Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (

Chapter 3

Payback and a Road trip

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I knew he wasn’t going to let my laughing at his embarrassment in the restaurant go without a suitable response. I just didn’t expect it so quickly. I woke up to the sound of the alarm clock on Monday morning. That actually surprised me since I didn’t need to be up early and I was pretty sure that I hadn’t set it. I could hear Josh and Susan in the kitchen having breakfast and I decided to go up and join them.

I made a quick stop at the toilet to relieve my bladder, threw on a bath robe and a pair of slippers and headed up the stairs. I figured I’d wait until after breakfast before dealing with my morning ablutions.

Josh and Susan were seated at their usual places around the kitchen table talking quietly as I entered the kitchen. As I came into view, they both looked at me and their conversation cut-off in an instant. Susan just stared gape-mouthed at me and Josh looked as though he was struggling so hard not to laugh that I thought he might actually explode.

"What?" I asked quizzically as I looked down and verified that I had remembered to put on and tie up a bath robe.

At that moment, Josh could no longer hold it in and he burst out into raucous laughter. Susan wasn’t far behind him.

"Alright, does someone want to fill me in on the joke?" I asked. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but I was almost certain that Josh was behind it.

At this point, Josh was virtually rolling on the floor clutching his sides. Susan managed to get herself calmed down enough to reach into her purse and produce her compact mirror. She handed me the mirror and then burst out laughing again.

I opened the mirror and was startled to see what looked like a demented street-walker version of myself staring back at me. It seemed that Josh had got out of bed extra early and managed to do me up in his mother’s makeup while I was still asleep. He had covered my face with some kind of white base and had done my eyes up so much eye shadow that I looked like Tammy Fae Baker. He had covered my lips with tons of an almost shockingly red lipstick and plastered my cheeks with some sort of rouge which was of a similar shade. I looked like a reject from the corner of Queen and Jarvis – the hooker capitol of Toronto.

I stared at my reflection for a moment in utter disbelief before I started laughing just about as hard as Josh was. I sat down next to Josh and noticed that he was all dressed and ready for school. I contemplated the consequences of starting a practical joke war with him and figured that I was sure to lose. I debated my response and then decided to ignore the little voice in my head that said "let it go" and I turned the tables on him.

Knowing how much electric red lipstick he had plastered onto my lips, I reached over and grabbed his head in my hands and placed big sloppy kisses on his forehead and each cheek, each one leaving brilliant red lip-marks behind as evidence.

"Hey! No fair," he squawked as he tried to get way.

Susan took one look at us both and once again started laughing her head off.

"What was that about payback bud?" I asked him with a grin.

Josh flashed me one of the wide and friendly grins that I had come to love. "This means war," he said with a giggle.

I put my arm around him and hugged him. "You got me good, kiddo! I couldn’t resist," I said with a chuckle.

He pretended to frown and then returned the hug with a smile.

"Alright, you two clowns," Susan said with a smirk. "Follow me to the bathroom and I’ll show you how to get that gunk off your faces!" She looked as though she wanted to get angry with Josh for wasting so much of her makeup, but I figure she just found the whole thing too funny to get angry.

We managed to scrub off all the makeup, but it left Josh a little late for school. Susan had to leave for work so I raced downstairs to my apartment to throw on some clothes in order to drive him.

We piled into my Jeep and made it to his school with a couple of minutes to spare.

"There you are son," I said as I reached over to give him a quick hug before he got out.

"Thanks dad. I love you, "Josh said as he hugged me back and opened his door.

"I love you too kiddo," I said warmly. "Don’t forget, we’re leaving tonight. I’ll pick you up right at 3:00 and we’ll hit the road."

"I can’t wait," he replied as he shut the door and ran into the school just ahead of the bell.

I spent the rest of the morning skimming through the portions of my textbooks that I was supposed to read. There wasn’t really anything in there that I didn’t already know and it didn’t take me long to cover all of the necessary material. I ended up closing out the morning playing Doom on my PC.

