The Singing City
by Michael F. Flynn
All during the party Theresia has been remarkably subdued. Oh, she has smiled at all the right jokes and chatted with all her guests, but Bill has seen her smile wink out the moment she thinks no one is watching. It is as if her face were a moon, reflecting the gaiety of those around her, but not shining through its own inner fires. Who can blame her, he thinks. It must be hard to bid a husband farewell. He remembers how his own father had been absent for months at a time, and how bravely his mother had borne it.
His eyes, dancing across the crowded family room, pick out his father’s curly, silver-white hair and sun-darkened face where he sits and talks wise words with the other old men. Rehashing the good old days, as such men always did; though Ed Mercado has a great many more days worth the hashing than most.
His father will not be around much longer, Bill realizes with a sudden pang. When you lived hard, you wore out faster.
His father notices his regard and tips his bottle of El Presidente toward him. Bill waves and moves off to the edge of the crowd. Everybody says how wonderful it must be having a hero for a father, but they hadn’t been there. They hadn’t known of the long absences and the strange, skinny man who would reappear from time to time to bend down and, laughing, swoop him into the air. Or the schoolyard fights, obliged to defend his father’s honor against those who felt equally as obliged to belittle it. What did your Dad do in the Crisis? Nothing much. Saved the world once or twice, but that’s all. Later, as he matured, Bill learned that there had been other men and women, thousands of them, and many had done and sacrificed far more than Dad. And yet, every morning when he looks into the mirror to shave, Bill Mercado does not see “Flaco” there.