Jared Lipof
| Fiction

We strolled beneath maples and sycamores and hemlocks in various stages of corduroy explosion, the sky gunmetal and threatening rain. I had managed to find out from my father, through a little code-making of my own, that Uncle Stan was off-duty on Sunday.

“How’d you get his schedule,” said Benny, “without tipping off your dad?”

“You’re gonna like this,” I said, and I told Benny about the NFL player’s strike and the Wide World of Sports and our game of Mastermind.

I had just arranged my first guess.

“Nope,” said my father.

“You can’t just say nope,” I said. “You have to, like, illustrate where I went wrong.”

“You were totally wrong,” said my father.

None of my pegs were right?” I said. “That’s barely even possible.”

My father shrugged, and I got an idea.

“Uncle Stan knows how to play.”

“How nice for Uncle Stan.”

“It is nice. He’s really good, too.”

“Maybe I should call him up and congratulate him on his skill with shitty children’s games.”

“Maybe you should, you know, unless he’s at work?”

My father snorted.

“It’s hardly a children’s game. Look. It says six and up on the box.”

“If a seven-year-old can play it, then the goddamn cat can probably play it.” But then something twinkled behind my father’s eyes. “He does have today off, though. I should call and see if he wants to pop on down to the Chalet.” My father waggled his fingertips in anticipation of a frothy pint at his favorite nearby tavern.

My mother came out of the bedroom, holding a dress on either side of her.

“No one’s going to the Chalet. We’re having dinner with the Marklesons. Which one of these should I wear?”

It was as if someone had opened a valve and let all the air out of my father. He deflated back into the couch as, onscreen, a tetrahedron of swimmers kicked their legs in unison.

“The one on the left.”

“Really?” my mother said. “I like the other one.”

Making eye contact with me, he said, “So then why did you ask?”

“I just wanted my opinion confirmed. Which you’ve done. Thank you.”

My father shook his head as if to say, You see what I have to deal with?

Jared Lipof is a sound engineer for documentary television programs. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review. He lives in Tallahassee, where he is at work on a novel.

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