I grabbed a quick sandwich and then prepared for the trip to Bracebridge. I wasn’t looking forward to the funeral. I really don’t like funerals in the best of times and I knew this was going to be worse than most. I didn’t know George and the extent of my feelings towards him was anger over his treatment of his son. I knew I was going to be uncomfortable amongst people who, according to Susan, would probably be hostile. I knew, however, that I had to be strong and I had to be there for Josh. I wouldn’t let him down.

I gassed up the Jeep and ran it through the car wash. I also spent some time cleaning out and vacuuming the interior. I did a pretty thorough walk-around inspection, checking the oil and the tires, including the spare. When I returned to the house, I took a moment to put a few emergency supplies into the back. I never drove up north in winter without my emergency kit and mobile power pack. The emergency kit contained essentials such as candles, hand warmers, a first aid kit, emergency blankets and some high energy food like chocolate bars.

With my Jeep prepared, I packed my overnight bag with enough casual clothes for 2 days and I packed a dark coloured suit into a suit bag. I also made sure to pack my dress shoes; I didn’t want to appear at the funeral wearing a suit with running shoes. I grabbed a dark blue tie for myself and then I selected another, similar tie for Josh. I knew all he had was a clip-on tie and I wanted to make him feel as grown up as possible. The tie that I selected for him was a little small for me and I figured it would fit him just fine.

I intended to spend some time this week-end discussing the facts of life with Josh. I was disappointed but not surprised that nobody had taken the time to talk to him about puberty, sex and all that other stuff related to growing up. Clearly he had started puberty recently and he was bound to have a lot of questions and confusion. I wanted to give him the straight goods without embarrassing either one of us so I intended to keep the conversation as light as possible. I figured that passing on the art of tying a tie as if it were some sort of right of manhood would provide a good segue into that discussion.

I loaded my own bags into the Jeep and then went to retrieve Josh’s bag from his room. He had packed, but knowing what boys are like, I did a quick double check to ensure that he had everything that he needed. I was glad I did, he had probably thrown his clothes together at the last minute this morning and had let out some key articles such as socks and underwear. I completed his packing and added his bag to the back of the Jeep.

With the packing done, I retreated to my apartment and checked the weather reports for the next few days. If Environment Canada was to be believed, it was going to be perfect road trip weather for most of the week. Before settling down to resume the virtual mayhem that was Doom, I made a quick call to book a motel room for Josh and I. Being November, it was going to be dark by the time we arrived in Bracebridge and I didn’t want to have to go from motel to motel trying to find a place to stay.

After spending about 30 minutes blowing various virtual demons to hell with a rotary cannon, it was time to make the final preparations for the trip and to go pick up Josh. I grabbed a couple of Thermos bottles and filled them with hot chocolate. I also grabbed some bottled water, fruit and granola bars and loaded them into a cooler which I usually kept in my Jeep. I figured that Mr. hollow legs Josh would like a snack between now and when we had dinner in Bracebridge.

By the time I was ready to go and get Josh, I was excited. Despite the fact that we were going to what was likely to be a very unpleasant funeral, I was looking forward to taking my first road-trip with Josh. I wanted to include him in the trip so I retrieved my Ontario road atlas from the glove box and placed it on the passenger seat. I knew exactly where I was going, but I figured that Josh would be delighted to serve as the navigator. I also thought that giving him something to do would help to keep the mood light and as much as possible keep his mind off tomorrow’s funeral.

I pulled up outside Josh’s school and within seconds he came bounding out.

"Hey dad!" he crowed as he piled into the Jeep and hugged me tightly. "I love you."

"Hey kiddo, I love you to," I said as I returned his hug.

"All set for the big road-trip?" I asked.

"Oh yeah! I couldn’t concentrate all day, I was so excited."

I was pleased that he was happy about the trip and didn’t appear to be thinking too much about tomorrow.

"What’s this for?" He asked, picking up the map book.

"It’s a road atlas, you’re going to be the navigator on this trip," I told him smiling.

