“Look what you have done, Daddy. Those people in the little houses can stay in their homes. My friend, Bill, lives there. He is the neatest guy. Can we go see him sometime?”
“We have to go to the hospital for your treatment today, Johnny. Maybe.”
“Maybe what? They said I had weeks, maybe.”
Arthur sighed. “So, you think I am a super hero?
“Bill told me some big money guy bought all the land here but you stopped him from tearing down all these houses. How did you do that, Dad? Only a superhero could do that.”
Arthur sighed again only deeper this time. “I know the money guy.”
“Yeah, but, Dad, it takes a lot of power to save so many people. Bill says he has no place to go. And nobody paid him anything. You saved my friend.”
Arthur sucked in his breath. I am the money guy passed through his mind. I am no super hero. I am the villain. I just delayed the evictions until my son dies. There, I said it even though it is just a thought grinding in my mind. I am going to lose the only thing that makes my own life worth living. I should tell Johnny the truth but it is great having my son think I am a hero. “I didn’t save your friend exactly,”
“But, Dad, you did something great. You gave them time.”
Arthur felt like he had been struck in the face. He had given a few weeks to strangers but he couldn’t do the same for Johnny.
“When I get to heaven, I am going to tell God what you did.”
Arthur shivered. He had done a lot of things. “What are you talking about?”
“You being a super hero. If I grow up and I beat this thing I have, I want to be like you.”
Arthur was thinking about this conversation with his son while kneeling before Johnny’s casket. So many people had come to the funeral. His little boy, not yet ten, had made such an impact. I want to be just like you he whispered to the boy laying so still on the velvet pillow.
Arthur imagined Johnny laughing as if his father had made a joke. Two weeks ago, his raggedy blond son had been laughing.
Arthur lowered his head. A friend came, put his hand on his shoulder and led him away from the silver casket.
Days later, or maybe it was weeks or maybe it was months, Arthur didn’t know. Time meant little to him now. Johnny’s light had gone out and Arthur wasn’t quite himself. He named his project Johnny’s Haven and delayed the eviction notices for three years. Real estate goes up so he knew his investment wouldn’t suffer. He didn’t want to go against a boy who was going to talk to God about him. So, Arthur gave time.
He looked at the picture of his son on his desk. Written across the front on the bottom just above the bronze frame in a childish scrawl were the words Marvel, One of a Kind. Johnny had written that while getting his treatment and given it to Arthur for Father’s Day.
Arthur had been staring at the picture for so long his eyes hurt. I wonder what my son would have been like if he had had the time to grow up. Arthur talked to himself.
He stood up from his expensive chrome chair. Arthur didn’t want to waste another moment. He knew without thinking it, Johnny was with him, his son, the super hero, who had taught him about time.
Lynette G. Esposito, MA Rutgers, has been published in Poetry Quarterly, North of Oxford, Twin Decades, Remembered Arts, Reader’s Digest, US1, and others. She was married to Attilio Esposito and lives with eight rescued muses in Southern New Jersey.