It was a weekly tradition now, not one he was proud of but tradition none the less.
A simple drive by the dump, stopping at the sign longer than necessary always resulting in someone honking loudly behind him. He waited while the impatient person behind swerved around him, flipping him off as he went by.
His dad was nowhere to be seen today. He pulled away from the stop sign and parked inside the dump to see if his dad was here. He frowned at the large scrap piles being buried underneath the recent snow, his dad had been working on something but not for awhile. A shiver ran up his spine as he entered his dad’s run down little hut, it was colder in there then it was outside.
He found himself unable to move as he set his eyes on the bathtub, his dad’s half blue barefoot hanging out the edge.
He couldn’t form any words from his stuttering lips. He wanted to call out to him but he couldn’t. He wanted to shake him until he got up but couldn’t move. He merely stood there like he was eight years old again standing in front of the phone every day waiting for dad to call home to finally say he was ready to come home.
A rattled cough brought him back to the here and now, but he didn’t feel like a man well into his thirties, he felt like he was trapped as an eight year old at the cusp of losing his father forever.
There was a surreal feel around him and the only thing that did exist was the cold wind blowing through the pelt covering the door way. His bulky frame was the only thing keeping the cold from touching his dad, who still hadn’t moved out of his metal bed (that he hoped wouldn’t be his coffin when he got out of his trance).
Faint scratches on the side of the tub and the low moans that sounded like his name broke him from the spell his nerves had put him under and he was finally at his dad’s side.
“Dad…?” Tate called in a shaken tone too stiff to move from the spot he was standing in. A gurgled, almost inhuman groan was his only response.
He snapped out of his stupor and finally took action, moving slowly to the side of the tub. His racing heart and the gasping breathes the only thing audible to him as time seemed to slow reaching the side of the tub.
He gulped gripping the side of the tin, eyes looking up at the hoard of machinery his father was trying to organize and put in their proper place on one of the side wall, just listening to his father’s wheezy breathing assuring him he wasn’t too late yet.
He had time to save him and he was squandering it with his childish fears. He scowled as the first thing his eyes settled on was the raccoon snuggled up in his dad’s tangled and knotted beard. He was more aggressive then he meant to be as he swatted the creature away with his hand, snarling it get out of here. The animal hissed at him but its skittish nature defeated its territorial instinct and it fled from the man triple its size swatting at it.
“T-“his father began but a coughing fit interrupted his train of thought and he went silent once more. Tate didn’t break that silence, still refusing to look down at his ill father, placing his hand on his forehead, only to yank it back. He took a gulp then another trying to keep his stoic nature, his dad was burning up.
Tate gently and slowly put his hands around his dad, still not looking at him not wanting to see how bad he let him get and picked him out of the tub without a fight. He didn’t know if it was his dad shaking or him as he slowly walked wordlessly out of the shack, his dad was so light. His bones apparent against his fingers, his skin like thin paper. He didn’t know who to blame for the state he was in. Himself, his mom, his former god father, or letting the responsibility fall squarely on his dad’s shoulders and that always made the situation he placed himself in harder.
He kept his silence all the way to the truck, he kept it after bundling his dad in a thick blanket he always kept in the tool box ‘just in case’ and he didn’t attempt to break it when his dad began rambling nonsense next to him. He just kept his attention on the road as if nothing had happened all the way home.
He settled him down in his own bed upon arriving back home. The thought of taking him to the hospital had occurred to him but he was afraid once he was admitted, the doctors wouldn’t give him back. Locking him up in a place he knew he didn’t want to be until he finally died a lonely death far away from him, the only family he had left.
He surprised even himself as he tucked his dad into his own bed gently, piling his few extra blankets on him knowing the old furnace couldn’t completely keep the chill out and placed a soft kiss on his forehead. The act was small and it barely lasted a second but it made an impact. His father sighed contently, a smile forming and he was able to sleep comfortably despite his high fever.