"Cool!" Josh rewarded me with a bright and sunny grin and then cracked open the book to find the route.

The drive was a lot of fun. It wasn’t all that long, only about 2 hours, but Josh and I enjoyed every moment. I let him navigate and even when he picked a route other than that which I would have taken, I took his route. It probably extended the drive a little bit but it made him happy.

We spent a good portion of the trip reminiscing about our camp days. I was amazed to hear about some of the capers that those kids pulled off behind my back. I was also gratified to learn that I was considered to be the "cool counselor" who all the kids liked and admired. Josh said there were quite a few disappointed kids at camp this past summer when I wasn’t there.

When he wasn’t navigating, Josh was fiddling with the stereo. Thankfully, we not only shared a taste for off-the-wall humour, but was also shared a common taste in music. Both Josh and I were partial to rock. Metallica ranked among our favorites. He managed to find a station which had just started playing "Two Steps Behind" by Def Leppard. I had always liked that song and I watched Josh out of the corner of my eye. His brow was creased in concentration as he listened intently to the lyrics. His eyes lit up and he broke into a broad grin when he heard the chorus:

(Whatever you do)
I'll be two steps behind you
(Wherever you go)
And I'll be there to remind you
That it only takes a minute of your precious time
To turn around and I'll be two steps behind

"That song’s about us," Josh said, almost in awe.

"It sure could be, bud. The singer is telling someone that that he cares about that he’ll always be there for him or her no matter what happens or wherever they end up all he or she’ll ever have to do it reach out and he’ll be right there."

"That’s us!" Josh exclaimed excitedly.

I had a lump in my throat. "You bet bud, that’ll be out theme song."

Josh leaned over and gave me a quick peck on my cheek. "You need a shave," he said with a laugh.

We made short work of the snacks and drinks that I had packed and by the time we rolled into Bracebridge, Josh was ready to begin eating the padding in the Jeep’s seats.

"Here we are kiddo," I told Josh as we pulled into the motel.

"When do we eat?" Josh asked.

"Let’s get checked in and get our gear stowed and then we’ll grab a bite."

"Okeydokey," Josh said with a grin.

It only took a moment for me to get us registered. I was glad that I had made a reservation; the motel was actually booked right up I figured it must have been ice fisherman heading over to Georgian Bay.

Our room was towards the far end of the motel so we climbed back into the Jeep and parked the car in the space right outside the door. I backed in to make it easier to unload our bags while limiting the amount of time we had to spend out in the cold.

The room contained 2 double beds, a dresser, a nightstand with lamp between the beds and a reasonably large colour TV. Josh took the far bed near the bathroom and I took the one nearest to the door. We plunked down our overnight bags, I hung up my suit and Josh hung up the slacks and dress shirt that he was planning on wearing.

"Oh shit!" He exclaimed. "I forgot to bring a tie."

"I’ve got you covered," I told him as I ruffled his hair. I reached into my suit bag and produced the tie that I had brought for him. "Your first real tie."

"Thanks dad," Josh said as he hugged me. "How do I tie it?"

"Tell you what, lets use the can and then grab some food and I’ll teach you tonight," I replied as I hugged him back.

"Sounds like a plan," Josh replied as he headed to the bathroom to dispose of the hot chocolate and water that he’d consumed during the long drive from Toronto.

I was stretching and flexing my neck a little when he came back into the room.

"Are you ok, dad?" He asked with concern.

"Yeah, I’m fine son; my neck’s just a little stiff from the long drive."

"I’ll take care of that for you later if you want," He said with a warm smile as he reached up and gave my shoulders a firm squeeze.

"Sounds like a plan, bud. What do you want to eat?"

"How about some food?" He replied with his trademark grin.

"Why I oughta…" I said doing a presentable "Moe" imitation which delighted him. I reached out and tickled his ribs causing his to giggle and squirm away from me.

"How about some hot wings? I know a place not far from here that has amazing chicken wings."

