Tag Archives: Letters

Feeling again

“When was the last time you felt something? I don’t mean the last time you got cut off in traffic and swore at the other driver. I don’t mean the last time you went on a date and waited anxiously afterwards for a phone call that didn’t come. I mean really felt something. I mean had your blood pressure spike so high that you felt like you were going to pass out. I mean you seriously questioned if you were going to die. I mean really felt something. You can’t answer can you? Go to the end of the street and walk into the woods. There will be an old man waiting there. He will show you another way.”

This letter had come sandwiched between a note from my bank summarizing the last month’s activity, and the phone bill. There was no return address, and no name listed anywhere. I wanted to brush it off and trash the letter. It was probably some prank by a neighborhood kid who had learned to open my mailbox. Except it was right. I couldn’t remember the last time I had really felt something. There was probably nothing waiting for me in the woods, except maybe a kid with a squirt gun, but I was willing to risk it.

I grab a jacket and head outside. It’s getting cold out. There is snow forecasted for tomorrow. I feel a biting chill from the wind, and grab some gloves and a hat too. As I head down the street I really hope there isn’t some kid with a water balloon. You could get hypothermia from getting wet in this weather.

I reach the edge of the woods, and grit my teeth as I walk through. I expect a cold splash on the back of my at any moment. At least for the first few steps I do. Then I develop a sense of wonder at the woods. I’ve driven past them countless times on my way to work, but I’ve never actually set foot inside them before. I wonder what’s back here.

I here a splash and a cry for help ahead. Someone’s fallen into a lake of some sort. I run ahead and sure enough the trees give way to a lake, and an old man desperately splashing as he tries to stay afloat.

“Help!” He shouts again. I barely register the bridge he must’ve fallen from as I shed my jacket and dive in. He’s about fifty meters out and I’ve got to be quick. With his poor circulation he’s probably only got seconds before he starts losing toes to the cold.

Burn me is this water freezing! I involuntarily stop breathing as the water feels like it’s choking me, trying to force itself into my lungs, but I was a lifeguard in my youth, and resiliently begin to stroke my way out to the old man.

I’m about ten meters away when his head ducks under. Oh no, the water’s deep. If he falls very far I’ll never be able to catch him, and if he inhales any water it’ll damage his lungs for sure. I desperately close the distance to the epicenter of his ripples, and dive down. I close my eyes and blindly feel for something. My hands brush aside algae that has been growing in the stagnant water, nothing. How could he have sunk so far?

I kick with my legs to propel myself even further down. He’s been under twenty seconds at this point. Seriously, were there rocks in his pockets? Come on old man, give me something.

He’s been under almost forty seconds, and my own lungs are starting to burn. My body tries to reflexively breathe in the surrounding water and I’m choking out bubbles. I take one last searching swipe with my arms, and brush a coat. The old man!

I loop an arm under his shoulder and start stroking furiously. He’s been under almost a full minute, and I can’t tell if he’s unconscious and therefore drowning. He’s limp in my arms. It doesn’t look good.

We break the surface and I kick like crazy for the shore. I tilt his head back and out of the water. His eyes are closed and there’s water dripping from his mouth. Not good signs.

I pull him onto the shore. Okay, ABCs. Airway, breathing circulates, clearly his airway is blocked by water. I find his sternum and start compressing. Water starts ejecting from his mouth in spurts. Clearly still clogged, keep compressing. I think I feel something crack. He’s going to have some broken ribs.

He coughs violently and sits up. Oh thank god. I thought I had just pulled a corpse out of the water. I grab my phone and dial 911. As I’m informing the dispatcher where I am and what I need the old man reaches into his jacket and pulls out a letter that appears to be water proofed somehow.  What on earth?

I thank the dispatcher and hang up.

“Ambulance is coming. You’re going to be fine.” I tell the old man. He continues to cough and gestures for me to open the letter. Really confused, I open the letter. Inside is a piece of paper with a single sentence.

“Well done, await further instructions.”

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Letters To My Father now available for download!

Free PDF Link: https://samgalimore.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/letters-to-my-father.pdf

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Letters-my-Father-Sam-Galimore-ebook/dp/B00QDBFWWG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417319606&sr=1-1

As with Unhooked, this seriously could not have been possible without you guys. There were times where I wanted to take a break, but then I saw all the encouragement I got from you guys. In a very real and direct way you guys were the fuel for the engine that made this book. It’s always a pleasure writing for all of you.

Sorry for the wait guys, enjoy!

Until the next journey,

Sam

Letters to my father part 5

“What do you mean run away? When did this happen?” I say in disbelieve.

“I mean he’s not here. I don’t know where he is, and I’m scared.” Her voice is shaking.

“Okay, what are the parents doing?” I ask, trying to wrap my head around what’s going on.

“The parents are on a plan to Ireland. They left this morning and won’t be on the ground for another. Brother, I’m scared.” She’s repeating herself. She’s freaked out.

“I know sis. Stay there, I’m coming over right now. Get our other younger brother and sit down in the down kitchen. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Sun down is in an hour. We will have to move quick to find him. I wish I had known about this before spending most of my time after I got home from my job working on dropping the lines.

I make the nearly one hour drive in thirty minutes, running several stop signs, red lights, and exceeding the speed limit by a very wide margin that has me dodging in and out of traffic. I probably wrack up a couple hundred dollars in tickets from red light cameras and speeding cameras, but by some miracle no cop pulls me over. I blaze into the driveway of my parent’s house and blitz inside.

My sister is red eyed with several used tissues in front of her. My brother is sitting across from her twiddling with his thumbs. Upon seeing me enter my sister runs over and hugs me.

