Here Comes Herodotus Again!
Now and then my father would get mad and throw a book. Just heave it. I caught one off the ear once. It stung like a hard-packed snowball, and for a while after it hit me, I couldn’t breathe. I think father took it harder than I did, however, because staying in control was important to him. He ran a tight ship, as he liked to say, and this action was a breach.
“I’m so sorry, son,” he said as he stabbed his cigarette into an ashtray and raced across the room.
Mother came running from the kitchen. She’d seen the whole thing through the open half of the Dutch door separating the rooms. She looked at me and then at him. Her brown eyes narrowed into dark beads and her chin grew stiff and defiant.
Father’s hands shook, “I’m so sorry,” he repeated to her more than to me, “Just breathe, son.” He stroked my hair while he explained that he’d lost his cool and it wouldn’t happen again. But I didn’t know about that. Father had a lot of books.
Around dinner, sometimes before, sometimes after, he would find his chair, loosen his belt, slip his right hand behind the buckle, and plunge into military history. Where did he go? Waterloo? Gettysburg? Ancient Greece?
His favorite book was by the historian Herodotus, who wrote about hostilities between Greeks and non-Greeks. That was eggshell time. You didn’t want to step on that. Don’t belch, giggle, stomp or make any funny noises. Father had a good left arm.
Once while slicing up a roast, a big butchering kind of knife in his hand, white sleeves rolled up to the elbow, tie dangling almost in the gravy, glasses askew, and grunting under the sheer futility of trying to cut meat that had warmed too long because The Histories had kept everybody waiting, father got mad at me when I asked to be excused from the table.
“For god’s sake, Teddy, why?” he said. “You just sat down.”
“B-because I g-got gas.” And I meant it. I guess I was nervous about spilling the news that I’d been accepted to a college out-of-state when my father counted on me going to the local U. It was where he had gone, where my older brother Dwight was going. But I’d been offered a scholarship and it was burning me up.
To distract myself, I complained about gas or talked about crapping while the rest of them were trying to eat. I knew it wasn’t mature. I took a risk in saying it every time, and this time I guess I’d pushed him too far.
Father threw the knife aside and striking out for anything else to toss my way, set off for the living room.
“You’d better scoot now, honey,” my mother said softly, as she left to head him off.
Dwight was more emphatic, “Clear out now, doofus,” he shouted, “cause here comes Herodotus again.”
And sure enough, whizzing by him and hurtling toward me through the open half of the Dutch door, five hundred pages of conflict, the wars between freedom-loving Athenians and subjugation- happy Persians.
To avoid being brained, I ducked while the weight of history, yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s, flew over me and crashed against the wall.
About the Author: Wayne Cresser lives on an island in Narragansett Bay with his wife and dog. His work has appeared in six print anthologies, most recently The Four Seasons (Kind of a Hurricane Press), online at Review Americana, Jerry Jazz Musician, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters and Story, and in such print journals as The Ocean State Review and SLAB. Read more of his work at https://wcresser.wordpress.com/