'Father's Day' by Karen Jones
According to his socks, he’s The World’s Greatest Dad. It’s who he’s allowed to be for two days each month. She would disagree with this title, of course. She who left the mark on his forehead with the weight of the No. 1 Dad mug.
He has an I Love My Dad t-shirt but only wears it under sweaters. It makes him feel like a superhero – always there when they call, ready to spring into action. They rarely call. He knows she stops them, imagines her eyebrows raised almost to her hairline as she peers at their phones – the ones he bought them – poised to snatch them away if they attempt contact on an unassigned day. He likes this vision he holds of himself as wanted, needed, a gallant figure. She says it’s nonsense, says they don’t care.
The This Daddy Belongs to Oscar and Millie key-ring digs into his leg if he forgets to take it out of his pocket before he sits down. He often forgets. It’s just another scar. He doesn’t mind scars, so long as they’re not visible. She has a different view of scars, she who caused as many as she received.
He marks another X on the calendar. Today, like most days, they’re with Other Dad. Only eight days to go until he sees them again. Only twenty-four hours until the hearing that could confirm his future visits are unsupervised. She says they’ll see about that.
He bought a Best Dad cap today. The shop owner always offers to gift wrap his purchases. He lets her, playing along with her belief that he’s shopping for his own much-loved elderly father, accepts her praise of him as a wonderful son. In reality he has little memory of his own almost-always-absent father.
Oscar and Millie are usually pleased with the gifts he buys for them to give him. Sometimes Millie pretends she’s redoing the wrapping and Oscar mimes tying the bows.
But he’ll have to open this one alone so he can wear the cap to court tomorrow, then everyone will see who he really is. He’ll never let them forget.