“I don’t know where he went. I was making dinner, and wanted a hand chopping some vegetables up, so I called him, and he didn’t answer. I tried several times and he wouldn’t respond so I looked all through the house, thinking he had headphones on, and he wasn’t anywhere. I tried calling his phone and I find out he left it behind in his room.” He left his cell phone behind. He must really be trying to avoid us. “I called James, thinking he might be hanging out with him, but he said he hasn’t seen little Andy all day. I don’t know when he left or how long he’s been gone.”

“Did he say anything to you today? Has he been upset at you or someone else?” My sister pulls away from me and shakes her head. Her nose is starting to drip.

“I didn’t know anything. We don’t talk much, but he seemed perfectly happy.”

“Alright sis, it’s going to be okay. Come on, have a seat and we’re going to sort this thing out.” I pull her chair out for her, and then sit down next to her to talk.

“James.” I address my younger brother who hasn’t gotten himself lost. “Did you notice anything strange about Andy? Has he been complaining about something in particular, or talking about something excessively?” James shakes his head.

“I haven’t talked to him much recently either, but when I did he seemed perfectly happy. Maybe mom and dad said something to him that set him off.” This isn’t much help.

“Guys, I’m not around much. If I don’t know something about what’s going on I can’t be of any help. You’re telling me you have absolutely no reason why he would do this?” I ask.

“He complained about the food around here a few days ago.” James says. “That’s literally the last thing I remember him saying.”

“It wasn’t my cooking.” Grace said defensively.

“No one is making any accusations. We’re just trying to get the facts straight.” I tell Grace. “You guys really have no ide why this would happen?” They both shake their heads. Clearly our family has communication issues. No one knew what was going on with anyone else, even the people who lived in the same house together. I felt slightly better for not being involved in their lives. None of us were involved in each other’s lives.

“Alright, we’ve got to try and find him. Can either of you drive?” I feel like a horrible person for not even knowing if my own siblings can drive. They both shake their heads again.

“Okay, that’s going to make things harder. Grace, you stay here in case he comes back. You can also call people to try and get information. James, you come with me.”

“Who should I call?” Grace asks.

“Friends, neighbors, anyone, just call anyone who might know something or have seen him. Let them know we’re looking for him. At the very least having more eyes looking out for him is going to help.” Grace is still red eyed and drippy nosed.

“It’s going to be okay Grace.” I tell her, putting an arm around her shoulder. “We’re going to find him. If we don’t hear anything by sundown we will call the police and get them in on the search.” Grace nods her head.

“Okay.” She says. “Thank you for coming big brother.”

“Hey, anything for my siblings.” I say, ruffling her hair affectionately.

“We will be back to check in with you in an hour.” I pat her on the back and stand up. “Let’s go James.” I tell my remaining younger brother. The two of us head to my car and begin cruising the neighborhood.

“Do you know where he might go?” I ask James as we pull out.

“I don’t know man. He could be anywhere.” James dejectedly stares out his window.

“No he can’t.” I respond. “He’s got two legs, not much money, and no car. Does he have a bike? I ask.

“No.” James says.

“Then he could only go so far. Besides. He’s probably not just going to run randomly. He’s smart right?” I hate that I have to ask if my own brother is smart.

“Yes.” James replies.

“Then he’s got a plan. We just need to figure out what his plan is, and we can find him. Now, he might run to somewhere he’s familiar with. He’s got to be upset about something. Maybe he went to his ‘happy place’, so to speak. What I need from you, is where that might be.” James still looked out his window. He must be a big introvert.

“Come on James, I know you guys didn’t talk much, none of us did, but any information at all you can tell me about where he liked to go would help. Where were his stomping grounds? Where does he feel safe?” James pulls himself away from the window.

“I’ll start with the first one. He was good at school right? I see him posting about contests he’s won, teams he’s made it onto, and good grades he’s gotten.” The good grades was a little insensitive to be putting online, but I took it Andy had not yet mastered the social graces. “So let’s go to his school. You guys go to the same school don’t you? Can you show me how to get to it.”

“I’m in high school and he’s in middle school.” James says. Yet another instance of me not knowing anything about my brothers or sister. I want to give myself a by because I’m old enough that I don’t really remember how old high schoolers and middle schoolers are. I know how old he is, but I don’t remember what age equals what grade anymore. “But I know where his school is, make a left here.”

Our parents live several miles outside of town, it takes eight minutes of precious daylight to navigate to the school. I drop James off at the front.

“You wander through the grounds and see if you can find anything. I’m going to take a slow loop around the school in the car and see if I can spot him that way.” I start to pull away when James asks.

“What do I do if I see him.” I hadn’t thought that far in advance, and I think quickly to come up with the answer.

“He’s scared and maybe angry. As much as I hate to say this, treat him like a wild animal. He could bolt, or he could charge you. Approach him slowly, and in as non-threatening a way as you can. Then tell him it’s okay. Tell him he can come home.”

“Okay, I will, thanks big brother.” James calls as he hops a chain link fence onto the school grounds.

“Hurry!” I shout after him. I can see him start to bolt across the school as I pull away.

I can’t imagine what would cause a kid like Andy to run away. He had everything going for him. His scholastics were outstanding. He must have glowing support from the parents. At least, I think he did. He had run away right as they had left. Could it be something the parents said? Or could it be something else.

The parents had left, and then he had. Was it because he felt abandoned? But how could he feel abandoned. He had three great siblings. Grace had been cooking a meal for him. I remember Grace’s cooking. It was top notch. He was in for a treat. Then he had two brothers. James had been, well actually, I think James had been off somewhere else. The way Grace told the story it had sounded like she had been alone, and had to call James to her. Then there was me. I was never around. Could this be my fault? Had I so blotted out my family life that I had alienated my own sibling into doing something reckless and stupid?

