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I wanted him to say he missed me, to say sorry, and to explain himself for being so distant over the past years.

But mostly, I wanted him to wake up from his nap.

Trying my best to push those emotions away, I cleared my throat. “Dad,” I said, this time louder, pushing his leg with the sole of my blue Chucks. He grunted before rolling over to face the inside of the couch. “Are you kiddin’ me?” I muttered under my breath before taking my duffle bag and slinging it against his side. “Dad!”

He sat up, scowling. “What the hell?” The palms of his hands rubbed against his tired eyes. His fingers curved into fists, and he tilted his head up to stare at me. “You made it?”

“Yeah. I thought you would want to know I’m here.”

He scratched at his peppered gray beard before rolling back into the inner fold of the couch. “Your room’s down the hall and to the right.” It didn’t take long before he was snoring again.

“Good to see you, too.”

Heading toward my bedroom, I glanced inside to see a freshly made bed and a dresser with towels and bath supplies sitting on top of it.

At least he thought of me.

Heading toward my bedroom, I glanced inside to see a freshly made bed and a dresser with towels and bath supplies sitting on top of it.

A few of my boxes that Mom had shipped over were sitting on the ground. Nothing else.

My cell phone started ringing and Lance’s name flashed across the screen. “Hello?”

“Hey, Levi! Did you make it in okay? I know Kent was going to pick you up from the airport, but I just wanted to check in.”

“Yeah, I’m here. Dad’s car isn’t working so I took the bus, but I’m here.”

“Dude, you should’ve called me, I could have picked you up.”

“No big deal, I knew you were working. It was an easy trip.”

“Well, next time you need something don’t hesitate to ask. Family before work, okay? Are you getting settled in? Is Kent treating you okay?”

“He’s actually taking a nap.”

Lance went silent for a moment. “Yeah, he’s been doing that a lot lately. Are you sure you don’t need anything? Food? Company? Food and company? I can come over and talk your ear off to death.” He laughed.

“I’m good, really. I think I’m just going to unpack my stuff.”

“Okay. But call me if you need anything, day or night.”

“Thanks, Lance.”

“Of course, buddy. I’ll see you soon.”

I hung up the phone, sat on the bed, and stared at the blank walls. It was far from a place I’d call home. It felt foreign. Mom and I lived down in Alabama and our home was a cabin in the woods. The only good thing about Dad’s place was the backyard surrounded by trees. Without those trees and the memories I had of Dad, I probably would’ve felt like I was on Pluto or something.

Opening one of my boxes, I pulled out my music collection, the most diverse thing I owned. I could’ve easily reached into the collection and pulled out a jazz CD, then reached in and pulled out Jay Z and followed it up with The Black Crowes. Mom was a musician and believed that all styles of music were worth exploring. We listened to all kinds of genres and styles of music during the day, never really having a moment when our house was silent.

Dad’s house was mute.

Another box was packed with different hard cover dictionary sets: the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, and a two volume Oxford English Dictionary. Each day during homeschooling, Mom would have me flip through the books and find ten new words that I didn’t know and then we would use them in songs that we wrote together. The rest of my boxes included my Harry Potter collection, The Hunger Games, and The Chronicles of Narnia, every Stephen King novel, along with dozens and dozens of other books.

I lifted the Merriam-Webster dictionary and began flipping through the pages.

want | verb | \'wo?nt also 'wänt & 'w?nt\

to desire or wish for (something)

to need (something)

to be without (something needed)

I wanted Dad to want me a little. I wanted Mom to stop wanting me so much. I wanted to be wanted, but not wanted a lot.

* * *

The kitchen freezer held a variety of TV dinners. The fridge was stocked from top to bottom with sandwich meats, fruits, leftover pizza, Dad’s beer, and root beer.

He remembered my favorite soda.

For dinner I ate nasty mashed potatoes and meatloaf, downing it all with two root beers. Dad had the same thing, but he ate it in a different room. I stayed out of his hair for the rest of the night, hanging out in the woods during the rainstorm. High in the twisted branches was the tree house he and I built when I was nine. In my mind it used to be so much bigger, but I guessed that was the thing about memories—they weren’t always exactly true.

Carved into the tree trunk were our initials above the words ‘men cave’.

My fingers rolled over each word.

I didn’t remember carving the letters.

I wondered what else I forgot about this place.

I climbed the wet rungs on the tree, which were still pretty sturdy, and I sat inside of the now tiny house, which was covered with spider webs, dead June bugs, and ancient beer cans. In the far corner was an old boom box that Dad and I used to always play our favorite CDs while goofing off and wasting time.

Without thought, I hit the power button on the boom box, but it was dead like the June bugs.

I sat in front of the window with my arms crossed, watching the rain fall.

The rain always reminded me of Mom.