Diego's Father

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Diego's dad goes on a long journey.

Submitted: February 21, 2012

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Submitted: February 21, 2012

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“Diego, I’m home!” Dad’s voice rang out as he stepped inside and closed the door.  “I’ve got good news for you, too!”

I ran over to him just as he was kneeling down to pick up my little brother, Ferdie.  Ferdie is only three, but he’s about as amazing as it gets.  He’s so sweet, and his little chubby cheeks and tiny two-foot-tall stature make him pretty much irresistible.  There has yet to be somebody he meets that he doesn’t love from the start.  There is one person that he treats differently, though.  My best friend, Isabella, has gotten into a different place in Ferdie’s heart than most people have managed to find.  Anytime she comes over, Ferdie always wants to play with her and is upset if he doesn’t at least say hi.  We usually let him play with us, though.  Ell says it’s a big brother thing. 

“What is it, Dad?!” I ask.  “What’s the good news?!”

“Well, Diego, first of all, you will have to know that I have been trying very hard to get this to happen.  So naturally I deserve a round of applause before I even tell you what’s going on.” 

I smile.  Dad’s always like this.  He’s quirky and slow to the point, but that’s ok with me.  It usually makes things more interesting, but the people around town say it’s a waste.  He’s not very popular around here but at the same time he’s earned a lot of respect.  Kind of like the king, I guess.  He may not be everybody’s best friend, but he knows how to make things work and keeps the town running smooth.  Anyway, Dad is a sailor.  He goes all around the sea looking for new lands, but mainly he trades goods with other countries.  One time, he was able to get salt for the king himself.  Dad felt very proud after that. 

“Dad, tell me!” I laugh.

He folds his arms and grins.  “Nope.”

“Ugh!  Fine!”  I clap, mainly so he will tell me what’s going on already.

“Ok, kiddo, if I tell you, you have to promise not to tell Beatriz.  I want to tell her myself.”

Beatriz is my step mom.  Dad married her and had Ferdie when I was about eight.  My real mother died a little after I was born, so I don’t remember her much.  Dad said she was pretty amazing, though.  Beatriz is like a mother to me.  She’s always cooking and cleaning and putting wraps on me and Ferdie when we get hurt.  Despite all this, I still call her ‘Beatriz’ because she wants me to remember that my real mother deserved the true title of ‘Mom’.  I love Beatriz for letting me have that. 

I promise Dad that I won’t tell.  “Dad!  I want to know!  I’m dying over here!”

Dad smiles and sets Ferdie down.  He goes back to playing with his stick people and rock animals. 

“Ok, Diego, here’s the thing.  I was working on my ship today when Richard came along. We started talking, and well-“he broke into a huge smile.  “Diego, you’re going to be his apprentice!”

I gasped.  “Oh, Dad, really!?  I’ve wanted to work with you guys forever! How did you-Dad-I can’t believe-Oh, Dad!” I run up and wrap my arms around him.  “Thanks, Dad,” I whisper into his coat.  It smells of sea salt and Atlantic Flounder.  I take another whiff to make sure I can remember it forever.

With the sent stuck in my mind, I pull away from Dad just in time to see a single tear slide down his cheek.

He embraces me again, this time even tighter.  I can barely hear his voice through the fabric of his shirt as he choked out the words that I had been dreading to hear for years.

“Diego…I got the money.”

***

“Mom’s asleep,” Dad whispered to me.  He picked me up and took me out of the room.  “She’ll be awake soon, don’t worry.”

My head buried into his shoulder.  “Daddy, when?”

He put me down on the stool he found in the midst of the shipwreck.  Kneeling down beside me, he began stroking my hair.

“Soon, my son,” he choked. “Nobody can sleep forever…”

A scary man walked out of Mom’s room.  He had a mask with herbs tied to his face.  He closed the door and looked at us.  Dad stood up and said some words that I could not here.  The scary man nodded. 

Dad picked me up again and took me back into the room that the scary man had just walked out of.  Mom was very still. 

“Daddy, she’s still asleep,” I said.  “We can’t wake her up.”

Dad didn’t say anything this time.  He put me down on the bed and kissed Mom once on the cheek.  Then he took me out of the room and packed a sack of bread and fruits.  We left, right then and there.  Mom never came with us. 

***

I woke up on my bed very stiff, not bothering to stretch.  Judging by the light I had been asleep for a while.  It was only afternoon when I crawled under my covers, and now all the stars I have ever seen were out.  I looked for the constellation Orion through my window.  Dad and I spend every Friday night looking for shapes in the stars.  Maybe Ferdie can stay up with us soon, but right now he’s too young.  Sometimes Ell comes and looks with us too.

A sudden pang swept over my body as I remember why I’m here.  I guess that normally I would be, considering the hour, but this is different.  I didn’t go into hiding for nothing.  I was angry, worried, and overall, scared.  Ever since we had moved here from Portugal, Dad had been trying to get this money. It was a concept that I had lived with most my life, but I never really thought it would come true.