I don’t see Andy anywhere. I finish my loop and meet James back in front of the school. He’s sweating hard. He must’ve been sprinting the whole time.

“Did you see him?” Andy isn’t with James, but maybe he had run off and was coming to get me so we could follow in the car.

“I didn’t see anything. If he’s here, I don’t know where he could be.”

“That’s okay. We still have a bit of daylight left. Get in. Have you thought of anywhere else he might go?” I ask James.

“Yeah actually.” James enters the shotgun seat. “Make a right up here.” We speed off.

“He used to go to the ice skating rink a lot.” James tells me.

“Ice skating?” I say in disbelief. “It’s the middle summer, where is he going to go ice skating?”

“At an indoor ice skating rink, it’s a left at the next light.” James says.

“We have an indoor ice skating rink?” I ask in disbelief. “When did we get one of those?”

“Four summers ago, after the winter Olympics.” James replies.

“I didn’t know Andy was an ice skater. How come he never posts about it.” James shrugs.

“I’m not really sure. Maybe because nobody knows he does it. I’ll bet when he goes there no one knows him for being really smart or popular, they just know him as a fellow ice skater. Andy gets a lot of attention, and I don’t think he likes it. He gets to escape all the people trying to talk to him here.”

I’m learning so much about my siblings on the drive. I pull into a parking space quick enough that James involuntarily slams his feet against the floor of the car in the hope that he will hit an imaginary brake pedal.

We both run inside to the front desk.

“Have you seen a little kid about so high.” I ask the lady at the desk, and hold up my hand to show my estimation of Andy’s height.

“More like this height.” James hold up a hand to contradict my own estimation. Andy has grown a lot since last I talked to him.

“Brown hair, he goes by Andy.” I add on to James’ statement.

“Oh yeah, Andy.” The lady says. We both get a glimmer of hope in our eyes. “I Haven’t seen him in three weeks. He normally doesn’t come here a lot during the summer. It’s too crowded he says.” I ball my hand into a fist and have to resist slamming it into the counter.

“Thank you.” I manage to get out, and grab James to leave.

“Anywhere else?” I ask. “We’ve got enough daylight to check maybe one more place. I’m going to make a loop around the parking lot, but I need to know where else he might go.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course.” James says as we both slide into the car. “There’s one more place. I don’t know if he still goes there, but Andy used to really like the local church. You know how the parents make us go? He sticks around a lot afterwards and just sits. I don’t know why, but he likes it.”

“The church with the stain glass window of the guy crossing a river with a lamb on his back?” I ask James as I complete my lap around the parking lot.

“Yeah, that’s the one.” James says.

“Great, hold on.” I run two red lights in order to get there before sundown, but I make it. James goes off running around the church to see if he’s sitting on one of the benches outside. I make my way inside.

Inside the church is empty, no Andy. I walk quickly to the back of the church to check the rooms behind the alter. I whisper Andy’s name into both of the rooms, no response. I should have run through and yelled his name, but somehow it didn’t feel right doing that in a church. It’s so quite and serene I don’t want to be the pebble that disturbs the pond, even if there’s no one there.

I head back outside and meet James.

“Tell me you found him.” I say to James. He has to have found him. This is the last place we can afford to look. The sun is going down. Grace hasn’t called to tells us he returned home. We’ve got maybe two minutes of daylight left. He has to be here.

“Sorry.” James says. “I got nothing.” I do punch the door to the church. He was supposed to be here. It was the last place we could look. Why would he not be here? I want to punch the door again, but I have to pull it together for James.

“That’s okay. We will go home and get the professionals on this. If we can’t find him they can.” I say, but I should’ve been the one to find him. I’m his older brother. It’s my job to take care of him, and in failing to find him I’ve failed. I’m sure Sarah is watching, and it hurts that much more knowing I’ve disappointed her as well.

We pile into the car at a normal walking pace, and head home obeying all traffic laws.

“It’ll be okay.” I tell James again. He doesn’t say anything back.

It’s a full ten minute drive home, and the sunset punctuates are failure. The last rays are just fading in the distance, signaling that our attempt to find him as reached its end. We are forced to give in. Everything closes around here at dark, and the lack of daylight will prevent us from seeing him.

As I turn into our parent’s neighborhood, I see a kid walking up the side of the road with reflective tape all over his shirt. He looks about the same height as James had estimated Andy would be.

“James.” I say, keeping my voice calm as we pull alongside him. “Is that?”

“Andy!” James shouts, opening the car door. I slam on the brakes and put the car in park in the middle of the street.

We both ignore my advice to be deal with Andy cautiously, and rush out of the car to bear hug him before he can get away.

“He gu…” He gets out before I pick him up and crush his lungs, before handing him over to James to do the same.

I spot a plastic bag on the ground. It’s got food in it. He had been getting supplies. I pick up the bag and chuck it as far as I can throw it.

“It’s okay Andy.” I say while James still has him in a bear hug. “You won’t be needing supplies. We are going to take you home and feed you. Grace has been preparing a hero’s dinner at home. Whatever it is that made you run away. We can fix it. We are here for you now Andy.”

James puts Andy down, and it is at this point I see the highly confused and surprised look on Andy’s face.

“Run away?” He asks. “Who ran away?”

His question caught me off guard. “You did Andy.” I say. “You’ve been gone. Your sister is horribly worried, and you’ve picked up supplies for your escape.”

“Escape?” Andy says. James is starting to examine the blades of grass by the sidewalk in an attempt to distance himself from the conversation.

“I wasn’t trying to escape. Those ‘supplies’ were snacks the parents don’t let me eat.” I look in the back. It’s full of soda, chips, candy, and other stuff that parents try to avoid feeding to their kids.

