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Chapter 24: Papa
“What the hell am I doing here?” Terry thought as he came to a stop at a house on 99th and
The house wasn’t the most beautiful one on the street: Beige aluminum siding that had seen better days, windowsills painted a dark brown and a rickety porch swing that looked like it couldn’t hold human weight anymore.
In contrast, the grass was cut, the bushes trimmed and there were some roses blooming under the front window.
Terry got out of the car and walked towards the front door. It seemed to him that the house somehow stood in isolation from all of the other houses in the area, as if it were daring someone to come and try to integrate it into the rest of the neighborhood.
It reminded Terry of his father.
Memories crashed against Terry’s mind like waves. He felt like he was drowning as all of it came back to him; the arguments, the loneliness, fear, confusion and anger. One memory loomed above all the others; one that had defined Terry’s life up to now no matter how far away he went: The day his father threw him out of the house.
It happened during the summer after his junior year at Morgan Park High School. On most nights, Terry gigged with a band in the south
He was too young, but his talent got him over and he was able to scratch
out a living that way. This was good for Terry, since his father, Carl, wasn’t
giving up any loot. Strangely enough, Terry thought, if his father knew about
his late night gigs or how he was playing the piano downstairs, Carl would’ve
beat Terry within an inch of his life.
Carl, for some reason, didn’t want Terry to play music of any kind, with any instrument. This immutable law came down after Carl taught Terry a song on the piano and Terry learned it and played it better than Carl did. There were no more lessons after that.
On this particular night, Terry wasn’t playing a gig and he was just waiting for Carl to leave for work so he could get some practice time in on the piano. Once Carl left, Terry waited to make sure Carl was gone then he rushed downstairs. Once there, he warmed up, ran through some chords and settled down to play. Terry was so engrossed in the music, he didn’t hear Carl come back in the house. When Carl’s fist slammed into the side of his head like a freight train, Terry picked up on it.
Carl Mosley stood six feet five inches tall and built solid and lean. He hadn’t gone soft in the middle like most men his age. His hazel eyes focused on Terry. Anger vibrated from him and his face twisted into a snarl as he asked Terry, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Picking myself up from the floor after you put me there, Terry thought.
Terry didn’t understand why Carl was trippin’. His mom told him that Carl used to play in a band before he was born. Terry thought his father would be proud that his son wanted to follow in his footsteps. Obviously not.
“Playing the piano.” Terry finally answered.
“And what did I tell you about that?”
“That I wasn’t allowed to touch or even look at the piano.”
“Then why are you disobeying me in my damn house?” Carl spat.
“Because I love music; I love it and I’m gonna play it.”
Carl hit Terry again, knocking him into the piano. Terry’s head swam as he tried to get his bearings, but Carl grabbed the front his shirt and growled, “Boy, don’t you see I‘m tryin’ to protect you? You can’t make no livin’ playin’ some damn music! You need to get your head outta the clouds and into the books, boy!”
Normally, Terry would’ve backed down and said what Carl wanted to hear so things would go back to normal and he could do what it was he wanted to do anyway. This time he couldn’t. Something inside him, some grain of discontent crystallized into something hard and unyielding. Terry didn’t care if Carl beat him to bloody and bruised mass of flesh, he wasn’t going to knuckle under anymore.
“I can make a living at music, Dad. I already do.”
“I said I already make a living playing music.” Terry got up from the floor. He was a little shaky and his face was starting to bruise, but he didn’t care. “You can’t stop me, Dad. Music is all I wanna do and you can’t stop me.”
Wistful sadness slipped quicksilver across Carl’s face. Terry thought he might’ve imagined it because Carl’s face held an icy calm and his eyes were burned with a certainty Terry had never seen before.
“Well, if that’s the way you feel, I guess I can’t change your mind.” Carl said placidly.
Terry looked at him with ill concealed confusion. All this time, Carl had tried to keep Terry from having anything to do with music and now because he stood up to him, Carl had changed his mind? Something wasn’t right and Terry felt the other shoe was about to drop.
“So…what are you saying?” Terry inquired.
“I’m saying I’m done fighting you. If you want to mess your life up tryin’ to be some famous muthafuckin’ musician, you can.” Carl walked up to him and from inches away spoke the words that would shatter Terry’s world for years to come: “But not here. Get the fuck outta my house.”
Carl turned on his heel and walked back upstairs. Before he closed the door, he told Terry not to be here when he got back.
The door closed and it vibrated in Terry’s head. He couldn’t move because he couldn’t believe that what had just happened was real. It couldn’t be.
He heard the car go down the driveway to the street and pull away. His head and his back hurt and his left eye was beginning to puff up. Terry felt disconnected from everything, as if he were moving through a clear liquid that slowed everything down. Through the shock and encroaching fear, he had the presence of mind to call Eric and ask if he could stay with him for a while.
In short order, Eric and his father came and helped Terry move the belongings he could carry out of the house.
As they drove away, Terry held his guitar in his arms, knowing that from that moment on, no matter what he did, he would no longer feel as certain as he had before and that the world was no longer a safe place.
In the present, Terry stood at the front door of his father’s house and felt his heart rising into his throat. He didn’t know how Carl would react to seeing him. He might just tell him to get the hell out for all Terry knew. He was about to turn and walk away when he heard music. He thought it was a piano, but as he listened closer, he recognized his father’s piano. That meant Carl was playing. Terry thought Carl wasn’t going to play anymore, but obviously, he was wrong.
Terry took a deep breath and opened the door. If his father was playing, then maybe he’d be in a good mood to talk. There was only one way to find out.
(c)2014 Courtney & W.L. Sherrod