The Fortunate One

By Paula Sophia Schonauer

There’s this joke: you know you’re a redneck when your porch collapses and kills more than two dogs. Well, I guess Dad’s a half-ass redneck, sitting on his collapsed porch listening to CCR, singing out of tune.

It ain’t me, I’m a fortunate one.

I told Dad he’s got the song wrong, that he’s supposed to sing, I ain’t no fortunate son.

But he just nodded, stubbed his cigarette into an ashtray, shoving it deep into the gray soil of ashes. Then he stood the butt on end, lined it up behind another one – three, four rows of butts – like a little cemetery.

Mom always said Dad’s never been the same since he got home from the war, that the war did something to him, took his ambition, his lust for life. He wasn’t like a lot of other veterans with their post traumatic stress and violent outbursts.

No, Dad’s as easygoing as the next guy. Quiet. Mom says too quiet. Sometimes she says she wishes Dad had the normal vet problems, that way she’d know he felt something, could get excited by something. About the only thing he does is buy a twelve pack of Milwaukee’s Best, drive to the lake and watch the sunset, throwing the empty cans in the back of his old pickup truck. I could tell it was time for a trip to the scrap metal guy.

Once I talked to Dad while he was feeding his hog, Jim Jr. I asked him why he never used his GI Bill to go to college. He poured some slop into a bucket and watched Jim Jr. munching on the remains of a corncob.

That hog’s gonna make some great pork chops, some good bacon too.

Dad licked his lips.

The poor fella doesn’t know what’s coming.

Dad looked at me.

None of us do.

Mom called from the house. The dog got out again. She shouted at Dad. When are you going to take care of this goddamn fence?

Dad watched Jim Jr. eat, grunting, laughing.

What a fat-n-happy guy. Enjoy yourself, savor every moment. Every day above ground is a good one.

Paula Sophia Schonauer rides a motorcycle, trying to find Zen on the back roads of Oklahoma. She almost made it once, but a curve threw her off-balance.
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