“Well um, I guess it is. Hang on though, you left your cell phone behind. You left without telling anyone, and you were gone for hours.” I think he might be just trying to cover his tracks now that he knows he’s been caught.

“I left my cell phone because I hate people texting and calling me all the time.” Andy says.

“You could’ve just turned it off.” I suggest.

“It feels more liberating to leave it behind.” He says. “As for the leaving without telling and being gone for hours, I was only gone for two hours, because that’s how long it takes to walk to the store and back, and I didn’t tell anyone because none of you guys ever take an interest in what I do.” He says.

Those words hit home. I see James feel them too. Me and him are both in the same boat, Grace too. We are all his older siblings. It’s not his responsibility for him to keep up with us. It’s our responsibility to keep up with him.

“I think we’ve learned our lesson Andy.” I tell him. “We’ve been worried sick over you. Let’s all go home and sort this out.” It’s a silent car ride up the street to the parent’s.

Upon our arrival Andy calls out for Grace. She comes streaking into the room to give Andy his third attempted asphyxiation through hugging of the day. Andy handles it well.

“How did you find him? Where was he?” Grace asks.

“We’ve got to have a talk Grace.” I say. “Let’s meet in the dining room. There are some things we need to go over.” Grace catches the somber tone in my voice. She nods, thinking she understand what’s going on. She puts on arm around Andy.

Once we are all seated around the dining I start off.

“First things first, Grace, Andy didn’t run away. He was walking to the store to pick up some junk food now that the parents were gone.” I produce the bag, and Grace looks appropriately shocked. “We all over reacted. He wasn’t gone long, and we had no reason to believe he had run. That’s our fault. Thankfully we kept our heads enough that this will probably not get back to the parents. If they find out we are this badly coordinated and irresponsible it’ll be bad for you guys. I’m out of the house so there isn’t a lot they can do to me, but I’m sure you guys are going to get the world’s biggest grounding. To make sure it doesn’t get back, we are all going to go through our phones and call back everyone we told about this to let them know it’s okay, and Andy didn’t run away. It was all just a misunderstanding. Hopefully, that will be enough.” Grace looks crestfallen. I’m sure she made many calls, and will now have to make many more. It would be good for us. We needed a little negative reinforcement after what we had done.

“Second, Andy, we are sorry.” James knows why I’m apologizing, but Grace’s face is asking me why I’m apologizing. “All of us are sorry. You didn’t know we cared enough to check up on you, so you didn’t think it necessary to tell us where you were going or when you would be back. Ultimately, this whole episode is our fault. So Andy, I am very sorry that I haven’t been the big brother you deserve.” I pause and look at James.

“I’m sorry too Andy. I should’ve kept in touch better.” James says.

“Me too Andy, I’m sorry I haven’t been a good older sister.” Grace says.

“I’m sorry too.” Andy says. “I haven’t been an enthusiastic supportive younger brother either. I can’t blame you guys for not talking to me. I haven’t talked to you either.”

“It’s good of you to say that Andy.” I say. “That brings us to the third order of business, making sure this doesn’t happen again. I think we can all agree, and this event has made it perfectly clear, we have all been pretty awful siblings too each other. We don’t fight, but that’s only because we don’t interact enough to have a reason to fight. We need to resolve to keep in touch better, and to start us off, I’m going to take us on a little adventure. Brothers and sister, we are going rock climbing tomorrow.”

What follows is an eager exchange between the four of us as we go over every detail with fervor. They want to know where we are going and how we are going to do it. I enjoy sharing my new hobby with my siblings.

I take them back to my place for the night, and setup a campfire outside. We make use of the marshmallows and chocolate that Andy bought to make s’mores. I feel, right, like this is how things are supposed to be, my younger siblings are at my house, using the fire I made, sleeping outside with my gear. I can’t wait until tomorrow where I can get to teach them new stuff, but I love our conversation around the fire.

James finally opens up after being tight lipped all day.

“I just don’t get it.” He says. “None of the sophomore girls seem to take an interest in me. I’m smart. I’m funny. I have a lot going on for me at school, but that doesn’t seem to matter to them.” He addressed his statement to Grace. No doubt hoping she could volunteer some helpful information, but I answered for her.

“Little bro, you’ve come to the right place.” I start my older brother job of teaching the younger ones the ways of life a little sooner than I expected.

The next day I wake them up with surprise cinnamon rolls and chocolate milk that I slipped out of the house to buy. They are ecstatic at the unexpected treats, and I tell them to eat them on the way, we are heading out to the rocks immediately.

On the way out we play old car games like ‘I spy’ and ‘Twenty Questions’. Andy is annoyingly good at picking very specific species of animals that no one knows, and James goes for a bunch of older historical figures that I haven’t heard of, but Grace knows every last one. I am without a doubt the worst at the game, trying to select animals that I think are cool is a rather poor strategy it turns out.

When we get to the cliff I have them inspect the gear I’ve brought, making sure the ropes aren’t frayed, and none of the metal bits have tell tale scratches or dents on them. We have a safety talk about what we are about to do, and they help me set up the rope systems.

I’ve done trust falls before. They are a good group exercise where each person takes a turn falling into another person’s arm. I had thought it was good for group cohesion because there is genuine tension when you trust someone else to catch you. This is nothing compared to leaning backwards off of a cliff because someone told you too.

We spend the afternoon moving up and down the cliff face. During the intermissions between climbs I discuss college plans with Grace, date ideas with James, and book plots with Andy. When the sun sets we head back to my place to call the parents. They’re happy to see us hanging out together, and as we sit around the nights campfire we make plans to keep in touch. Come hell or high water at 5:00 on Sunday we will all be in front of a computer screen to have a skype chat.

