. “Hey, I know that this is hard on you David, but I promise you it’s going to change. I can feel it in these scrawny bones.”
“But what if you’re wrong, tad?” David asked. Owen wiped away a stray tear that was falling down his son’s cheek.
“I’ll figure things out, don’t you worry about it.” Standing and taking the boy's hand, Owen asked, “Do you want to stop and get some ice-cream before I drop you off at your mom’s?”
Wiping his nose with the sleeve of his shirt, David replied “Yes”
“Good, because I know this place that serves the best banana split sundaes that’ll knock your socks off.” Owen smirked. He was going to send the boy back with a sugar high.