It’s a February day when Tim’s father asks him if he wants to get on the train. Tim of course, is confused, but he says yes.
Because if Tim has learned anything about his father recently, it’s that he’s spontaneous. And vague. So they set off that morning, Tim, Harry, and Pikachu. The train ride is nice because now he has someone sitting next to him.
Pikachu curls up in Tim’s lap and begins to sleep, and Harry smiles. “He likes you a lot, you know. Probably more than he likes me.”
“I doubt that,” Tim replies, shrugging. “I mean, he did give up his body to keep you alive.”
His father laughs. Tim appreciates it when his father laughs. Because for most of his childhood, his father didn’t do a lot of laughing. But Tim, of course, now knows that his father is a sarcastic and laughter prone person when not worrying about his wife dying.
The train ride is about two hours long, and Tim wakes up to a “Pika Pika!” He smiles, seeing the small creature looking at him expectantly. “You ready, kid?” His father asks him.
Tim looks out the window. “Is this…”
“Yep. Our hometown.” Harry smiles. “Uh, I thought you might want to get your stuff. Also, Ryme City Starbucks can’t beat Beany Business.” Beany Business is the local coffee shop near the old house, owned by a nice elderly couple. Tim, Harry, and his mom would always go there as a family before everything happened.
“Alright.” They get out of the train, listening to the whistle of the engine and seeing the busy lobby of the station before them. Tim has to admit that it feels good to be back. He loves the city, but there’s nothing like the place you grow up.
They brush their way through all the people, Pikachu chattering excitedly on Tim’s shoulder. “So, where did you work?”
“Oh, uh, Hansen’s Insurance.” Tim points to the four-story building right next to them. “This one.”
“You never struck me as an insurance kind of guy.” His father puts his face in the window, and Tim gasps. “Holy shit, it looks so boring in here. I might’ve offed myself.” Tim notices the shocked looks from the people in the lobby and smashes his palm onto his forehead.
“What, am I embarrassing you?” Harry laughs.
“I mean...kind of,” admits Tim.
“Gotta make up for the teenage years, don’t I?” He chuckles. Tim laughs nervously, but their laughter soon ends. “Uh, sorry.”
“It-it’s fine.” They continue walking, turning onto Burnett Street, the house where he grew up. Tim has never noticed how small it truly is. It’s saddening.
Pikachu chortles, climbing from Tim to Harry’s shoulder. “It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah.” Tim feels a tear form in his eye. “It has.”
“Is Grandma still…”
“No,” Tim hangs his head. “She… she passed a while ago.”
The house stands on the corner. Brown and red brick, two stories, a garden in the front. The welcome mat, the porch with the chairs.
Home. Soon his shoulders shake, his knees wobbling. He and his father, back at the house together. Harry puts his hand on Tim’s shoulder. “It’s okay, kid.”
And Tim believes him. He creaks open the door. It hasn’t been sold, not yet. Everything is still in place. The wooden dining table, with newspapers and crosswords, piled up. The kitchen, still no doubt stocked with oatmeal and coffee and bread. He slowly walks up the stairs, opening the door to his room. There’s the Pikachu bed, the posters, the pictures, with him, his dad, and his mom.
“Do you remember when she went to the hospital the first time?” Harry asks Tim, appearing at the door, his old mug in his hand, full of coffee.
Tim doesn’t answer, only puts his head in his hands.
“It was February. Just like today.” His father takes a seat next to him on the bed. “You were eight.”
Tim truthfully doesn’t remember the specifics. He pushed most of those memories away, so he keeps listening.
“The ambulance came by, and I remember seeing a smile on your face. You didn’t know what was going on. But you saw the ambulance, and you saw a Pokemon in there, with the doctor. An assistant. And you couldn’t believe your eyes, Tim. I’ve never seen someone’s face light up the way yours did. A real-life paramedic Pokemon, like one from Ryme City. A real ambulance, like your toy trucks.”
Tim’s breath wobbles as he looks at Harry, who has tears in his eyes.
“A few nights later, when your mom had to stay in the hospital, I remember tucking you in. And you said to me, ‘Is an ambulance gonna take you away too, Dad?’ And...that broke my heart more than anything. I felt so powerless, so small, compared to the empty house, to the world, to all the shit happening to my wife, your mother.” His father’s voice breaks. “And I told you, Tim, I told you that your father wasn’t going anywhere, no matter what. I was staying right there with you.” Harry sighs. “Ever since becoming a dad, I always felt like I was going to fail. And I did. And I still do, and I always will.”
“Dad…” Tim whispers.
“But now, I want to start over. I just want to fulfill that promise, Tim.” He grabs Tim’s hand. “It shouldn’t have taken my death and a one-sided Freaky Friday with a Pikachu to realize it, but I want to be a good father. If you’d let me. “
“Of...of course.” Tim lays his head on his father’s shoulder. “I wasn’t there for you either, you invited me to come live with you, and…”
“You can’t blame yourself, Tim.” Harry shushes him. He puts his arms around Tim, and Tim leans into his embrace. It’s nice, that is, until he feels a burning hot liquid on his shirt.
“Did you just spill your coffee?” Tim asks.
“Fuck. Yeah. Seems like it.” Harry looks down at his shirt. “I don’t know why I thought I could hug you at the same time.”
“Should we wash the sheets?” Tim asks.
“Nah. We don’t live here anymore.” Harry gets up. “C’mon. Let’s find Pikachu and go to Beany Business. I’m pretty sure what I was drinking is three months expired anyway.”
Tim laughs. “You’re even more of a disaster as a human.”
“What every man wants to hear. Come on kid, let’s blow this shithole.”
As father, son, and Pikachu leave the house and walk towards the coffee shop, Tim finally feels as if everything is working out.
And he smiles.