I didn’t talk to Dad the entire time we were driving. I didn’t even look at him. I just fumbled around with my 3DS and kept my head down while he tapped his fingers along on the steering wheel to the John Hiatt or whatever that was playing and said things like “hoh yeah, it’s really gonna start getting cold soon, I think,” or “if you don’t turn that thing off soon, I’m gonna have to hit the eject button!”
I had no idea where we were supposed to be going. Dad’d made it out to be some kind of big secret when he was dragging me into the car with him, but from what I could tell we were just deep into the middle of the suburbs at the West part of the city. He did this kind of thing a lot. It was usually to go have pizza at some place he’d gone to a bunch in university or to see his friend Mario’s band play at a community centre or something.
When we finally stopped, it was in the parking lot of a huge, ancient looking Catholic high school. We were near where Grandpa lived, I thought.
“Alright!” Dad said. He slapped the steering wheel. “Do you know where we are?”
“No,” I said.
“This is St. Pius.” He put his arm around me and gestured out at the scenery around us with his free hand. “I went to high school here. Did you know that?”
“Yep,” he said. “And I used to live riiiight-” He pointed to one of the bungalows lined up along the edge of the football field. “-there.” He paused for a second and then moved his hand a bit to the left. “No. There, sorry. And I-”
“Dad,” I said, interrupting him. “What are we doing here?”
“Ah,” he said, “Good question.” He turned around and pulled a football out from somewhere in the back of the car. It looked brand new, like he’d bought it just for that day. “We’re gonna play some catch.”
“Yeah!” He smiled. “You know, just toss the football back and forth, walk around, have a chat. Guy stuff.”
“I-” I was genuinely confused. “Why?”
“Well, son.” Dad took his arm back from around me and held the football in his lap with both hands. He looked sombre all of a sudden. “Just, you know, your mother and I were talking, and we figured it might be good for us to start spending more time together, doing more family stuff. Just, after what happened at school, with the-”
“I told you, that wasn’t me!” I shouted “It was Kellen! I don’t even know how to use the photocopier! I was just there!”
Dad didn’t say anything. He just looked at me and smiled and then got out of the car. I watched him walk into the middle of the field and practice throws, deek his way around imaginary linebackers. It was embarrassing. After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore and got out too.
“Attaboy!” Dad said, “Here, go long!”
“What?” I said, but before I could process what was happening, he’d drawn his arm back and whipped the ball in my direction. I watched it spiral up and then turn around mid-air and start making its way down, making looser and looser circles as it fell. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never played football before. I’d never even really played sports aside from the time I’d tried to do karate when I was, like, seven.
I held my hands up in front of me and cupped them into a shape I was certain I’d seen on TV somewhere before. I stepped backwards a bit. I closed my eyes.
And then I was on the ground. I had no idea what had just happened. I was crying and my face hurt and there was snot and blood leaking out of my nose. I thought someone had run out from the parking lot and punched me or something.
“Oh shit,” Dad yelled, “Zachary?” I heard him run over and kneel down in the grass a couple feet away from me. “I’m sorry, buddy. That was my bad. I haven’t thrown in a while. Are you okay?” I coughed and felt more stuff fall out of my nose. He tried to pick me up but then grunted and put me back down.
“Aw jeez,” he said, “I’m sorry Zee. I’m really sorry. Do you wanna go to Dairy Queen? Let’s go to Dairy Queen. Come on.”