The dad sat smoking his pipe on his front steps. His son drove up, his car clanged and shuddered, as he pulled into the driveway.
"The Alternators going," The dad thought.
The son got out of the car. Every time the dad saw his son he was surprised with how old he looked. His boy was thirty. Definitely not a boy anymore. His son had dark, almost black, hair combed and gelled in place. His features were softer than his father's. The dad thought he was more like his mother in that way. Thinking of his wife made the dad happy she was out running errands. Having her here when the boy showed up made things more difficult.
"That's probably as it should be," The dad thought, "I don't think I ever handle this right."
The boy got out of the car and walked over the grass to his dad.
"Hi dad," The boy said.
"Hi," The dad said. The boy looked terrible. Unhealthy. His skin was pockmarked with zits and scabs. His eyes were sunken and black. The dad thought his son was missing some teeth too, but the boy was a soft talker. His mouth never opened wide enough for the dad to be sure.
The boy toed the ground for a minute.
"Can I have a smoke?" He asked.
"Did you bring a pipe?" the father said. The boy shook his head no. The dad took out his tobacco pouch and handed it to the boy, who put it in his pocket. "Try and remember to bring the pouch back later."
"I'm in some trouble dad," The boy said.
"What do you want?"
"I want some money." The boy said.
"You remember our fishing spot?" The dad said, "You and I used to spend long weekend mornings there. Caught some catfish and talked away the morning."
"Lake number three," The boy said. He rubbed his face. "I need money dad."
"What do you need money for?" The dad said.
"I'm in trouble. I was kicked out of my apartment."
"For what?" The dad asked.
"I lost my job."
"When did you lose your job?"
"A couple weeks ago."
The dad took a long pull from his pipe. He watched as his son leaned on one foot then the next. His son picked his nose.
"Do you still play baseball?" The father said, "I remember you used to have a great throwing arm. Do you still hang out with those guys?"
"No, I don't play that anymore," The son said. He was agitated. "I haven't played that in years. Are you hearing me? I lost my job and I don't have a place to live."
The father nodded. "I hear you," He said.
"Can I stay here a few days?" The son asked.
His father said nothing.
"Dad," The son said, "Can I stay here for awhile?"
Everything inside the father screamed 'Yes' like a chorus of Angel's heralding the coming of Christ. He bit down on his pipe. "No," The dad said.
"No?" The son said. loudly. "What am I going to do?"
"I don't know," The dad said.
"What the fuck dad? I'm your son. I'm in trouble. I'm begging for your help."
"You know what they call me in town?" His father said softly.
"Always with your fucking tangents," The boy said, "I don't believe this. What do they call you in town?"
"Enabler," The dad said, "They call me enabler among other things. I don't let it bother me too much. In some ways I think they're right, but most of the time when someone calls another person something derogatory it's because they don't know what the hell they're talking about. I doubt they know how hard it is to say no when your children are in trouble. I'm learning how. The trouble is I tried to raise you right. I did all the right things but sometimes that isn't enough. Your kids get older and become adults. Adults make their own decisions. The trouble with parents is that they never see their children as adults. I look at you and see the little boy I love."
The boy kicked a piece of gravel.
"I'm hungry dad," The boy said. The dad pulled out a half-sandwich wrapped in plastic from his pocket and handed it to the boy. The boy took the sandwich and put it in his pocket. "Can I stay here for just one night. I just need a place for one night."
"Do you remember going to Sunday School?" The dad said.
"I remember. You took me there almost every week," The son said, "I also remember a story about the Prodigal Son whom messed up royally and his father took him in a helped him. What kind of dad does that make you?"
"Some men are better father's than others," The dad said.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Some men are better than others. Some sons are better than others," The dad said.
"You're going to shut me out, not help me and now your lecturing me on top of it? Fuck you."
"I've kept my part of the bargain," The dad said. "I've done my part. I've helped you find jobs. I've given you money. I've taken you in time after time. You always blame someone else for your problems. You take no ownership of them. You don't think about what you're doing with your life and how it kills me and your mother a little more each day."
"I'm fucking leaving," The boy said. He stormed over to his car. The father stood up on the steps.
"Your Sunday School teachers messed up your lessons," The dad said, "There is no repentance without a change in behavior. The Prodigal son came back to his father a changed man. You are no different. I can help you, but it won't change anything about you. You have to change yourself."
"Fuck you dad. I hate you." The boy tore open his car door.
"Son?" The dad said. The boy grimaced, but hesitated before getting in the car.
"Your Alternator's going," The dad said. He sat back down on the steps. The boy got in his car and tore out of the driveway.
The dad tapped out his pipe and patted his pockets for his tobacco pouch. He remembered he gave his pouch to the boy. He put his pipe in his pocket.
His wife turned her car into the driveway a few minutes later. She got out of the car.
"Hi honey," She said.
"Hi," the dad said, "The boy stopped by."
"Where is he?" The mom asked.
"He's gone," The dad said, "He's gone."