The earliest memory he had of his father was not the fondest. He didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the day that would shape all resentment he felt for the man up until his twenty-fourth year.
Ben was four years old when his father left him and his mother. He remembered the curtains being tied open by his mother and the sun shining through the window, reaching over the furniture in the apartment and touching his face. His father was moving suitcases of packed clothing and other personal belongings into his green 1977 Mercedes and his mother taking a seat in her favorite recliner. Her cheek was resting on her fist as she stared at the ground and silently wept. She wiped the tears away with her other hand, but never looked up.
Ben sat on the floor and traded glances between his distraught mother and his father’s legs swiftly moving in and out of the front door. Ben scooted over to the sofa closest to the window facing the street and watched his father place his last suitcase into the trunk and shut it. His father, stood beside his prized possession for a few seconds, and turned his body towards the apartment in affirmation. He walked up the stairs to the apartment and Ben saw his father’s athletic silhouette under the door frame. The sunlight flowed around him and bounced off his slicked-back blonde hair. He smiled at Ben. The smile was reassuring and comforting, but also said good-bye in a way. He left and shut the door behind him.
Ben watched his father jump into the packed Mercedes and accelerate into some unknown direction. Little did Ben know, at the time, that the direction would lead his father to a new life with a new family.
“Hello, Is this Ben Mackey, son of George Mackey?” A deep low-pitched voice with a Caribbean accent asked from the other end of Ben’s cell-phone.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“Born, August 15th 1989?”
“Yeah. Who is this?” Ben asked again out of frustration.
“Good-day, sir. My name is Clinton Clarke. I’m your father’s attorney.”
“Ok, what can I help you with Clinton?” Ben asked as he sat on the sofa in his studio apartment.
“I’m calling to inform you of your father’s disappearance.”
“Disappearance? What do you mean?”
“Six months ago, your father and his associates were part of an expedition in Blons, Austria. There was an avalanche. His associates made it back, but your father went missing and has not been seen since. He has been presumed deceased.”
“Really?” Ben replied apathetically after a long pause.
“Yes, sir. It would be appreciated if you attended the funeral ceremony that has been organized in his honor. I will also require your presence to sign documents in accordance to the will left by your father. The ceremony, in total, will be a four day affair. Your father’s friends and associates will be arriving on Thursday and the funeral will be held Saturday afternoon. Everyone is welcomed to stay through Sunday. It will be held at his South Hampton home. Do you have a pen ready to take down the address?”
“Yeah, I have one.” Ben said as he scrambled to find a pen and paper. He quickly jotted down the address.
“Thank you Mr. Mackey and my condolences to you, sir. I hope to see you in attendance.”
“No need for condolences, Clinton. I didn’t know the man anyway. And as far as going to his funeral, I wish he were starving and freezing to death under a snow pocket in…”
“Blons, Austria, sir.”
“Fucking Blons, Austria. Whatever.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Mr. Mackey. I do hope you change your mind. Good-day.”
The call ended and Ben’s heart began to race uncontrollably. He could feel his latent anger boiling, rising to his face and burning and searing the skin on his cheeks. He gripped his phone so tightly he thought it might crack under the pressure. Why should I show up to this man’s funeral? Would he show to mine? He’s never shown concern for my personal health in twenty years, Ben thought. Ben didn’t know what to do with himself besides lay in his bed though it was only six o’clock in the evening. He closed his eyes and suppressed his exasperation.
Ben opened his eyes again at five the next morning. He couldn’t believe he slept that long; nearly twelve hours. He got ready for work and left his apartment. Walking to the train he couldn’t help but think about the news. His father was dead, gone, and forgotten in a snow ditch in Austria. Should he show this man the same regard he showed him for his whole life or should he be the better man, he thought. Better men always seem to lose. The better man was what Ben always strived to be, but when it came to his father he felt only conflict. He didn’t understand the conflict because this one was harder to resolve. But he knew he had to stay true to his character. He couldn’t let his father, even in death, affect how he saw the world again. He was over the cynicism that a fatherless childhood left him with.
Ben walked through his office floor, his khaki messenger bag swinging on his shoulder with every stride. He marched straight in to his boss’ floor-to-ceiling windowed, corner office. His boss, a young gentleman in his mid-thirties, sat in his black swivel chair staring out the window, while chewing on his blue bic pen.
“Steve?” Ben said, after knocking on the opened glass door.
“Yes?” Steve said, as he turned around in his swivel chair to face, Ben. “Oh Ben, good morning. What can I do for you?”
