by John Jodzio
A man recently brought me this metal briefcase and set it down on the bar. Somehow he knew where to find me. He started calling me by my given name, Ronald. It was pretty cold outside, but he was really sweating, this man, these little rivers of water running down his forehead.
"This was your father's," he said pushing the case toward me. "I worked with him. I think he'd have wanted you to have it."
I hadn't talked to my father in a long while. Years now. My mother had died a long time ago. Last I heard, my father was traveling around selling aluminum siding to people.
I picked up the metal case. I could tell the handle on it had melted a little, then cooled down. It had this drippy plastic look that you see sometimes when things get too hot.
"There was a fire," the man told me. "At his hotel."
The man proceeded to tell me that someone had fallen asleep smoking in a hotel that my father was staying in outside Akron. His briefcase was the only thing left in his room. It was one of the only things out of the entire hotel that had made it, he said. The man told me he was driving through here on business, so he thought he'd bring it along and give it to me.
"Heat like that -- everything usually melts," he told me. "Everything. This made it though it though."
The man looked really thirsty, so I got Geno the bartender to put down his tattoo magazine and bring us a round.
"Are you okay?" I asked him. With all the sweat, the man wasn't looking so healthy.
"Let me show you something," he said.
We walked outside to his car and he popped open the trunk. I looked in there. I couldn't believe it -- there were three little girls in there, sleeping. There was a bigger one and then the other two got progressively smaller, like those Russian stacking dolls.
"They're still my kids," he said. "Even if their mom doesn't think so."
I kept on looking in that trunk. It was huge! The kids had pillows and blankets and they looked really comfortable. I noticed that he'd drilled some holes in the trunk for ventilation. I wondered why I hadn't thought of doing something like this to a car.
"Wow," I told him.
He shut his trunk gently and we walked back into the bar and our drinks. He was sweating less now, had calmed down some. We had a couple more rounds and then he picked up my father's briefcase.
"Aren't you going to look at what is inside?" he asked me.
I hadn't thought of it, I hadn't even thought there was anything important inside, but I popped the lock on it the case and slid it open. I started looking through the stuff in there, what was left of my father. Some invoices written out in my father's hand, a pack of cigarettes, some siding brochures. Nothing really.
"I was hoping for gold bricks," I said. "But no such luck."
The man and I kept drinking for a while, silently watching the baseball game on TV. After a while, he stood up to go.
"Can I see them one more time?" I asked.
"Sure," he said.
We walked out to his car again and he opened the trunk. The girls were still in there, all three of them, same as before.
"Okay," I said. "Thanks."
The man slowly closed the trunk. We shook hands.
"Nice to meet you Ronald," he told me.
The man got in the car and drove off. I stood there watching the car make its way down the night street. After a little bit, it put on its blinker, turned the corner and disappeared. I walked back inside.
About the author:
John Jodzio is a writer living in Minneapolis. Recent fiction of his has appeared onMcSweeney's Internet Concern, Opium.com, Hobart Pulp and Bullfight Review. He has a new story in Opium Print #2 called "The Barnacle."