Priorities

By J. W. Wright

His father pulled the car into the motel parking lot. Tom looked around, he had never seen this place before. It was dark outside. The kind of darkness that looms over you and threatens to take your very soul. Tom held his breath. Why had his father taken him here?


Moments before the car ride, his father had seemed so happy... so carefree. But now as they pulled up the hotel, a change had come over him. His father’s face was now rigid. The wrinkles were like the bars of a prison now containing the very emotions he held within. Something was amiss. Tom had never seen his father like this before.


Tom opened his mouth to speak, but nothing would come out. His father peered at him. His eyes were like razors. He felt a sinking feeling in his chest. His father opened up the glove compartment and took out a photograph. It was a picture of Tom and his father when he was younger. His father held it up and smiled at it. He spoke no words. Finally, he handed Tom the photo.


His father looked over at him, and then suddenly forcibly grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. He began pulling him towards himself. Tom gasped in horror. And then, as suddenly as it started... his father was embracing him... crying like a baby. At first, Tom had no words. The sobs of his father overtook him. Tom wanted to cry himself, but he knew that there was something wrong with his father. He had to be there for him now. All his life, his father had been there for him. He was going to do the same for him.


But the only words that he had the courage to mutter were “Dad... what’s.... what’s wrong?” His father, now hearing him speak, looked up at him and said in a voice barely audible, “Thomas... we’re... your mother and I... we are getting a divorce. I am not going to be living with you anymore. I... I don’t know how much I will see you any more.”


Tom felt his heart sink in his chest. His father had been acting like nothing was wrong moments before the car ride. He had lied to him, making it seem like everything was great. At that moment in his life, Tom hated his father. Why would he do something like this to him? Hide something so big from him until they drive to the middle of nowhere in some crappy hotel parking lot? This was unacceptable.


What was he going to do? He couldn’t be mad at his father because he needed to be there for him. But at the same time, he hated him. Tom thought back to all the times that he messed up as a kid. All the times he pissed off his father. All the things he had broken. All of this seemed like a lot to him. But his father still loved him after all that.


Tom looked at the picture his dad had handed to him. It was a picture of them outside in the front yard. They were both very happy. Tom looked at the contrast between the picture with his fathers smiling face, and his face now. He wanted to fix what was wrong with him.


Just then his father looked at him, and motioned for him to follow. They both exited the car. But before closing the car door, his father grabbed a small suitcase from the backseat. They walked to the hotel room his father had reserved prior to driving out here. His father swiped his card key, unlocking the door. He opened up the door and walked over to the bed, sitting down on it. He stretched out his right hand and patted on the bed, motioning for Tom to sit down beside him. He carelessly threw his suitcase on the other side of the bed.


“Thomas, the reason I brought you here today is to show you this place. This hotel room is my new house. When your mother and I get divorced, she is going to take everything from me. This room is going to be where I stay from now on. That picture I gave you is the only thing I took from the house. I want you to take care of yourself and your mother. I want you to know that I will be signing the custody of you over to your mother. I am doing this for you Thomas. The only thing that is going to be different is that I will no longer be there. For your mother and I... our priorities have changed.”


“But Dad...” said Tom, “When will I see you again? How often will I see you?”


“Thomas... I am never going to see you again.”


“But... Dad... I...”


“Listen Thomas, when you get older you might understand. I had said that your mother and I have different priorities now. When you go through life, priorities change. Unfortunately... my life is no longer a priority.”


“How can you even say that?”


“Inside this suitcase is a gun Thomas. Inside this suitcase is my salvation.”


“What...?”


Tom’s father opened the suitcase next to him and displayed the contents. Inside was a small revolver. “Fully loaded.” mentioned his father. He picked up the gun and cocked the hammer back. “You have been a good boy Thomas, you never disappointed me. I am so proud of you.”


He raised the gun to his temple. Tom could look no longer. He ran from the room as fast as he could. 


“Help!” yelled Tom, “Somebody help my father! Don’t let him do this!”


“I love you Thomas.” continued his father, “You are the man of the house now.”


A single gunshot erupted from the hotel room.

image2