The next day when I drop them off I realize I’ve hardly thought of Sarah in two days, and I’ve got five whole days before her next letter. I spend them with my family, insuring that the bond we have started to form becomes strong. It’s not only what Sarah would want me to do, it’s the right thing to do.

Five days later I find myself making my way to the attic to retrieve one of the final three letters. I hope it’s this letter. The next letter is three months off. The final letter is over three years off. I have plenty of things to occupy myself with, but I can’t help but wonder about my wife. She’s out there somewhere. Is she talking to guys and hanging out with family? Are there people making her life hard? I want to read her letters and compare them to my own. I open the box and pull out the sixteenth letter. Please tell me where she is.

07/10/2014

Hey dad, wow, that is so weird talking to you. I mean I haven’t talked to you in months and now here I am, communicating with my dad. Wow, I can communicate with you whenever I want now.” What? Was there some mix up, this letter sounded like it was the first time we had spoken. Had my daughter’s, until now, perfectly formed plan suddenly developed a hole? Had she gotten cocky and forgot to double check her work?

I know that this is going to be one of the last letters you read, but it’s the first one I’m writing.” That didn’t make any sense at all. Who would start an 18 letter series with the sixteenth letter? “I know that’s confusing, but it’s because I wanted to say this first. All of the other letters are going to be edited and sent countless times as I go back and time again and again to get everything just right for you and make you into the man I know you can be.”

                “That’s the reason I’m writing this letter first. I don’t want what I’m about to say to be tainted by knowledge of the future. I haven’t gone back in time to see you yet, and I have no proof for how these letters will change your life, so you know that what I’m about to say is based on faith, and faith alone.”

                “Thank you dad, it’s been a long journey for you. You have fought so hard for so long to change the things about you that are dead weight. You have ruthlessly cut out the part of you that damage your life, and carefully grown new parts that give life to you and all those around you. You have become a pillar of strength, the cornerstone of your siblings. You have taken charge of your life, and helped to guide the lives of those around you. You’ve made yourself into the person that mom and I need and desire. You have become a true prince charming that saves the princess and protects his kingdom from invaders. I am proud to call myself your daughter. I know in good times and in bad our family can rely on you. You make us safe, secure, and loved. Thank you for being who you are.”

Love always,

Sarah

The first letter, this was her first letter. This was written without the knowledge that multiple trips to the past provided. All of her other instructions had been based on her experience and what she had seen. She must’ve traveled back countless times to make all this happen. She had done all of this for me, and she had known I could do it. From the very start she had known that her father was a man capable of doing incredible things, and she had empowered me to do them. I owed her so much. I would have to spend a lifetime paying it back to her. This letter I do not put back in the box. I fold it carefully, and put in the back of my wallet.

During the next three months I read it often. I honor her by keeping to the habits she has taught me. I continue to broaden my outdoors knowledge, develop into even better shape, grow closer to my family, and become more and more confident with the opposite gender. I wait dutifully for the right time to open the second to last letter, with the letter in my wallet it’s easy to find the strength to hold off opening it.

What could the last two letters be? Clearly one is to setup a meeting with my future wife, but what of the other? She had finished with her purpose of making me into a better human being, what else was there to do besides meet my wife?

Was there some dark thing that would happen on one of those days? She had written letters before with the purpose of encouraging me, or steering me back onto the straight and narrow path when I strayed off it. Was I going to slip somehow? Would I meet someone else and begin dating a woman who wasn’t my wife? I begin to be anxious about the approaching final letter. One of them is going to be bear good news, but I begin to fear the second. What else could it be but bad news? And it would truly be a dark day. There were no more letters for me. This event must be the worst event in my life to be the only thing from now until my daughter began time traveling that was bad enough to warrant some outside support.

The day finally arrives. After seven months, this could be the end. This could be it. I could read my wife’s name, and begin to date her. We would finally meet after seven months of toil and strife. I could not wait to hear the trials she had endured.

Or, it could be my darkest day. I drive to work using back roads to avoid traffic and any potentially horrible accidents. I do nothing at work for four hours, afraid that my slightest action would somehow get me fired or cause permanent injury, and then I think they might fire me because I’m not doing anything. So I spend another four hours writing emails that don’t need to be written so it looks like I’m doing something.

I jump every time my cell phone goes off, afraid it could delivering bad news. I open every text message slowly, bracing myself for the worst. It’s time to leave work, and still nothing has happened. I practically tip toe out of the building, and for the first time in my life, drive below the speed limit on the back roads home.

At my home I make my dinner while carefully inspecting each and every item to insure it is still in good condition, and free of any mold or impurity that could potentially damage my health.

After dinner I don’t make a fire. I just set in my living room, with my largest kitchen knife in my lap. The TV is off. My phone is on, but I don’t use it, and all other electronic devices are off. I glance anxiously from door to door, waiting for someone to break in, or a fire to start, or a bomb to go off. I glance down at my cell phone every now and then to check for messages, but it’s silent the whole night.

When the clock reads 11:40, I decide to head up to the attic. I walk slowly through the house, checking every corner and frequently looking behind me to make sure nothing has gotten in and begun following me. I reach the attic after the slowest most agonizing walk through my house I have ever taken. It was worse than watching a horror movie by yourself, in the dark, and then walking around your house alone.

I scan the attic for anything out of place that could signal an intruder, and then locate the chest. It’s in tact, just the way I left it. I put my back to a wall and keep the attic entrance in the corner of my eye as I open the box and pull out the seventeenth letter.

I pray fervently as I open it. I’m not out of the woods yet. This letter could be instructions for how to survive a disaster that occurred immediately afterwards, or could describe a horrible situation as it unfolds. I open the letter and begin to read.