Dad is what some people call crazy.  They tell him he can’t do anything.  People go up to him and say, “No, dummy.  That’s impossible.”  The scold him, put him down, and treat him like he’s worthless.  But that doesn’t stop him.  Because, through it all, these people respect my father.  Which is why, I suppose, he does what he does.

In other words, Dad is one of the few people who believe that the earth is round.  He’s gone to all the kings and queens he’s ever known and asked for the sum to build a ship to take himself and a crew of about 50 around this world and maybe even find some new spices along the way.  Kings and queens love spices, but even through the temptation, they always said no.  They said that they weren’t going to waste money and men on a ship that’s just going to fall off the edge of the earth. 

Then he talked to Queen Isabel (not my friend) of Spain, where we are now.  This was when Beatriz and Dad weren’t married yet and Ferdie wasn’t even in the equation.  The Queen was very tempted by the spices and didn’t think Dad’s theory of the world being round was too terribly crazy.  She never got back to him, though.  Spain was in a war with the Muslims, so Dad’s ship wasn’t her first priority at the time. 

Dad never gave up.  He pestered that monarchy, and even asked the jester to play a joke about “water bread”... (Nobody got it.  It was supposed to be ship dough, which is money, I guess.) 

Anyway, the whole situation became almost a joke in our family.  Dad’s ship money that he would never get and continue asking for. It was the same as asking your grandma to help you survive the Black Death to us.  Impossible.  Absurd. Never going to happen. 

But guess what?  I can’t say that anymore.  I can’t joke that my father is going to falling off the face of the earth.  I can’t even push the thought to the back of my head.  Because, after eight years, Queen Isabella has said yes.  She gave Dad the money that will change our family forever. 

A sudden knock on my door made my whole body jolt.  I clumsily climbed out of bed and opened the door.  It was Ferdie. 

“Hey, Ferdie,” I said.  “What’s up?”

“I don’t know…” he said.  “I just came to see if you would play with me but then I saw the sleeping and I just wanna eat now.”

“Sure, Ferd,” I responded, looking him up and down.  He’s never like this.

“And I just wanna know where everybody is,” he added. 

“Uh, what?” I said. “ Is Beatriz not out there with you?”

“No, Mommy’s not here.  Daddy either.”

I took his hand and lead him out into the living room.  Sure enough, Beatriz’s bowl was sitting on the counter with dough in it and the fire was lit for cooking. But there was no sign of Beatriz or my dad, who I could care less about at the moment.  

“Common, Ferdie,” I say.  “Let’s go look outside.”

I open the door to our back garden and find Beatriz sitting up against the wall,  trying to dry her slow, rolling tears.  She had a handkerchief stuck up her nose to keep it from dripping and her eyes were puffy and red.  I stood there, in the doorframe, in shock for a few moments before I finally got the nerve to go over there and sit down beside her.

“So, I guess he told you, didn’t he?”  I ask.

“Ye-e-e-s…”  She let out a painful sob.  “I just never thought…never…”

“Hey, um Beatriz?”

“Diego?”

“Do you, uh, do you think that he’s really going to go?  You know, he might build the ship and all, but will he really…do you think he’s really going to leave?”  It hurts me to ask her this when she’s already this distraught, but I have to know.  And I figure she can’ t feel much worse than she does now. 

“Diego, honey, I…yes.”  She looks me firmly in the eyes before going on.  “Yes, your father and my husband is going to fall off the face of the earth and will never be seen again.  Ferdie…Ferdie… he’ll never grow up with a d-a-a-a-d!” 

Beatriz blew her nose into her dress sleeve, which was now caked in tears, snot, and dirt. She looked miserable.  Dad leaving wasn’t only killing himself, but he was murdering Beatriz.  I had already lost Mom.  This could not happen again.

“Beatriz.”  I stood up.  “No.  You can’t do this to yourself.  He doesn’t deserve it.”

“He?”

“Yes, he.  That person who…” Suddenly, I was filled with so much anger I could have strangled Beatriz and Ferdie at the same time if I wanted too.  I had to brace the doorframe with both hands to control myself.  Dad was the one doing this to me.  He’s the one making Ferdie crazy and Beatriz hysterical and me infuriated.  Dad’s the one destroying my family and my home and my life.  Dad’s the one.  Dad’s the one.

I made a decision right then and there that would change the way I think of him forever.

“Beatriz,” I said through clenched teeth. “Beatriz, …This person  is not my dad.”

***

By morning, I had my satchel packed with all the things I could possibly need to begin work with Richard.  I figured out Man got me the job so I could learn to take care of our family and have money for food and stuff.  If that were the case, then the Man should have signed Ferdie up for lessons. 

I was about to walk out the door when I heard the Man walk in from the garden and start the fire. 

“Morning, Diego.”  He had bags under his eyes and he smelled musty.  He must have spent the night with a whiskey or two.  How shameful.  Only a man like that would do such a thing.

“Mph,” I responded.  I turned on my heel and walked out before he could say anything else.