Ben stared at his boss’ squared unshaven face. He didn’t know what he was going to say. He didn’t even know he was going to walk into this man’s office that morning. But he was there now staring into his boss’ eyes, thinking of the words, the words that weren’t in existence yet.
“Ben? Are you okay?”
“Um, What? Yeah. I’m okay.”
“What is it then, Ben?”
“Steve…” Ben paused as he searched for the words. “I just found out my father died. His funeral is this weekend. I need the rest of this week off.” He said monotonously.
“Oh my, Ben. That’s terrible news.”
Not Really, Ben thought to himself.
“Ben, you can have the rest of the week off. Please, leave early today if you must. Actually, leave right now. I can’t let you work today, with a clean conscience, knowing what you’re going through.”
Ben didn’t even know what he was going through.
“Was he a good man?” Steve asked in a concerned tone.
“I’m sure he was good to someone, somewhere.”
“Well, Ben, head on home. I will see you Monday.” Steve said as he gave Ben a hard, skeptical look.
“Thank you, Steve.”
Back at his apartment Ben packed some clothes in a black weekend bag and put his black suit in a garment bag for the trip to his father’s Hampton house. Before yesterday Ben wasn’t aware his father owned a house in the Hamptons. He wondered if he owned it while he was with his mother or bought it later for his new family. He thought about what the attorney said about the will. What did he have to sign? And did his father actually leave something for him contingent to his passing? He paced the floor in his apartment as he thought of the implications.
A few moments later his mother called. Ben loved his mother dearly but they barely spoke due to his deep hatred for phone conversations and the fact that they had very little to converse about. He also rarely visited her at the Brooklyn heights apartment she lived in since he was a boy; she always made note of this whenever they spoke.
“Ben, honey, I just got off the phone with a lawyer with a strange accent. It sounded Jamaican or something.”
“Yeah, Ma’. He called me yesterday. Apparently he’s George’s attorney.”
“Don’t call him George, honey. Say Dad.”
“Ma’, you know I’ll never say that. He hasn’t been in my life, why would I call him Dad or anything close?”
“I just think it’s courteous…”
“Courteous? You want me to show courtesy. Was it courteous when he walked out the door twenty years ago without even saying good-bye?”
“Calm down, honey. I just think… He’s dead now, you know?” She paused for a few seconds, “This lawyer guy, he invited me to the funeral.”
“Yeah, same here. Are you going?”
“No. I will not be attending.”
“I have other plans.”
Ben knew that was impossible because his mother lived alone and had very few people she referred to as friends. But, he decided not to press her on the subject.
“Well, I decided to go Ma’. The attorney told me there are documents for me to sign.”
“Hm. So I’m assuming there’s a will.”
“Yes, According to Clinton, the Attorney. Hey, did you know about this house in the Hamptons? Did he own it while you were together?”
“I’m aware of the house. Back when he would call to check up on us, he mentioned it. That was at least two years after he left. He must have bought it around then.”
“That bastard, he left us and bought a house.”
“Hey! Don’t talk like that, honey. It’s unbecoming. How’s work coming along? Any new projects?”
“Yeah, they have me designing the cover of the next issue.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful, Ben.”
“It is, ma’. Anyway I have to pack a few more things. I’ll give you a call okay?”
“Honey, I know I’m not going to hear from you for weeks.”
“I love you, Ma.”
“Love you too, son.”
Ben closed the call. He placed palms over his eyes and rubbed them until the sockets felt numb. He stared at the door with kaleidoscopic vision and imagined the sun ordained silhouette of his father smiling at him, as he’s taken to doing many times in the past.
Ben took the four o’clock LIRR from Penn station to Southampton. It was a warm day and he could feel the heat from the glass window. The train was partially empty. The ride was smooth and quiet and the scenery was serene and pleasant. It took two hours and twenty minutes to get to the Southampton station and then there was a twenty-minute cab ride to his father’s property. The house was large and had two stories. The land around it was vast, green and plush. The beach was yards away and Ben could smell the salt water in the crisp air. He watched the waves bounce before entering the property. There were several expensive cars parked in the driveway. Ben caught a glimpse of the plate on an old Landrover that read ‘FNAUSSE’. He recognized the shape of his father’s 1977 Mercedes covered by a thick cream-colored cloth. It was closest to the garage door at the side of the house. He walked slowly to the front door, carrying his black duffle bag in his right hand and his garment bag in the other. He thought about turning around and walking back to the train station, but it was at least an hour worth of a walk and his legs had already lead him to the front door. The house didn’t have a doorbell, so he knocked as hard as he could. He heard some commotion from inside and then caught a brief glimpse of a face peeking from behind the curtain covering the window closest to the door. Ben waited, then he heard the locks being turned and the door was finally opened. A stout, white, bald man of about sixty with a majestic beard greeted him.