10/17/2014

Dear dad, her name is Angelica.”

Letters to my father part 2

Making things burn, my daughter was certainly a complicated individual. I reflected. She was protective of my talking to other women, stern with enforcing my faithfulness to my diet, playful in her mastery of time travel. She demonstrated high emotional intelligence in her perceptiveness of me, and very supportive of my successes, and understanding of my failures. Now I could add mildly psychotic to the list.

Make things burn? She was once again being intentionally vague to maximize the affect it had on me. What could that mean? She had been keeping to literal definitions, so I assumed actual flames were going to be involved. I tended to avoid fire. Fire was dangerous. I paid good money in my taxes so that well trained men could come and destroy fires within minutes of pressing a few buttons on a phone. I had a fire extinguisher too, just in case they didn’t get here quick enough.

I would have to wait over a month to find out, which seemed cruel to me. She was intentionally leading me on to mess with my head. Whenever I went out for a walk or job, or even just some light callisthenic work I thought of her. At my job I had formulas and paperwork to fill my one track mind, but out in the open air, my mind was free to wander, and it always wandered to her. Every time I weighed myself, and saw another pound drop, or I added another mile onto my jogging route, I said a quiet thank you to her. It was all easy knowing that somehow, she knew I was doing it. I never saw her, and I still couldn’t know for certain she was personally watching me, but I knew somewhere, some-when, she was proud of me.

Time travel was also a frequent topic of mental discussion. It had occurred to me that it was possible she hadn’t come back by herself at all. I didn’t see her, and while there certainly explanations for that, the most obvious was that she simply wasn’t here. She could have sent back some kind of tiny remote control robots that looked like flies, or perhaps she had come back, planted a number of devices, and then left.

As far as I could tell she hadn’t physically done anything besides writing the letters and putting them in a box in the attic, but she didn’t necessarily have to come back for that. There could be portals or something that just dropped things. Like a tele-porter, but one that worked on times in addition to places. She could’ve used that same tele-porter to plant the bugs that she watched me with. Those bugs could then relay the messages forward in time and she could use the information to write the letters and send those back.

Wait, would she have to send them back multiple times then? Because these letters seemed to know not only what I was going to do, but how the changes would affect me. Did she need to plant the bugs multiple times? Or did the transmission from the bugs change whenever she sent a letter. If so, did she send all of the letters all at once? Or had she sent them one at a time, observed the change, and then written the next letter accordingly? Or could all of this just be total blind luck on her part?

My head was starting to hurt from thinking about the fourth dimension. I resolved my internal argument by going to a hardware store and buying a metal detector. If she was using some devices to watch me, there had to be some in the attic, and they probably had metal.

On June fifteenth I grabbed my new metal detecting toy and ventured into the attic. I took a good look at things as I first entered, making careful not of how everything lay. I tried to form a mental picture, so that if anything changed I would know. Then I realized I lived in the 21st century, and took a couple pictures with my phone.

Shaking my head at myself I then brought out my metal detector and started to go through the attic. There were a lot of nails, so my plan did not work out too well because the detector was basically always beeping. Disappointed at my failed attempt to foil my daughter I switch off the useless hunk of junk and open the chest. I rifle through it and pick out the sixth letter

05/15/2014A

“Lol dad, did you really think I’d let a metal detector spoil my fun?” The little stinker sure was proud of herself. “I’m insulted. It’s futile anyway. The only way you’re going to find me is if you do what’s written in these letters. They’re my trail of be crumbs.” She was right, but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying. “I know this isn’t going to be the last time we do this little dance, and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wanted to let you know I’m going to win :P.” She actually wrote the emoticon. I brush the ink with a finger and smile. I think her playful side is my favorite.

“Alright, enough chit chat, I know you’ve been wondering what my cryptic message from last time meant. It’s pretty straight forward actually. You’re going to learn how to camp, and that means starting fires.” I moaned. Man had invented the mattress for a reason. I hadn’t spent a night outside in my life.

“Now don’t get all whiny on me. You’re a big boy. You can handle a little nature, and you’ve got a little extra money from all that bad food you’re not eating, so you can afford to spend a little money on camping gear.” She wrote a list of equipment that included a sleeping bag, skewers, a tent, a sleeping pad, a backpack, a flint and steel, and hot dogs. She had even included a pricing list with brand names and models, probably just to show off. “Well, what are you waiting for dad? You’re sleeping outside tonight, and you’re not going to use your kitchen. You better leave for the store. Get going! Oh, and youtube how to start a fire.” This was making things burn? I felt kind of gyped. Maybe that second letter had something more to do with making things burn.

I resolved to read the second letter after I had made my dinner. I checked my watch. I had better get moving, I think the sun set in about two hours, and I wanted some daylight to work with. I could camp out in my miniscule backyard, but I didn’t have any flashlights. So I had to move quick.

I did the highly irresponsible thing and watched fire starting videos at redlights and stop signs, then googled tent information as I walked through the outdoors store picking up equipment. The clerk thought I was rather rude for not making eye contact, but I was playing with my daughter. She wasn’t physically there, but just like when I exercised, it felt like she was.

In under an hour I’m sitting my backyard with a bundle of stuff I’ve never used before, and a small pile of twigs and pine needles. I took a few extra minutes to clear a patch of ground and form a ring of stones for a fire pit, and I was ready to go.

Setting up the wood and pine needles was easy. I formed a small teepee of twigs, then a larger teepee around that, and a larger one around that. I had other wood next to my makeshift fire pit that I would throw on when the fire got going. I left an opening in the three teepees so I could put my nest in the middle once I got a little flame going.