"Sounds good. How hot is the ‘hot’ sauce?" He asked.

"Hot enough to put hair on your nether regions," I said with a laugh recalling the infamous wasabi incident.

Josh turned red, smiled and then lunged at me, tackling me onto the bed. He then proceeded to tickle my ribs without mercy.

I flipped him over with a nicely executed wrestling move, pinned him down and proceeded to tickle torture him right back. Finally the need for food convinced us to give up our wrestling fun.

We headed off in the Jeep and returned about 15 minutes later with enough chicken wings to feed a horse. Well, a horse or one pre-teen boy and his dad anyway. We decided to grab some plain spice rubbed wings with a sampling of the hot, medium and blue cheese sauces on the side. We also grabbed a sizeable platter of carrot and celery sticks to provide at least a small semblance of balance to the meal. Almost as an afterthought, we stopped at a local corner store and grabbed a roll of paper towels to handle the mess that would inevitably result from eating such a big load of chicken wings. We also snagged a half-dozen cans of pop of various flavors.

We propped ourselves up on our beds, turned on the TV and tuned to the Movie Channel before digging into our feast. Over the next hour, we consumed about 80 chicken wings and God only knows how many carrot and celery sticks. At first I kept pace with Josh but I quickly fell behind. By the time the wings had been reduced to a picked clean pile of bones, I must have eaten about 30 wings to Josh’s 50.

Josh smiled and let out a loud belch. "Oh man, that was good," he said with a smile.

"I love chicken wings," I replied. "Just think how many chickens are running around without wings so we could have that feast."

"Doofus," Josh exclaimed lovingly and flashed me the warm grin that I loved so much.

"I know, but you love me anyway," I said returning his grin.

"Of course I do. Now, lets get cleaned up and I’ll rub your neck for you."

"You don’t have to Josh,"

"I know I don’t, but I want to. You didn’t have to spend your money and take your time to bring me here," Josh said seriously.

"I did it because I want to and because I love you, Josh. I don’t have a lot of money, I have enough to get by and I can afford this. Money and time are worthless compared to the bond between us."

Josh smiled then came over and hugged me, his sticky barbecue sauce covered hands leaving hand-prints on my back. I returned both his loving hug and the hand-prints.

We both hit the bathroom and washed our hands. I checked the thermostat to ensure that the room would stay warm and then we both stripped down to our briefs to settle in for the night.

"Lay face down, dad," Josh said as he climbed up on my bed with me.

I did as I was told as he straddled my back and began working my shoulders and neck. Before long, my shoulder muscles were loosening up nicely and I began to relax. He kept up his loving ministrations for about 10 minutes and I loved every second of it. I’d had professional massages before and while the people giving them knew all about pressure points and muscle groups, it was professional and impersonal. Josh didn’t know much about the mechanics of massage, but he knew he loved me and that came through loud and clear as he worked. I’d trade a 3 hour professional massage for a mere 10 minutes of Josh’s somewhat clumsy, but none the less living handiwork.

"Feel better?" he asked.

"Oh yeah, much more of that and I’d be asleep," I replied with a chuckle.

He got off me and I rolled over. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and pulled him into a bear hug, enjoying his warmth. "Thanks son."

"Anytime dad. You’re all nice and warm," he said as he hugged me back and gave me a peck on the cheek before grabbing the TV remote and returning to his own bed.

We watched TV for a couple of hours until we decided to call it a night at about 11:00. The funeral was set for 11:00 AM the next morning. I called the motel office for a 9:00 AM wakeup call just in case we slept in. I wanted to give us about 2 hours to get ready and to allow time for me to show Josh how to tie a tie.

"Goodnight son," I called over to Josh.

"Goodnight dad," came his tired reply.

I lay there for a few minutes thinking about what the coming day would bring. I tried not to worry about it, but I had a bad feeling that something was going to happen. I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind as I listened to Josh’s breathing become slow and even as he drifted off to sleep. Not long after I heard him begin to snore softly, the sandman caught up with me too.

