“Your father’s alive,” said Jessica flatly.
“Tony,” said Jessica.
“How?” asked Xander.
Xander’s stomach immediately began to eat at itself. For the first time in his life, he’d begun to feel a sense of belonging to something good, and this new revelation felt like a body blow. It was as if the funhouse skeleton that was his drunk father had suddenly and inconveniently fallen out of the closet, mocking him by reminders of his true origins. A loser son of an alcoholic and… whatever it was that his mother was.
“He… he woke up the morning of the collapse and realized he was out of beer, and when he tried the liquor store, he discovered that it was empty… apparently, the owner had packed up and left town.
“Smart man,” said Xander.
“When your father…”
my father,” said Xander, so quietly, he wasn’t sure that his mother heard.
There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment and he realized she had.
“When… Tony realized there wasn’t any booze in town, he decided to drive to Moon Hills to see if he could get some,” she said.
“And let me guess, while he was getting his Moon Hills booze, the town collapsed?”
“Yes,” she said.
“So how come it took the brain trust this long to find us?”
“He got drunk. He decided to sleep it off in his car since he had spent all his money on booze,” said Jessica.
“And he got himself arrested?” asked Xander.
“Yes,” said Jessica.
“So why didn’t we find his name amongst those who survived?”
“When they arrested him, they offered him a choice,” said Jessica. “You know this wasn’t your father’s first offense.”
“Of course,” said Xander.
“So they told him he had to go in for thirty day treatment and attend AA for six months or he could go to jail for the previous suspended sentence for when he caused that accident.”
“He should have done time then,” said Xander unsympathetically.
“That’s what he said,” said Jessica.
“Really?” said Xander skeptically.
“Yes, that’s really what he said,” his mother said, sounding petulant and irritable.
“I still don’t really see why no one notified us,” said Xander.
“He told them he didn’t have any family. When he sobered up and remembered that Sunnydale was gone, he realized how close he’d come to dying. He decided we were better off without him.”
“Of course he did. Didn’t it occur to him that you’d worry about him?”
Xander wasn’t about to admit to himself he’d worried about both of his parents in the week and a half it had taken him to find out his mother was alive. He’d been in denial about not mourning his father ever since.
“Aren’t you glad he’s alive?” asked Jessica plaintively.
“Not really,” said Xander, though he wasn’t sure that was quite true. “Why should I be glad? He’s never done anything for me.”
“It’s my fault,” said Jessica. “I shouldn’t have cheated on him.”
“Oh, don’t start that again!” said Xander. “And anyway, you might have cheated on him, but I never did a thing to deserve having to deal with a sick and mean drunk my whole life.”
“He’s sorry…” said Jessica.
“I don’t care,” said Xander.
But of course he did. Still, it was almost two decades too late and ‘sorry’ wouldn’t make up for any of what he’d lost, even if he did mean it, though Xander was quite certain he didn’t. Tears began to roll down Xander’s cheeks.
“You still there?”
“I need to go,” said Xander.
“Please don’t,” said Jessica.
“Why? Because if you’re gonna tell me that you took him back, I think I’ll vomit.”
“He’s an abusive drunk, mom. I don’t want anything to do with him. You shouldn’t either.”
“He’s changed,” said Jessica.
“I find that hard to believe,” said Xander.
“And anyway, he doesn’t want to get back together… at least… he says I have to go for counseling first.”
have to go for counseling?”
Xander was astounded by the man’s gall. Still, maybe if she did go for counseling, she’d get half a clue and decide not to get back with the stupid asshole.
“He says that we’re both sick,” she said. “I told him I’d take him back and he said that his sponsor told him that was a bad idea.”
“Didn’t I tell you he’s in AA?”
“Right,” said Xander. “And you won the lottery… and there’s a bridge in Brooklyn with my name on it?”
“Don’t be an ass, Xander!”
“Why not!? You know what? I’m tired being polite about the bastard! I’m tired listening to you mourning for that fucked up asshole! And now you tell me he’s back and you want me to be happy about it? Well, I’m not! I hate his guts. He should have died in Sunnydale and stayed out of my fucking life!”