Now for the hard part, this was the test. Everything else was trivial. I knew if I just threw wood onto the fire it would be fine, and I was positive I could setup the tent and cook a meal. The trick was I needed either light or heat to do all those things. That meant fire, which meant getting a spark. It suddenly made sense why my daughter said this was about making things burn, once you had fire, the rest wasn’t hard at all.

Sarah had thrown down a gauntlet, and I was going to beat her challenge with flying colors. With a sense of determination I pulled out my flint and steel. It looked like a key chain. Only instead of multiple keys there was just one key, and a stick of metal. I was supposed to scrape the key along the metal rod, and that would make sparks.

It seemed simple enough. I spent the first ten minutes trying different angles, speed, and scraping different parts of the rod until I got my first spark. Great, now I just needed to land that spark on the nest and it would all go up in flames right? Sparks were not as hot as I thought they were, it took another forty minutes until I saw some smoke come out of my little bundle of pine needles and twigs.

People used to do this every night for dinner? I hadn’t even started the fire, and I would have to wait another ten or twenty minutes for it to get hot enough to cook with. Finally, after throwing away the fire starter in frustration twice, and having to go and find it in the dark, because the sun was rapidly setting, I was not as good at estimating sun down as I thought it was, I finally got a little flame. Then in my subsequent leap of joy I stamped the fire out and spent another ten minutes getting it going again.

Finally, after almost an hour of striking a metal rod with a key I created a decent fireball that I could hold in my hand. I made sure not to celebrate until I had placed it in the middle of my teepee configuration, and the wood started to catch fire.

Then I leaned my head back and gave a whoop of joy. I had created fire! I was all that was man! I could keep this in the trunk of my car and always be able to cook meat or scare off wild animals or whatever else you did with fire. To start, I was going to cook myself a well-deserved meal. Then I was going to go read the little stinkers next letter and see if I could manage to gloat somehow.

The hotdogs were plain, without buns, and I managed to either burn, or undercook every single one, but they tasted like victory to me.

After wolving down several badly cooked hot dogs I strode inside to get the letter. I took it out of the box and went back outside. I was going to read this letter next to my very own, self-made fire. Next to the crackling flames I opened the seventh letter.

05/15/2014B

Daddy, did you really think your daughter was going to leave you hanging with some old school tech?” It had been underwhelming at first, but the more I had pursued the cave man fire making thing the more I had gotten into it. There really was something about this making something from scratch with your own two hands. I was proud of my little fire. “Don’t get me wrong. I love your little fire.” I glanced up briefly to see if she was watching, but I was beginning to get used to her little tricks, and I quickly returned to her letter. “And I love how you still look when I say things like that, but I had some more….. Interesting options for you.” What followed was a how to guide for making several substances which I was quite sure were illegal. My eyes bulged when I saw that they could all be manufactured with rudimentary household items that basically everyone has access to. “Now the next time you get to start a fire, it’ll be a lot quicker, and a lot more interesting. I’d recommend staying away from the more explosive list.” No kidding, some of this stuff just burned, but some of it looked like it could take down my house with just a pound or two.

How did she know all this? I hoped it was because my little girl was either a chemical engineer, or an avid internet server, and not because she was part of some resistance band that was trying to overthrow our robot overlords with makeshift weapons and bombs.

Don’t worry about how I know all this, but do worry how you’re going to spend the night our here daddy, because until you read my next letter, you’re sleeping outside. K, got to go, love you! PS- No sleeping pad.”

That’s it? No explanation? I was beginning to think there really was no reason for her ridiculousness. Or perhaps fighting our robot overlords really had taken over and I would have to spend a lot of nights outside under the stars.

I fold up the letter, and grab my sleeping pad. It’s just an extra cushion. The sleeping bag should be sufficient for one night on the ground. After returning both to their appropriate places I pitch my tent. It’s not difficult. They have instructions, and I think I’d have to return my master’s degree if I can’t pitch a simple tent. The sun has already set, so I make sure my phone has enough to charge to last another day or two, set an alarm, and coil up in my sleeping bag.

Now in my head, at this point I figured I should be drifting off to sleep. I did not figure what it would feel like to sleep on the ground without a pad. It shouldn’t have been that bad, but it felt sleeping on a tile floor that someone had spilled a bunch of small rocks on. I couldn’t believe how sensitive I was to the things! Every time I closed my eyes I could instantly picture where every single stone was boring into my body. Whether it was the size of a thumbnail, or a whole fist, it all felt horrible. I don’t know how people managed this back in the day. Did they just not have nerves on their backsides?

I lay my head down at about nine, but I don’t fall asleep until closer to 11:30. I just toss and turn, while fantasizing wildly about laying down on a nice smooth, rock free mattress.

When I finally do fall asleep I have dreams about being prodded and tossed about by large rock shape monsters. I’ve never been so relieved to hear an alarm go off in my life. I thank every luck star I have on the drive to work that I’m not sleeping on the ground right now. The fire starting was a cake walk next to sleeping on the ground.

Then a funny thing happened when I got to my cubicle at work. I find myself sitting at my desk, and I find my chair actually comfortable. My desk has some sort of plastic economical chair that came from some discount office warehouse. They were curved in a way that no one who had even heard of basic human anatomy would possibly curve a chair. These kinds of chairs were designed to keep workers like myself uncomfortable so we wouldn’t get sleepy. For all that, it was way softer than hard mother earth, and it didn’t have a single rock in it. I laid back and actually relaxed in the thing. I was pretty sure I could take a nap in it.

“I swear they showed the blind neanderthal that designed these things a sea slug when he asked what a human looked like.” One of my coworkers three cubes down declares. I smile. Yesterday I would’ve agree with him. Yesterday I would’ve been frowning and cursing modern industrial engineering. Yesterday I hadn’t spent a night on the ground. Today I had, and today, instead of griping, I was smiling. I got more work done by lunch time that day than I typically got in an entire day.

