A father’s love
What kind of father am I?
With just a couple of days before I leave for a three-weak run in Vegas, I should be teaching my son how to build a house, or at the very least, fire a shotgun. These are useful skills that, in the event of my unfortunate demise in Sin City, my son could use to defend our home from intruders and revenuers.
I did not do this. Instead, I spent my Saturday morning with my son at a bastion of cultural significance: Frankie’s Fun Park. Where else can a man show his child he loves him 50 cents at a time? I even did my part to save the world and helped steer him away from the first-person-shooter games. We grabbed a plastic triceratops from a crane machine, played whack-a-gator, and missed every shot at a basketball game. Outside, we avoided the line for the miniature golf course and instead opted for bumper boats and go-carts.
The boy loves go-carts, because he loves most anything that involves speed and danger. The Frankie’s Fun Park track is fast, full of hairpin turns, and has double-seat carts for, say, father and son. I’d be lying if I said I hated doing this. I, too, always had Richard Petty fantasies. That hat…
We started off one off the pole. Ahead of us, another father and son team (who I prefer to think of as The Losers) were revved up and ready to go. The boy and I got off to a slow start. His role was to sit in the left seat, hold a faux steering wheel, and wave to his mom every time we made a lap. My role was to show that joke of a father in the pole position that he should be embarrassed to call himself “Daddy” in front of me.
The first lap saw Joke Father maintaining his lead and giving me the stink-eye that said, “I don’t care if I make my son cry.”
Joke Father underestimated my love for my child. He didn’t know that I really, truly love my boy and that the only way to really show my affection is to prove to him that the bad man in the lead car was really a loser who would fail at any sort of competition. You know, turn Joke Father into a sissy.
I discovered that simply mashing down on the accelerator wasn’t going to be enough this time. Taking the lead—for my son!—was going to mean shaving the turns, hugging the inside, and never once letting off the gas. I could tell how much son loved me when we took the lead. His white knuckles and grim stare into the oblivion were heart-warming.
When we passed Joke Daddy, I gave him a look that said, “Sorry, I had to make you my bitch, but I really do love my son. This is for him.”
Firmly in first place, my son and I did the noble, sportsmanlike thing and drove as fast and hard as we could. My son raised his hand in a very cute, terrified wave to my wife. It was the stuff she’ll put in a baby book one day. As we entered the third lap, my peripheral vision noted something disturbing. Team Sissy wasn’t giving up. Joke Daddy was trying to make a move on the outside.
I looked at my son with a comforting, paternal gaze. It said all it needed to. “I will not, son, let these panty-wearers defeat us.”
I shaved the edges tighter than before. I drove as fast and hard as I could. For my son.
Midway through lap three, it happened. The explosion was followed immediately by something hitting me in the face.
My first thought was, “The Joke is shooting at us!”
Before I could finish my thought, I discovered that I couldn’t steer. Normally, this is not a huge problem. At top speed in a curve, however, it sucks. The wall came faster than I thought it would. So did the question from my son.
“Daddy,” he said, as Joke Father smirked by on our left, “what happened?”
I shook my head and looked at the right front side of our cart.
"It’s called a blowout, buddy.”
We limped onto pit road where the teenage workers looked at me like I’d just dropped my pants in church.
My boy and I declined the new cart and two free laps. I led him off the track and toward his mother. Pride forced me to find some lesson for my son, something with which he can remember me if I catch rickets or Ebola in Vegas.
“Tires are the most important thing in any race, son. Don’t you ever forget that."