For a second, I thought it was morning. I snapped awake quite suddenly and there was a bright light in my eyes.

"Tommy, wake up!" Josh said urgently. "I think I’m sick or something."

The sleepiness disappeared instantly. "Josh? What’s wrong son?" I asked in a very concerned voice. He had turned on the bedside lamp and I was still squinting from the light. It took me a few seconds to adjust.

Josh was standing beside my bed with a stricken look on his face. "What’s wrong son?"

"Something happened to me," he said a little sheepishly.

"Are you hurt? Were you sick?" I looked at him and I noticed that the front of his briefs were wet. "Did you have an accident?" I thought that was strange, Josh had never peed the bed since I’d known him.

"That isn’t pee," he said a little embarrassed.

Suddenly it clicked and I could have kicked myself for not having my planned talk with him sooner. "I think I know what happened Josh," I said soothingly as I reached out and gently grabbed the waste band of his briefs. A quick glimpse at the sticky mess inside confirmed my suspicions. He’d had his first wet-dream and it had scared the heck out him because he didn’t know what it was.

"Josh, did you have a sexy dream just before you woke up?"

His face reddened a little bit. "Yeah, how did you guess that?" he asked tentatively.

I sat up, pulled him over to me and gave him a hug. "You’re fine Josh. You just had a wet dream. It’s just another sign that you’re growing up. In fact, it pretty much shows that there is NOTHING wrong with you."

He looked relieved, "I’d heard of wet dreams but I didn’t really know what they were."

"Don’t worry bud, you’ve probably got a lot of questions and I promise that we’ll talk about all this stuff before we go home on Wednesday," I said as I continued to hold him. "It’s perfectly normal and natural for boys your age to have wet dreams. It’s nothing to worry about and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It might be a little embarrassing sometimes, but you never have to be embarrassed around me."

He hugged me back fiercely.

"Why don’t you go in the bathroom to clean yourself up and then put on some clean underwear? Be careful about where you put that pair, we don’t want to get any semen on your clean clothes!"

"Semen?" He asked.

"Well talk all about it on Wednesday, I promise. Right now, we need to get back to bed." I looked at the clock and it was only 3:00 AM.

Josh removed his soiled underwear and went into the bathroom to clean himself up. He came back out a couple of minutes later, fished out a clean pair of briefs and deposited the soiled pair in a separate pocket in his overnight bag.

He walked back to his bed before turning around and looking at me. "My bed’s kind of sticky, can I sleep with you?"

"Of course son," I said as I smiled and raised the covers for him. "Hit the light on your way."

Josh turned off the light and then climbed into bed with me. I was laying on my side. Josh rolled onto his side and snuggled up by pressing himself back into my chest. I put my right arm under his neck and wrapped my left arm around his torso, pulling him close. I nuzzled my face into the back of his head. Josh folded his arms over his chest and gripped my left arm.

"Goodnight son, I love you."

"Goodnight dad, I love you too."

It only took a couple of moments before Josh fell fast asleep. I lay awake, listening to him snore and held him close to me. I loved him more than life itself and I knew that I would move heaven and earth to protect him. I was worried about how things would go at the funeral. If it were my choice, we would skip it. Josh felt he needed to be there, so I was going to be there with him and I would do whatever I needed to do in order to support him and protect him.

We both woke up at approximately the same time the next morning. We had reversed our positions during the night. I awoke on my left side with Josh cuddled up behind me with his right arm wrapped tightly around my chest. I sat up and stretched as I looked as Josh who was beginning to stir. I flipped on the TV and turned to the local news station. The clock on the wall indicated that it was just after 8:00 AM. I then called the motel office and cancelled the wakeup call.

"Morning son," I said as I gave Josh’s arm a gentle squeeze.

"Morning dad," he replied sleepily as he sat up and stretched his arms.

I seized the opportunity to catch him off guard and tickle his underarms.

"Hey!" He squawked in pretend outrage as he pulled me into a headlock and tickled my ribs.

