February 27, 2006 The Thought of Returning By Dustin Slater aka Ensign Malcolm Wash The bus rolled down the long dirt road leaving a trail of dust in its wake. He leaned his head against the window and tried to see through the dust-caked glass at the countryside he use to call home. He had known one day he would be back but he never realized it would be because of this. He thought for sure his mom would have called in that sweet voice of hers and soothed things over. Telling him his father loved him and that they needed to talk. That call never came 6 years went by and not a word. He had picked that phone up at least once a day to call and never dialed. What would he say how could he ask for forgiveness when he wasn’t willing to give it himself. So instead, he built a life he went to school, and he forgot. He forgot what the fight had been about, and he had forgotten why he was mad. Then it happened he walked in to his apartment tossing the keys on a side table just as his phone rang. He walked over and picked up the receiver only to hear that voice he never thought he would hear again. The shaky words came from his mother and even before she said anything, he knew. “Hey honey its mom, listen I need to tell you something…..” Her voice trailed into silence and he could hear the sadness. “Mom what’s wrong are you ok? Is it is it…….” She knew what I was asking and a choked response was all I got. “…. yes dear its dad…… just come home.” Hanging up the phone was an automated response and so was calling work to tell them he needed the time off. He gathered a few belongs and headed out the door. His mind flashed back to his time with his father. Playing waffle ball in the back yard both laughing and smiling. He climbed into the cab and headed toward the bus stop. The bus slowed and stopped at the small town station and he was shaken from his memories. He stood grabbing his bag and exiting from the dust covered Greyhound. The first face he saw was his brother and the look on his face racked him to the bone with guilt. He walked up and dropped his bag looking his brother in the eye, and that was all it took the two men embraced hugging and He finally knew he was home and that no matter what had happened everything was different now. The two stood back and he had to ask. “So how is he? I mean mom really didn’t tell me much just that I needed to come home.” His brother’s face took on the sullen sadness of a man who knew more then he wanted to. “Well you want the good or the bad? Actually I guess it’s all bad, he’s dying and there is nothing we can do man.” He lowered his head not wanting to show the glistening tears in his eyes and the news of his father. After a moment, he looked back up. “Well let’s go see the old man before anything happens.” He climbs in the passenger side of his brother’s truck as the two head out of town. He lets the twang of country music coming from the radio to wash over him. He tries to remember what the fight was he had with his father 6 years ago. He tried to think about and figure what had happened but in his mind, the only thing he knew was that staying away for 6 years was something he would never forgive himself. Soon the truck pulled into the drive to the old farmhouse and his stomach knotted inside as the pulled to a stop next to the old house. His mother opened the door as he climbed from the truck. She wasted no time as she ran toward her son and almost bowled him over as she grabbed him in a hug. Tears streamed down her face. “Oh I knew you would come back, oh baby I am so glad to see you. You know he asked for you that’s why I called.” “I figured mom and thanks for calling.” “You look so much like him you know.” She slaps him playfully “And you’re just as stubborn as he is too. Now get in there and see him.” He walks toward the house he grew up in and felt the familiar warmth fill him. He was home and no matter what the reason he was glad to be back. He walked in and instantly smelled the familiar aroma of his parents in the house. His mom is cooking and the sweet scent of tobacco from his father. As he walked towards the back bedroom, he suddenly felt like a kid again walking down that hall after having a bad dream to have his daddy take care of the monsters. He reaches his hand for the knob and turns slowly opening the door. His father Smiles as his son enters. “I am glad to see you made it back.” The tears fill his eyes as he closes the door.