“Hello, Mr. Mackey I presume?” Said the man as he reached out his hand to grab Ben’s.
“Hello.” Ben recognized the accent. But never in a million years would he have connected it to the man standing in front of him. “And you must be Clinton?”
“Yes, that would be me , sir. I know I’m not what you were expecting. I’m never what anyone is expecting.”
“You’re right about that. You should warn people before you introduce yourself.”
“Come in Mr. Mackey.”
“Clinton?” Ben said as he apprehensively followed him inside. “So the accent, what’s the deal?”
“I happened to spend a majority of my formative years on the island of Jamaica. But there will time for me to tell the full story later Mr. Mackey. Come. Follow me. There are some people you should meet.”
Ben followed Clinton through the vast foyer into a large den. It was decorated with beautiful wood furniture, Persian rugs. There was a ceiling high bookshelf on the south wall. The couches were made of red leather and accented with gold studs. There were several people occupying the couches.
Clinton lead Ben over to the group. “Ben, this is Norton.” A tall, fit man stood. His grey polo gripped his biceps as he used his arms to force himself to his feet. His hair was full and brown. He sported a perfectly groomed mustache. Norton grabbed Ben by the shoulder and acknowledged him with the most confident smile Ben had ever seen since his father’s many years ago.
“So this is the young man George never shut up about. It’s fine to finally meet you, young man.”
Ben shook his hand without a word. Clinton lead him to the next Gentleman. He was quite smaller than Norton. “This is Eli, your father’s videographer.”
“Why did he need a videographer?” Ben Asked.
“He was an adventurous man and he needed someone dumb enough to film all the foolish shit he did. I was that dumb ass. He was good man though…” Eli Said.
The last comment made Ben’s face stern and hard. They moved on to the next person. It was a woman. She was gorgeous and slender. Her hair was auburn and flowed down to her shoulders. Ben found himself lost in her hazel eyes. He stood there with his mouth agape.
“Ben, this is Genevieve.” Clinton said. Ben didn’t exactly hear him, but somehow managed to nod his head. Genevieve put her hand under Ben’s and shook it. Ben’s body jolted slightly at the touch.
“Nice to meet you, Ben.”
“No. Yeah. Same.” Ben stuttered. He smiled and dropped his eyes to the floor from shame.
Clinton lead Ben to the foyer.
“So where is George’s wife?” Ben Asked.
“I believe she’s upstairs with George Jr.”
“George Jr.? His son?”
“Yes, his son – your half brother – Mr. Mackey. He’s a good boy, quiet and actually quite brilliant to say the least.”
Ben put his hand over his face, dug his fingers slightly into his skin and pulled downward, forcefully stretching his face. “This day is just too bizarre. I didn’t even know he had another son.” He smoothed his hair away from his face with his right hand. “I have a brother…” He said under his breath, but still audible enough for Clinton to hear. Clinton looked at Ben with sympathy in his eyes but the inexperience in such a situation forced him to hold his tongue from consoling him.
“Clinton, please just call me Ben from now on.”
“Ben, Let me show you to your room.” Clinton lead them through the foyer, past the stairs that curved up to the second floor, through the kitchen to a door at the furthest corner of the room. “Now… Ben, since you were the last to arrive, the helper’s quarters will have to do. You’ll have everything you need in here. A closet, full bathroom, and a beautiful view of the rear of the property.” Clinton explained as he pushed the door open.
Ben looked into the room that appeared to be approximately fifteen by fifteen. There were tall windows to the left and a twin-sized bed in the far, right corner of the room. There were also doors that lead to the back patio and a tall wooden wardrobe. He set his bag down inside the room, next to the door and turned to face Clinton.
“Thank you for everything, Clinton. Why are you doing all of this anyway? Where is the help?”
“Mrs. Mackey asked me to do so. She’s not in the best of states and would rather only Mr. Mackey’s close associates and friends in the house, with the exception of you of course. But, you’re welcome. Don’t forget the ceremony begins tomorrow morning promptly at ten o’clock. And we can discuss your father’s Will later in the evening. I will look for you.”
By Joshua Harvey