"We had better cut this out before one or both of us wets the bed," I said with a chuckle.

Josh thought about it for a second and then we both bolted for the bathroom to drain our full bladders.

"I’ve got first dibs on the shower," I announced as I peeled off by briefs and started the water.

"Oh alright, age before beauty," he said with a laugh as he retreated into the room to watch TV.

I took a quick shower and then climbed out and began to dry off before taking care of my other morning rituals. Josh re-entered the bathroom, removed his underwear, turned the water back on and hopped in.

While he showered, I brushed my teeth and flossed. I was just putting the shaving cream on my face when Josh climbed out of the shower stall and began to dry himself. When he was finished, he folded his towel and then sat down on the toilet lid to watch me shave. I don’t know what the fascination was, but for some reason he enjoyed watching me shave. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and saw that he was watching me with almost the same expression that I wear when I watch him when he is unaware of it. It was a look of adoration.

"It won’t be long and you’ll have to start shaving, bud," I said with a grin.

"Will you teach me how?"

"Sure. You might want to start with an electric razor-"I started to say when he cut me off.

"No way," he said. "I want to use the same kind as you do."

I smiled at his as I wiped the traces of shaving cream from my face.

"Want to try it?" I asked.

"I don’t have any hair on my face to shave off."

"That’s ok; you can still try it out."

"Ok," he said with a grin,

"Come over here then," I said as I pulled him up and stood him in front of me. "First, splash some water on your face to start with."

He bent down and turned on the faucet.

"Now hold out your hand," I said as I shook the can of shaving cream and sprayed a blob of it onto his hand. "Spread that over your face."

He smeared the shaving cream over his face from his neck up to his cheeks. I reached down and wiped it away from his lips.

"Ok, now take the razor," I said as I handed it to him. I placed my hand over his and moved it to his face. "Don’t push too hard, just let it glide down your face. Be gentle so you don’t cut yourself" I gently guided his hand as he moved the razor down his smooth cheek.

"That’s it kiddo," I said with a smile. "When you start to grow facial hair, you’ll discover a ‘grain’ of sorts. You want to shave with the grain so it doesn’t hurt." I told him as I placed my hand tenderly on his shoulder and watched him work. He had a studious look on his face as he concentrated on what he was doing.

"Careful when you do your upper lip, it can be tricky," I said.

He finished the job like a pro. I turned him around and wiped the traces of shaving cream off his face then gave him a quick peck on his forehead. Shaving might appear routine or trivial, but learning to shave made Josh feel grown up. It also provided one of those special dad and son moments that we’d both cherish forever.

"Not so bad, eh?" I asked him.

"Piece of cake," he grinned.

"Ok, last step is the aftershave," I opened my bottle of Old Spice, poured some into my hand and then rubbed it into my face. "It might sting a bit since you aren’t used to it," I cautioned him.

He repeated my actions and I saw him tense up a bit when he applied the lotion to his face. "Yikes! That smarts," he chirped.

"You get used to it after a while," I told him. "It actually takes away the burning feeling that you get when you shave."

We finished up in the bathroom and retreated to the main part of the room. We threw on some clothes and went across the street to McDonalds for breakfast. After Josh inhaled a couple of "Big Breakfasts" and I made short work of a stack of pancakes, we headed back to the room to get ready for the funeral.

The first order of business was to teach Josh how to tie a tie. It was actually surprisingly easy. Josh was an eager learner and a good student. It actually only took all of about 10 minutes for him to be able to tie a very respectable Windsor knot.

I demonstrated it for him first using my own tie. I did it slowly, showing each move. I then stood behind him and demonstrated it again around his neck so that he could see each step from the proper perspective. Finally, I had him attempt it as I walked him through the entire process. I was amazed when he tied it on his own with no assistance of any kind.

"Nicely done, little man," I said with pride in my voice.

"That’s so easy," he said. "I thought it would have been harder than that."

