Johnny America




I got my dad an iPhone for his 64th birth­day. He’s re­tired. I fig­ured he could use it to pho­to­graph and video­tape my daugh­ter, up­load it to Face­book. He loves to look at Google Maps in the mid­dle of the night when he can’t sleep, and he could maybe do it from bed now. I showed him how to send pic­tures texts so when he’s hang­ing out with my daugh­ter he could send them to me or her mom or my mom or whoever.

I couldn’t re­al­ly tell what the first pic­ture he sent was, I as­sumed it was an ac­ci­dent. But then he sent the cap­tion. “Got an erec­tion.” The next mes­sage he sent me was a much clear­er pic­ture, and there was no mis­tak­ing his shorts, his legs, his shoes. The cap­tion for the sec­ond pic­ture: “Gone now.”

Five days lat­er he sent me an­oth­er pic­ture of a lump in his shorts. “This one’s a re­al rager.” He sent it to me while I was hav­ing din­ner with my daugh­ter and her moth­er. It was hard to keep my cool. I want­ed to talk about it, but the on­ly oth­er adult around was my ex wife. Thing were good be­tween us, I’m lucky to have her re­al­ly, when I think about all the aw­ful shit peo­ple go through when they split up and there’s kids. But it’s not like we’re friends. That would be like for­get­ting how to ride a bi­cy­cle. And my Dad’s a re­tired bike me­chan­ic with an erec­tion shar­ing problem.

My friend Conor was no help. He just laughed and laughed. “Ask him if it’s hard­er than a preacher’s dick,” he told me, be­cause that’s how Dad al­ways de­scribed the feel of a prop­er­ly aired bi­cy­cle tire.

“Please don’t men­tion this to any­body,” I begged him.

Next time I was at Jupiter House, Court­ney, the barista, re­placed her usu­al greet­ing with, “How’s your Dad’s dick?”

I showed her his lat­est text. The cap­tion read, “That was some good chili you made. I got this one af­ter I farted.”

I went out on a date the next week­end. Of course she asked to see some pic­tures. I showed her a cute pic­ture of my daugh­ter rid­ing her bike with my dad. The woman took my phone and be­fore I could stop her she scrolled to the next pic­ture, a lump in my dad’s but­ton fly jeans that had man­aged to un­but­ton one of the but­tons. “If I throb it just right I might could get them all un­done,” he’d said.

I did­n’t know what to say, so I just qui­et­ly drove her home.

Thing is, I’d rather wait for my dad to stop an­nounc­ing his every erec­tion than talk to him about it. This prob­lem solv­ing tech­nique had worked all through­out high school, with all my friends and boss­es, it got me through two years of mar­riage. It did won­ders for guilty feel­ings about dirty dish­es. And it’s served me best through my own per­son­al erec­tions. I’m a de­vout be­liev­er that most any prob­lem will solve it­self giv­en enough time.

Even­tu­al­ly word got back to my ex . She called me one night when it was her night with our daugh­ter. “Everything’s all right, she’s asleep now. I’m just call­ing as a friend.” For longer than I’d care to ad­mit, I’ve got­ten the shakes dur­ing any­time of high anx­i­ety. Con­fronta­tions left me speech­less, and the sound of her voice try­ing to help me left me made my throat swell. “You need to talk with your Dad. You wouldn’t care to joke about it if it didn’t re­al­ly both­er you.”

As most of these con­ver­sa­tions go it was pret­ty one sided. I as­sured her that I planned to deal with it, she ex­plained that jok­ing wasn’t deal­ing with it. The con­ver­sa­tion end­ed with a long silence.

The next Sun­day I went over to my par­ents’ house. My mom was at work and my daugh­ter was with her mom. We made break­fast and sat down in the liv­ing room. I found Rush­more on one of the movie chan­nels. “Good bis­cuits,” my dad said.

“Yup,” I said.

“Won­der what neigh­bor­hood this was shot in,” My dad said. Rush­more was one of our fa­vorites, we’d prob­a­bly watched it twen­ty times together.

“Had an erec­tion on my ride the oth­er night. Painful.” He scrapped the rest of his gravy off his plate with his fork. “That’s good gravy.”

I wish I could de­sign an app for si­lences. It could mea­sure the length and in­ten­si­ty. Flag whether or not it was awk­ward. And if it last­ed over four hours it would ad­vise you to seek help.

“Yeah, there it goes again,” he said. What was left to say? I no­ticed some gravy on my mus­tache and licked it clean. I burped. “Good taters,” I said. I found com­fort in the si­lence that followed.

Filed under Fiction on June 27th, 2014

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