The boy couldn’t believe that inside a restaurant there was a waterfall dribbling off a cliff into a small pool below and a man ready to dive off this high cliff into the water. The boy marveled as the diver plunged into the glowing surface, the hint of a splash. He wondered what it felt like going in hands first; the boy only jumped into pools feet first, from low diving boards. He turned around and his dad was gone. He had yanked his dad up from their table earlier to show him this waterfall, this pool, but now there was a diver his dad had to see. He ran through the replica of a Mexican village, back to where his family was eating. But his dad wasn’t there, either.
“I thought he was with you,” the boy’s mom said. “Hey, slow down.”
The boy ate a sopapilla filled with honey in three bites.
The boy placed a knee on the chair and drank the rest of his soda through a straw in a breathless pull. He panted and said to his mom, “I’ve got to show Dad the diver.”
“Sit all the way down and eat the rest of your food.”
The boy saw his sisters huddled by a fountain, their arms in up to their elbows.
“They’re not eating.” Before the mom could answer, the boy went on, “Isn’t this the greatest place ever? We need to visit here every year—I can’t miss it, I can’t miss it” and the boy ran around the other tables full of people and heard his mother calling and ran under the palm trees, strings of Christmas lights decorating their fronds. He stopped by the lit up pool again. His palms rubbed the top of craggy boulders. His face prickled from the mist coming off the waterfall. When the diver jumped into the water again, the boy hopped in place, his short arms like planks stretched out in front of him. Next he turned and ran up wide tiled stairs and ran down a wide, curving ramp. He saw his dad at a pay phone near the men’s room.
“I’m…I’m…. No—let me talk,” the dad said to the boy tugging on his hairy arm. Then the dad said back into the receiver, “I’m…I said…I’m not unloading your lousy products anymore…that’s right. How…how…listen, let me have my say, sport…. Almighty—let me have my say, Gordon. If I’m going to drive all over creation—what?… I said…I said…. That’s right, why would I travel another mile for your two-bit outfit?”
The boy said, “We’ll miss the guy jumping off a cliff,” and pulled on the hem of his dad’s shirt, too.
“What’d you just say to me?” the dad said loudly into the phone, but the speaker blaring down Mariachi music from the ceiling was even louder. The dad pushed the boy away and said, “I’ll make it simple, Gordy…. I’m done shamming would-be suckers…. I…let me finish! I’m…I’m…. There you go. That’s it, sporto. I’m looking out for me now like you’re looking out for you.”
Then he hung up the phone in a way that reminded the boy about the time his dad threw a whole sandwich out the window of their car. But when the dad looked down at the boy, he wore an odd smirk and winked. “I’ll tell your mom more about what you overheard with my boss, okay? So let’s keep this under our hats, sport.” The dad allowed the boy to tug him up the ramp and down the wide stairs and up to the edge of the small glowing pool beneath the rocky cliff. The diver was nowhere in sight.
“I told you we’d miss him.”
“Let me tell you something,” the dad said, gleefully patting the top of one of the large fake boulders. “What I accomplished back there—a long time coming, too—doesn’t feel like one of these babies lifting off my chest. Nope.” His grin turned unruly, his wide teeth glowing. He crossed his rigid arms over his chest. “I was breathing just fine before, but for most of my life I haven’t been promoting the right product. Me.” The boy reached up and gripped his dad’s hairy arms like they were monkey bars, his small feet dancing just off the concrete floor as he swayed. “You’ll know this in a few years,” the dad said. “No one: not your wife, or girlfriend, or best friend, or parents, or your boss, or your co-workers will be your advocate in this life.” He uncrossed his arms, making the boy let go. “Look at me. Listen up. The only advocate you’ve got is you. No one cares about what you’re made of or how you’re promoting your wishes. No one cares about your aim in life, and how you’ll accomplish it in the—”
“Like that diver aims for the tiny pool,” the boy said, pointing.
“That’s it, yes. He’s jumping alone—”
“Sure. You got it. Let’s get back to the table.” The dad walked toward the Mexican village.
The boy walked quickly to keep up.
“What does it feel like, going in hands first?”
“It just feels like water.”
“Like your stomach crashing into your brain,” the boy said, hopping in place. “Or maybe worse?”
DAN CRAWLEY’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including CHEAP POP, New World Writing, Spelk, Jellyfish Review, and New Flash Fiction Review. Along with teaching creative writing and literature courses in Arizona, he reads fiction for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at https://dancrawleywrites.wordpress.com.
Image: Harald Landsrath via Pixabay