He was pleased with himself and I was happy to give him something to think about other than the funeral.

We stretched out on my bed and watched TV for an hour to kill some time. I lay down and propped my back up against the headboard. Josh did the same thing and snuggled right up to my side. I wrapped my arm around him and he leaned his head against the side of my chest. I could tell that he felt safe and content in that position.

Finally, it was time to get ready. As I dressed in my suit and Josh put on his slacks and dress shirt, my feelings of dread returned with a vengeance. I didn’t consider myself to have any sort if psychic abilities, but I knew enough to trust my instincts. I didn’t share my concern with Josh, but I made a mental note to keep a very sharp eye on him and to stay within arms reach of him the whole time. We let the Jeep warm up for a couple of moments before we headed off to the funeral home.

We arrived a few minutes later and the place was nearly deserted. Evidently a life of alcoholism and abuse had left George Chambers with few friends. The beaten up cars parked in the lot led me to believe that it was mostly relatives in attendance.

Josh was clearly tense and I placed my hand on his shoulder to comfort him. "It’s ok son. I’m with you."

He smiled briefly at me and grasped the hand I had placed on his shoulder. "Thanks dad."

After a couple of minutes, we climbed out of the Jeep and walked into the funeral home.

The funeral home was like any other funeral home that I ever been in. Pastel coloured walls, the smell of flowers and soft organ music providing a somber mood. Josh was close by my side as we walked into the small chapel.

The chapel contained seating for around 50 people, but there were only around 4 or 5 people present. I noted an older woman who appeared to be in her late 60s sitting in the front row of the right side of the room. Beside her was an older man. I assumed that they were Josh’s grandparents. Beside the older couple was a woman who looked to be around 40 who I guessed was Josh’s aunt. Sitting a few rows back on the same side was a man who also appeared to be in his 40s. He was unshaven and poorly dressed. I figured him to be Josh’s uncle. The only other person in the room was a neatly dressed man who sat on the opposite side of the isle from the family members. Josh’s father lay in a dark wooden casket at the front of the room. I was somewhat relieved, for Josh’s sake, that it was a closed casket service.

As we entered the room, Josh’s grandparents glanced at us and then simply turned around. I was shocked and disgusted that they didn’t even acknowledge their grandson. His aunt didn’t turn around at all. I couldn’t say the same thing for his uncle.

"Well, well, well, look who’s here," his uncle said in a slurred and drunken voice. "The little bastard decided to grace us with his presence."

I felt Josh tremble and push himself into my side. I wrapped my arm around him and glared at his obviously inebriated uncle. "Its ok son," I whispered to Josh as I pulled him close. I was hoping that his uncle would forget about us.

"Aren’t you going to say hello to your uncle Joe, you little prick?" The drunken man roared.

The neatly dressed man on the opposite side of the room looked uncomfortable while the rest of Josh’s relatives ignored everything that was going on behind them. I saw the funeral director, a petite neatly dressed woman; look into the chapel with concern evident on her face.

I directed Josh to a seat on the back row of the opposite side of the room from his drunken uncle. I placed him in the seat nearest the wall and I sat down beside him, placing myself between him and the drunk.

"Just ignore him pal," I said soothingly.

Josh put his arm around me and hugged me firmly. I could see that he eyes were damp and he was trembling.

"Don’t worry son," I whispered. "I’m here, you’re safe. If you want to leave, just say the word."

"I’ll be ok," he replied in a shaky voice.

As I continued to try to comfort Josh, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Josh’s uncle was crossing the floor and heading right at us. He got within a couple of feet of us and raised his hand towards Josh. Josh cowered against me and I felt a pure rage that I had not felt in a very long time rising in me as I stood up to defend my boy. I swore to Josh that as his dad I would protect him and I wasn’t about to break that sacred vow. I was never a violent person, but the one sure fire way to drive me to violence was to threaten someone I loved. The world seemed to be moving in slow motion. The drunken uncle ignored me and kept coming. I reacted quickly and decisively to protect my son.

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