Few parents will admit this, but we often forget the names of our children, especially if we have more than one.
I woke up reeling with another head-splitting hangover and little Joey tugging at me.
“Christ kid, what time is it?”
“Papa, come on, you must get up.”
Isn’t that just like a kid? Can’t even answer a simple question. There’s something wrong with this generation. With every generation. I shake Joey off and start rubbing my temples. I had no job and nowhere to be.
“Whatever you have to tell me, you can tell me here.”
Joey shook his head.
“No, Papa. The Spectrum man is here to restore our internet, so we can resume our schooling!”
Schooling my ass. The kid probably just missed playing Minecraft. And a hell of a lot of good school had done me, even if I did have the money to pay Spectrum. What kind of company changes their name to Spectrum? They’re basically admitting they’re Bond villains.
“Fine. Just go let the guy in.”
Joey ran off and I rolled over to go back to sleep, but after what seemed like two seconds, he was back at it again, shaking me.
“For fuck’s sake. What now?”
Joey looked at his feet.
“You said yesterday you would give me some money for groceries.”
Did I? I had no memory of that. Ten years old, and the kid was probably already smoking crack. I would have to get the damn groceries myself. Later.
“I’ll take care of that later.”
“But Papa, that’s what you said three days — ”
“I said later!”
These ungrateful brats. Can’t a man get some rest in his own damn home? I thought I was finally rid of him but he was staring at me.
Joey looked at me imploringly.
“There is also Maria.”
Right. Maria. I hadn’t seen that little hussy in days.
“What about her?”
“She is still very sick. You said you would take her to hospital.”
For the love of God.
“Do you damn kids think I’m made of money? That the internet and food and hospitals just grow on trees? What the hell is wrong with her?”
Joey looked confused.
“I don’t know, Papa. But she has been in bed for days.”
Seven years old and already living on her back like a whore.
“Well, what do you want me to do about it?”
Joey started to cry now, and that always got to me despite myself. Those crocodile tears.
“We have to help her!”
He balled up his fists and rubbed his eyes. He was about to start wailing but thankfully controlled himself. My alcohol-addled brain would have exploded.
“Sometimes I feel like you forget us. Like you don’t care.”
And there he goes, off on yet another wild tangent, but I had to do something before he broke down completely. With great effort, I pulled myself into a sitting position and patted the bed beside me for Joey to sit down. I put an arm around him.
“Son, I could never forget you, or . . .”
“Yes, Maria. You see son, you have to understand. You and Maria are the most important things in the world to me. I may have forgotten about your food, schooling, and medical needs, but I would never forget you.”
Joey leaned into my shoulder and I felt his tears soak through my shirt. Damn these manipulative little bastards. I opened the drawer to the nightstand and took out a $20.
“Here kid. Go get some groceries. I’ll deal with this Spectrum character and take whatsherface to the hospital.”
I’d be in debt until the end of time, and I had a feeling whatever god I didn’t believe in wouldn’t let me die until I had paid off every last red cent. Joey hugged me and smiled with joy.
“Thank you, Papa! I told Maria it would be okay. Everything will be okay now!”
If I had enough money for a life insurance policy, I would kill myself and let Joey take over. He was a brat, but crafty, which was more than I could say for myself. I patted his head.
“Get out of here, kid. Before I change my mind.”
He hugged me again before running out the door.