Short Story: To Be Like Daddy

This week’s 100-word story was something I thought about and scribbled out last month. I tweaked it a little for another contest but also thought it might be relevant with Father’s day coming up. To me, it stands as a reminder that even good parents and people who don’t have kids (think aunts, uncles, tutors, babysitters, etc) can have unexpected impacts on children.

Golden-red flames lick ever closer but I have to find Jerry. The heavy smoke overwhelms the yard and the smell of burnt logs sweeps through the house like an ashy tidal wave. I stumble through the pitch colored yard until I’m nearly garroted by the laundry line.

Finally, I find him hunkered under the porch with Yowl, the pillow-pet. He swipes away tears as I scoop him up. When I load him into his booster-seat, he whispers.

“Sorry, Mama.” He hands me a pack of matches and some crumpled cigarettes. “I just wanted to be like Daddy.”


Daddy, do you think you’re going to die?

Hi, this is the prologue to the, as of yet, untitled thriller/mystery novel that I’m currently working on. Thanks for reading.


“Daddy, do you think you’re going to die?” my four year old son, Jeremiah, asks. In shock, my mouth opens and closes silently while I search for eye contact with my boy through the rear-view mirror.

“No, Jer, I’m not going to die. Why would you think that?” I wonder quietly. My wife is slumped next to me, asleep after our early morning departure.

“Well, ever since Uncle Bill died, Mom’s been praying for you a lot. I can tell she’s worried,” he answers honestly with his small brow furrowed under a ruffle of bangs.

“I know Jer. That’s why we just moved to the farmhouse. I’ll always be a cop, son. But a cop here in the sticks is different than a cop in the city. It’ still dangerous but it’s safer than Philadelphia.”

“I’m proud of you, Daddy,” Jer whispers before falling asleep in his car seat.

What I’ve told him is true. There’s no active threat on my life. No criminals fresh out of prison with a grudge and a black-market pistol. No politician conspiracies or otherwise crazy circumstances are following me from Philadelphia to our new home in rural Vermont. I was simply a beat cop in the city but Jeremiah is right. The death of her brother, who worked in the same precinct as me, took a nasty toll on my wife. Long after the natural stages of grief, she was still withdrawn, emotional, and constantly anxious. It took some prying on my part to learn she was afraid my fate would be the same as Bill’s and long before she would be able to handle widowhood.

Cop wives are strong. Stronger than a lot of women ever really have to be. My wife is no different, she knew who I was when we married. We’ve had close calls before, like when a drug addled teenager decided to play a racing video game in real life. To make matters worse, the drugs gave him an indignant, furious road rage that resulted in three smashed police cruisers, one of which was mine. Other incidents occurred; other cops died. I guess none of that really hit home until Bill died.

We talked about moving for awhile, saved up some money, and finally took the leap. We bought a small fix-it-up farmhouse in our hometown Georgia. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a small town in northwestern Vermont. So, this is kind of like a belated homecoming really. Except neither of us has any family left to come home to. We were both only children and lost our parents during high school. It’s part of what brought us together. We have old friends out here though, like Noah, who became a cop in our hometown and helped me get my new job. He’s the kind of friend you grow up with and maybe part ways for awhile but when you get back together it’s as if you were never apart. In my opinion, those are the best kinds of friends to have.

With any luck, and a whole lot of faith in prayer, the serenity and peace of the mountains will help my wife heal and prepare for me to go back to work. I won’t start at St. Albans PD for another week. Right now, we’re on our way to a secluded cabin in Mt. Mansfield State Forest. It belongs to Noah, passed down through his family for generations. He said we could “rent” it for free. I promised to make him a gargantuan steak and grilled corn.

When we were young, my wife and I enjoyed camping and hiking in these woods. I suspect the clean, familiar atmosphere will wash away some of her fear and depression. The last year has been hard on all three of us. But I know this mini-vacation and our new home afterwards will be a life changing decision. I pray it’s the best decision for our family. For my son.