You know, I don’t even remember his name – and I’m okay with that.
Karen missed her dad. He went from stay at home dad to disappearing dad overnight, leaving her mom in tears at the coffee table. Karen was shuttled from friend to friend, caring for her while her mother worked two jobs in the evening. Her mom was too caught up in things to do much, so Karen would practice her cursive and then microwave some canned soup for dinner while her mom stared vacantly at the television. She missed her father terribly, and her mother was more absent than ever. If her mom spoke it was a mumble about "drug abuse", whatever that was, and to ask Karen for marriage advice. Like Karen had a clue! At only 8 years old, boys still had cooties! All she knew was she wanted her family back.
One Saturday, Karen's mom looked mournfully into her eyes, stroked her hair, and said dryly, "grab your sleeping bag. We're visiting your father". Karen leaped at the chance and sat impatiently in the car while her mom nonchalantly packed the car.
They drove in silence for what seemed like hours, deep into the night on a desolate road. While the road seemed lonely and her mother stoic, the mood could not quelch Karen's excitement.
After what seemed like forever, Karen's mom pulled the car to the shoulder. "What's wrong mommy? Where's daddy's house", inquired Karen. Her mother gave an exasperated sigh and snapped, "Here, your damned father lives here like some wild animal, out in the bushes". Karen was confused why daddy would live in the bushes, and was scared of the wild animal her mother spoke of. She opened the door, stepped out, and froze in fear. "Get going, follow my flashlight beam, don't stray, c'mon now" her mom squawked, grabbing her hand. They hiked up a steep hill, nearly slipping on the loose rocky soil, and came upon a plateau where Karen could see a campfire and some shadowy figures roaming around.
A tall silhouette approached her and she jumped, only to feel a warm calloused hand catch her fall, a familiar hand and smell and giggle-her father.
She jumped into his arms and didn't want to let go; she was carried to the campfire and her dad set her die on a log used as a seat. Karen saw her mom pitch the tent, crawl in, and turn off her flashlight, exhausted. Karen missed her once jovial mother, but she brushed away her sadness, basking in the love of her father.
Another dark figure approached and patted her head. "Do you like songs, darlin'? I know a song my daddy taught me, a song that goes back before time. It's in my people's tongue, Apache, but you are smart like your daddy, I bet. You will catch on, wanna try", he suggested, as he broke into a melody. The words were full of whispery sounds and strange utterances that seemed oddly soothing. Karen caught on quickly and began to sing the chorus.
She kept singing the song, as she watched the Milky Way cross the sky and could hear the crackle of the fire die down. The strange lyrics were comforting and addictive and she could not stop.
Next thing she knew, she could feel someone shaking her awake. "Karen, hurry up, we've got to get going, your mom has already packed us up sweetie" whispered her dad. "Daddy, you are coming home?" Karen inquired, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Yes", he confirmed, "I had this profound dream. I went to a heavenly place full of music and love and was told to go home. My family needed me. Everything would be okay. Your mother said she had a similar dream. Sure wish I could remember the tune, it was lovely. Now c'mon sleepy head, we've got a long drive." Karen grabbed her dad's hand and they began to walk to the rocky hill leading to the car. "Daddy, do you know the name of the man last night? He sang me a song, it goes like this..." Karen said, beginning to hum the melody and mumble the words. Her dad froze in his tracks and bent down in front of her, tears in his eyes. "Who taught you that song, sweetie? I know it. It was the song from heaven in my dream", he cried, stroking her hand. "Daddy, it was the other dark shadow by the fire. He was there all night and he taught me the song. I sang it all night while watching the stars. You were right there, daddy, he was in your campsite, silly daddy. I don't know his name but that's okay. I hope he finds his way home too" Karen giggled earnestly. Her dad's face had gone pale and he mumbled, "I, I don't understand, I...never mind. I guess some things aren't clear. But I'm going home with you. To be a happy family here on Earth, my strange little sweetheart." And with that, she climbed in the car and off they drove, Karen looking towards the plateau and waving until it vanished into the distance.