Jasper scanned the restaurant looking for an explanation.
His cool, icy-blue eyes carried an oil and water mix of are you fucking kidding me? And is this real? Each reaction fighting for control.
Because mere moments before, in between fast bites of cheesy eggs, a perfect stranger stumbled into his world at the absolute wrong time. The time he carved out to reveal an important secret to his son.
The interruption was common of course – Jasper being the mayor, had always dealt with the public, even in private moments.
It was constant. If he were to take a trip to the grocery store, it would almost certainly turn into a long stroll down memory lane. There was always a familiar face to talk to, an old memory to relive, and a new memory to be created.
He attempted to grab the waitress with his eyes, pleading her to deal with some crowd control. Just a nice, do you want some more coffee? Could stymie the small talk.
She returned the pleas with a half-ass smile, moving the gum from one side of the mouth to the other, remaining utterly indifferent to the situation at hand.
Jasper shook his head and bit his lip. He was going to have to deal with this head-on.
“Hey – how you doing, pal!”
The stranger obliged.
“Say there, what in the world is that?”
The idiot pointed his hairy hand at the magenta smoothie sitting in front of Jasper.
“Just a dragon fruit smoothie”
“Dragon fruit smoothie?” The stranger could hardly contain his excitement, “I thought dragons were extinct!”
Jasper let out a fake laugh; he hoped the stranger, turned idiot, would notice. He didn’t.
Instead, he looked back at his wife, who sat at attention, eager to hear the news.
The stranger’s wife smiled like she had learned a dirty secret. Her eyes lit up like a damn firework.
And then, with a complete lack of awareness of social situations, he slapped his belly, let out a too-loud laugh, and sauntered off back to his table. No goodbyes.
He was certainly out of earshot but not out of Jasper’s life.
Jasper turned back from the interruption and tried to collect himself. His body shook with annoyance like he had a bug on his shirt he was trying to knock off. Then he stared straight at his son with a glazed annoyed look and let out four words that cracked his son’s heart.
“What a fucking asshole.”
Across the table, James sat back in his seat and felt and unusual feeling: a smile growing on his face.
That was the most honest interaction he had with his father in years.
The last four years had been hard.
His mother lost her battle with cancer right as Jasper’s political career was taking off like a rocket ship.
And when you’re 14, dealing with the loss of a loved one, you need someone to be there.
Jasper wasn’t. His way of grieving was pouring his head down in his work, trying to distract himself from the pain. And for him, the work worked. These next four years caused Jasper to amount a small fortune. Never before had the family grown so rich.
During that time, James only saw his father in the between. The forgotten 2-5 minutes that live In between moments. Those minutes were both busy and boring. But sometimes, oftentimes, they were honest, albeit brief.
And they would catch up when they could, but His conversation with his father had turned pedestrian as they grew apart.
How was your day?
How was school?
Is anything new in your life?
And what was once a great relationship was on the edge of burning out. The only thing they had in common was their past and shared last name. It went on like this for years until today.
Seemingly out of the blue, Jasper woke James up, told him to get dressed, and left his room with a troubling thought:
‘We have much to discuss
And now here they were sitting, in the middle of a bottomless coffee diner, with a big black suitcase in the center of the table.
James could feel his body inching forward as Jasper turned his steely gaze.
“I have much to tell you”
“So you’re probably wondering what this is about.”
“How could I not be?”
Jasper sighed; his body rattled again.
“ – Well – there really isn’t an easy way to say this, so I’m going to come out and say it, don’t make a scene.”
James nodded and wondered how in the hell he was expected to not make a scene without knowing the stakes. Then Jasper let out three words that changed everything.
“I have cancer.”
James shot back in his seat, the air escaping his body. Perhaps for the first time, he was reminded of an unfortunate truth: mortality. And this caused him to feel a strange twinge in his heart.
For the first time in a long time, he saw his father wasn’t a robot programmed to perfection but was in fact, the opposite. A flawed human. A doomed Human. A human. And then James did something he hadn’t done in a long time. He really saw his father for what felt like the first time.
He noticed how his face had seemed to be a little gaunter; his skin was weathered. He noticed how his eyes were a tad more sunken, and his shirt seemed to dangle off his bones. Jasper was skinnier than before, and he had aged. And this caused James to wonder how had he not seen what was right in front of him.
He snapped back into reality.
“I’m so sorry.”
It was all he could squeak out as fear raced in his head.
“How bad is it?”
Jasper started down at his bottomless cup of coffee and noticed his reflection. It was like seeing the Grim Reaper, and he sighed.
“Yeah” was all Jasper could let out.
The diner that was once very much alive became very much still.
He then reached across the table and slowly hoisted up the black suitcase; the gold buckles shot a bright beam of light across James’s face.
James’ eyes met Jaspers.
“Now that I’m faced, or rather reminded, that my time is coming to a close, there’s really only one matter that’s important.”
All around him, people were living their life, unaware that their life was crashing. Blissfully unaware.
“The only thing that matters to me now is preparing you for this world and I’m sorry I haven’t been around as much as I needed to be. Life is, well, complicated. It’s a gift if you choose it right, and it’s a burden if you don’t. Some people are happy to be alive, while others live life on autopilot, letting the current of life flow along. And I don’t care what you do; I’ll always love you, but I do care if I don’t teach you what’s important.”
The diner spun in circles as Jasper spoke. His words flew into the air and faded into time.
“Inside the suitcase are eight letters that have a task. If you complete every task, you be granted your inheritance; if you don’t, it will all go to charity.”
“But most importantly, you’ll get your true inheritance and the real treasure that hides in this life.”
Jasper rubbed his hands across the leather of the suitcase. Making a soft brushing sound, before opening the suitcase, one snap at a time, and pulled out a letter. Its vanilla envelope looked proper, and in bold, black ink, “Lesson One” was written on with a John Hancock style of cursive.
On the back, a wall of red wax was formed with a J in the center.
It felt ancient. It felt ritualistic. It felt like the start of being ushered into a secret society.
Jasper pushed the letter forward.
James sat back in his seat and grabbed the letter. Silently, he wondered only one thing:
“What’s the real treasure?”
James couldn’t tell if he was on a quest, but this certainly, felt medieval. Then the next moment would change his life forever.
Jasper’s breathing suddenly became more shallow, and he closed his eyes as if to grab more strength. Soon his hand cupped his forehead as he placed his weight forward. The table creaked.
“Dad… are you alright?”
“….I just… I just”
Jasper’s head bounced off the table.
He was dead on the spot.
Please like, comment, share and tell me what you think. This is the 2nd, book I started, the first being: https://tonysbologna.com/2023/02/01/the-middle-finger/ Let me know if you find this worth pursuing.