Xander realized he was screaming at the top of his lungs and stopped.
“Are you done?”
“Yup,” said Xander and hung up.
Xander realized he was shaking… his whole body was trembling with the shock of his reaction – a reaction he really couldn’t process, though a sob escaped him and there were tears on his face. Suddenly, he was angrier than he could ever remember being. He found himself grabbing the first thing that came to hand, which happened to be a small, heavy table next to the couch. He hurled it at the wall.
Unfortunately, that was the same wall where House’s big flat screen TV resided. The brass corner of the table caught the top left hand side of the TV and a crack spidered across the heavy glass that covered the screen. The table fell in a broken heap onto the floor in front of the TV.
Xander took a deep breath. He went into the bathroom, washed his face and then came back out and looked at his handiwork.
“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a broke drunk,” said Xander to no one in particular.
He began to rummage in the kitchen drawer where he knew his father had tossed the information for the TV and most of his various appliances. The receipt was still attached. The TV had cost nearly a thousand dollars six months before. If he was lucky, they still had that model. If not, he’d have to decide if to roll the dice and buy something different, or whether he’d have to leave it to Greg to choose. His father had expressed how pleased he was with the picture of this particular TV and Xander agreed.
Xander found a sheet of paper and wrote a note to House.Dear Greg,
I’m very sorry about the TV. Kind of had some… bad news… didn’t react well (as you can tell). I’ll explain later. Anyway, I’m hoping that by the time you get home, I’ll have found a replacement for this. Not sure they’ll be able to deliver it today, but I’ll try. I’m really sorry about this.
Xander looked around trying to decide where to leave the note so it would be seen and Greg wouldn’t think his place had been vandalized. He ended up taping the note to the undamaged side of the TV itself. Then he grabbed a trash bag and the broom and began to pick up the broken pieces of table that now littered the area in front of the TV. Fortunately, very little of the glass had fallen from the TV, though a fine powder of splinters had coated the floor.
On the off chance the screen below was damaged, he unplugged it. He didn’t test it. Even if it wasn’t damaged, the TV was unwatchable with the huge spidered crack, and he knew of nowhere local to get a sixty-five inch piece of TV glass. Even if he could find the right glass, he no longer had any tools, though if things worked out with the house; that would soon change.
Xander was running on shame. He couldn’t bear the idea that Greg would come home to this proof that he was a little too much like Tony Harris. He just wanted this to go away. Xander wasn’t going to try to hide what happened from Greg, though part of him wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened. Even if he wanted to, he had no idea where the side table had come from. It was nothing special but it was distinctive enough that finding an exact replacement on short notice would probably be difficult.
Several phone calls later, Xander had found the TV at a branch of the original retailer about fifteen miles away. It was no longer on sale, but Xander didn’t care. He arranged for it to be placed on hold. They didn’t do same day delivery, so Xander decided to rent a small truck and pick it up himself.
He called Faith.
“Hey Faith,” he said once she came on the line, “I wonder if you can do me a really big favor?”
“Sure. What’s up?” she asked.
“I kinda broke House’s TV. I need help picking up the replacement from the store.”
“I can do that,” said Faith. “When are you going?”
“As soon as I pick up the truck,” said Xander.
“Oh. OK, No probs. I'll be here. The hand might not work so good, but with you on one end, I think we’ll manage,” said Faith, sounding very cheerful, which let Xander know that it had been exactly the right favor to ask Faith.
“Thanks, Faith,” said Xander. “Probably better that way, anyhow. People might ask some inconvenient questions if you just picked it up and balanced it on your shoulder.”
“Yeah, I saw that TV. That would be kind of interesting to explain,” said Faith.
“A little too interesting,” said Xander.
Since he was pretty sure Faith had more strength in her bum hand than he had in both his good ones, Xander wasn’t really worried. As long as she didn’t bench press the TV in the parking lot, they’d be just fine.