***

I go to sight in a fizzy. Man has ruined my outlook on work.  Looking at all the ships makes my stomach hurt and Richard isn’t here today anyway.  I climb aboard a ship that’s scheduled to leave tomorrow and began sweeping below deck in the rooms for the ship crew.  There were barrels lined up against the east wall and the whole browness of the room almost made me feel claustrophobic.  Every little thing was made of wood, even the bed bunks.  The only color around was the silver chain holding the bunks (which were also brown) up and the bronze ring around the barrels holding them together.  The place smelled of sweaty, salty man.  There was a tad of Atlantic Flounder sent lingering in the air.It was very different from the sweet smell of oak that I used to long for when I was at home wishing to be here with the Man.  The floors were bouncy and gave me an uneasy feeling.I had always thought they were sturdy as the tree itself, but now my beliefs are being taken for ransack and being mutilated.

I heard creaking coming from above me.  I thought it was the rest of the crew until I hear a voice that I have been trying to block out for weeks. 

“Captain, you have to choose a head for the other two ships.  You can’t control them all.”

“I know, but nobody will step up to the plate.  If I can’t find anybody…Gosh, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”  It was Man speaking.  I would recognize that hoarse voice anywhere. 

“Christopher, has it ever occurred to you that nobody wants to take lead in an exposition destined to fail?”

“Yes.  But has it ever occurred to you that discovery and adventure is never predicted?”

The other person was quiet after that.  But the conversation had given me a strange feeling.  Maybe, just maybe, if the Man couldn’t find anybody to head the other two ships then he would give up and stay home.

Realization swept over me.  Other two ships? Since when did this happen?

***

 I didn’t live at all the month before he left.  I survived.  I survived off of food and water and sweeping the decks of other ships that were not taking my father away.  Every day I was forced to go down there and watch those ships being put together.  I heard every nail, every saw slice, every cry of help or success.  And after that, I would go home to a broken family which I would soon be the head of.

But they were almost done now.  In fact, the three beasts were already in the water and ready to take off any day now.  Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore.  I threw down my broom and ran as fast as I could to Ell’s house.  I  knocked on the door until her grandma answered, covered in flour and caked with worry.

“Oh, Diego!  Don’t do that!  I thought somebody had died!”

“You shouldn’t be so surprised…”  I mumbled.  “Can I talk to Ell?  It’s kind of an emergency.”

“Of course, dear.”  She lead me to the back room where Ell was organizing her paints.

“Ell?”

She jumped up, almost spilling the wet stuff all over her dress.

“Diego!”  She smiled.  “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Yeah.  But Ell…”  I trailed off.  I didn’t want to face the truth, not really.

“Diego, what is it?”  She turned in my direction.  “Diego, you’re worrying me.”

“It’s, ah, Isabella…it’s tomorrow.”  I completely collapsed into her arms.  She stood me back up and took my arm.  We went outside and began taking a walk around the village and watched the people tend to their markets.

“Diego, there look at all these people working in their carts.  They all have families and they all have a story.  Bad things have happened to them and they’ve all made mistakes.”

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at here,” I snuffled.

She stopped to look at me.  “I don’t either.”

“Then why did you just tell me that?”  We went over to a patch of grass by a fisher and she began picking at the weeds.

“Well,” she started.  “I guess it’s because sometimes we need to be pulled back to reality.  Diego, it’s going to happen.  Your dad is going to leave and he’s probably not going to come back.  You’ve known that for almost seven months and you haven’t done a thing to try to make it the best thing he could ever have.”

“Thanks, Ell.  I came to you to try and feel better and all you do is make me feel guilty.”

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that you are going to feel guilty for the rest of your life if you don’t forgive your dad and give him best wishes as he goes. “  She looked up at me.  “Diego, you love your dad.  I know you do.  You have to let him go.”

Ell didn’t just mean let him go on his death wish at that moment.  She meant so much more-  I had to let my dad leave in peace and let him know that I’m ok with what he’s doing.  I thought about all the great things we’ve done together and all those things Ferdie would never get to do with a dad.  He taught me how to bake Atlantic Flounder and clean boots.  But most importantly, when Mom died, Dad taught me how to let go.  I never thought I would actually have to experience it again until now.

“Ell…” I said.

“Yeah?”
“Will you come with me to say goodbye to my dad?”

Ell stood up and offered me her hand.  “Of course I will.”

***

I opened the door to my house and walked inside. 

“Um, Dad?”  I called.  “Dad, me and Isabel are here.  She just… I mean…Dad?”

Ell pointed to a piece of parchment on the floor.  It was curled up by the stool Dad found in his shipwreck.  I took a deep breath and picked it up.  Unrolling it, I could tell that the ink was fresh.  The writing was seeping onto the back and there were small tears where the quill had torn holes.  You could still smell the ink, it was that new.

Diego-

It’s my time.  My adventure awaits. If you get one thing out of this, remember:  Never be afraid to let go and explore.  Who knows?  You might find a whole new world!

Love,

Dad


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