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Pen Your Pride

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Upon hearing AC/DC's Highway To Hell, I grabbed the feather duster on the shelf and played along, my right hand strumming away in time to a riff and the other scattering up the frets that is the dowel handle. As I shut my eyes and leaned back, preparing to murder the hell out of the guitar solo, Dad decided to just walk in the living room, screaming, "Tone. It. Down. Or. I'm. Calling. The. Cops!"

God what a dramatic buzzkill.

Dad was always like that, killing the buzz. Ever since Mom died, he became extremely hypersensitive to sound. The doctors told us it was a "mild" case of hyperacusis, a condition that causes a person to be unable to tolerate everyday noise levels without discomfort, and that he had to take pills and painkillers every single day. It's such a riot though because he enjoyed yelling at me. A lot.

I think it was sort of like a Phineas Gage situation. Phineas Gage, you know that guy from the nineteenth century who had a metal rod blown through his head that changed his entire personality and behavior? My dad changed drastically when Mom died and became the man that he was today: a crabby, sound-sensitive buzzkill. He was the Phineas Gage of the twenty first century.  

"Do you have physical Tourette's? I worry about you sometimes." He mumbled.  

I snort. "Do you really think you're funny?"

"I try to be." He marched across the newly mopped floor and sat on his recliner. He looked angry, he always looked angry, not the Clint Eastwood always, just, angry. I turn the volume down and take one bud off as he flicked through the pile of letters on his lap.

"Dad."

"Yeah."

"Did any mail come for me?"

"Why?"

"Nothing."

"Are you expecting something?"

"No."

"Then why ask in the first place?" He raised his voice.

"Never mind." Never mind was the best way to escape the forthcoming quicksand of questions.

After finishing my cleanup in the living room, I was bored, so I went outside, lay down on the hellfire-soaked patio, and closed my eyes as a Led Zeppelin song played in my ears. It was a hot day, so hot my stomach began to perspire. I turn from an uncomfortable gooey position and see Dad's shoe beside my head. I sat up and took the buds off. See that vibe kill again? He deserves an award for that.

"You applied for Summit Line State?" He was holding an envelope. And I was reminded of a tax collector. "Were you gonna tell me, kiddo?" The only time he ever calls me kiddo is when he's either really ticked off or provoked, or when he catches me doing something stupid. Through the years the intimidation effect wore off, but honestly, the term itself still frightens the hell out of me.

I wiped the sweat on my nose, just to buy myself some time as I thought of a flimsy excuse for my supposed delinquency. He hated secrets. "See Dad, I was going to tell you but—"

"Save it, kiddo." He did this Clint Eastwood sneer and sat beside me. "Here. Open it."

"I'm sorry. I should've told you."

His lip twitched. "Just open it."

"Okay." This is it—the moment of truth. My much anticipated college acceptance letter. I ripped it open, my heart in my throat, and read.

"So?" Dad said.  

"I got in."                         

"You got in?"

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