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"A Father's Fist" by Hugh Howey

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A small arm braves the wind at highway speeds and pumps the air, reaching and grabbing at invisible rungs that lead up to the heavens. There is an urge in that young mind, a desperate craving to be seen by this stranger in a truck. It's the fear of being missed, of being passed right by.

The reward comes. Sweet relief in the form of a terrific blast from that rooftop horn, a man with a Michelob hat yanking that cord and waving, air brakes like a machine gun and tires thundering by taller than a six-year-old.

My father wore a hat just like that. He loved me with every ounce of that great big heart of his. I knew this as early in life as I knew anything. The way he swept me up in his arms and swung me around, the roughness of his beard on my cheek, the smell of cigarettes and air fresheners and Armor All. When he was home, I lived on his lap. I ate off his fork. And at night, I would sneak out behind the house and climb that impossible ladder of skidsteps and sideview-mirror jungle gyms and tricky door handles up to the cab of his Peterbilt, that great steel treehouse of my youth. And I'd sleep on the bare mattress in the back while his thousand-mile sheets tumbled in Mom's dryer, and I'd pray that he didn't find me, that the next time he set out, I'd sneak along with him.

The ferocity of my father's love made its sporadic nature confusing. Like winter storms, I couldn't understand how something so large and with so much power could just pass right through. In the calm before and after, my young mind thought the wind would never stir again. In the middle of each storm, it seemed the noise would last and just go on forever. Mom said he hit the road because he loved us. He had to provide for us. But there was only one thing I ever wanted.

The truck with the Michelob hat grumbles down the interstate and out of sight. A small arm is pulled back inside, the window raised on this intrusion of noise, a plane ticket flapping and thinking, briefly, of leaving its tucked hideaway behind the visor and shooting out on the breeze. There's a briefcase on the floor in front of the passenger seat, and my son's swinging and fidgeting shoes can't quite reach it. He says he doesn't want to go to school. He asks how long I'll be gone this time.

I have to check the ticket to be sure. And then another truck — you never know when they might appear or disappear — slides into view behind us. My son rolls down the windows again, climbing that heavenward ladder with one arm, the wind ripping through the quiet car like a storm, and my fingers on that ticket unsure. Maybe they would let go. Just let go. And grab something else.

Hugh Howey is the author of Wool, Shift, and The Shell Collector, his most recent release.

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