When I get home that night I see my camping setup outback. I hadn’t had time to take it down this morning. Before I go on my walk I go out and inspect the tent. I had zipped it up, so no wild animals had gotten inside. I lay down in my sleeping bag to see if it’s as uncomfortable as I remember.

It’s bad. It still feels like some bizarre take on Chinese water torture, but it’s not as bad as last time. I get up and go for a jog.

For the next two weeks between letters I sleep on the ground every night, and make a fire to cook my food. I become a master of lean-tos, scout fires, I even make a fire while it’s raining once. I had to use one of the illegal substances my daughter suggested, but it still counts.

While trying out a new kind of fire configuration that I think will maximize the amount of light I get from the flames, I think about the next letter. So far almost all of the letters have been challenging things. This next one probably will be too. If I get a sneak peak of it, that could give me an edge in completing the next ask. I could do some prep work, buy a few things, research a few things. If this was really about self-improvement then surely knowing what I was going to get into should help the process along.

The problem is of course that she’ll know. Of that I have no doubt. She’s already predicted every step I’m going to take before I take it, but then again I’ve been making it easy on her. I always opened the letters on the day she wanted me too. What if that was part of it. If I opened one too early would that let me get around this temporal sorcery?

I think of the letter she sent me when I almost broke my diet. This should be a girl I trust, and shouldn’t have to look at the letter. Then again, she’s playful and witty too, and I bet she loved matching wits with a worthy opponent. Wouldn’t she be thrilled if I could outsmart her? And wouldn’t she be disappointed if I didn’t try?

That was it, I should take a look at the letters. It’d be fun. As much as she protested me trying to figure her out, I could tell that was part of the fun for her. Let’s see what the little sprite had in store for me this time. I went into the attic and took out the seventh letter

05/23/2014, wait, that wasn’t right. The date on the cover was a week from today. The date in the corner should match.

I’m sure you expected a witty response here, but the truth is I’m disappointed.” So much for a fun little game with my daughter. She can’t be disappointed. I’m the parent. I was the one who was supposed to be disappointed. “Look at yourself dad, haven’t I earned your trust? You’ve lost twenty pounds, gotten into triathlon shape, and started becoming a man’s man. Why did you open this letter?” That wasn’t fair. She didn’t get to ask why. She knew why, didn’t she. “There are many parts of your life I’ve figured out, but why you haven’t trusted me I’ve not looked into, because I don’t want to know. I don’t know what made you break my request and open this early, but I hope it was worth it.”

I crumbled the edges of the letter in my hands, forcibly preventing myself from doing more.“And before you think this is some needless guilt trip, let me tell you it’s not father. Your next letter is going to require a lot of strength to accomplish, and you’re still too heavy and not strong enough for it.” This letter was really laying the hurt on. “I didn’t want you to open it until a week from now because you need one more week of strength and weight loss. I didn’t want to have to call you weak or overweight unless I absolutely had to, and if you had just waited I wouldn’t have had to. More importantly than that, the next letter is going to require a lot of trust, and you breech of that trust just now is going to make it harder. I still love you daddy, you’ll hear from me in another week.”

There are a number of things in life that only take a second or two to do, but the negative repercussions last for days or weeks. As soon as I had read that first sentence I knew that I had made such a mistake. She was right, I shouldn’t have tested her. Now I would spend the next week hoping that I was ready to take the next step. I wasn’t even halfway yet. I couldn’t mess this up now.

To add insult to injury for the next week I have to dodge texts and phone calls from my parents. There are some big events coming up, graduation ceremonies or something, and I had to focus on the tasks at hand. I redoubled my efforts to become who my daughter needed me to be. I redo my diet to make sure it is completely optimized for weight loss and muscle gain. I add distance to my runs, and start doing my calisthenics with weights. I’m not going to disappoint her again.

I climb the steps to the ladder with purpose this time. I will redeem myself this time. I open the chest and extract the eighth letter.

05/30/2014

I want you to know, I don’t blame you for this last week. You’ve had a lot on your mind, and it wasn’t your fault.” What, what was she talking about? I really didn’t want this to be another downer letter. “But that’s not what this letter is about, this letter is about letting go, and also becoming a mountain man.” So back country backpacking? That seemed the next logical step. You needed to be in good shape to do it, and it was basically the next difficulty level above just regular camping.

It’s not back country back packing. That would be cool, and we should totally do that when I grow up! But for right now you’re going to learn something less time consuming, but much more dangerous. Father, you are going to embrace your inner action hero, and go jumping off of a mountain into thin air, with nothing but a solid rope, sturdy knots, and an iron grip to prevent you from falling to your death. Father, you’re going to learn solo rock climbing.” What followed was a highly detailed set of instructions on how to setup a rock climbing system, and rappel down by yourself. With so many of her other letters she had told me to look things up or figure things out, with this letter she spelled everything out herself. She even revealed a hidden compartment in the chest that contained pictures, diagrams, and specifications for the ropes. I felt foolish for scouring this attic for clues, even getting a metal detector, but I hadn’t thought to check the chest for clues. She concluded the letter with the following message.

Dad, up until now you haven’t really had to trust me. You’ve sacrificed for me. I don’t want to belittle that. I know that a lot of what I have asked has been hard, but this is the first time, and I promise the only time, where you’re really going to directly put your own life in my hands. I wrote out exactly what I wanted you to do myself, because I want you to trust me.” Did I not trust her when she was an adult? Was that why she was doing this? Or did I not trust my wife. I shuddered to think what I had done that would require me to break this personality fault in such a drastic way.

I will say it again. I promise never to ask this of you again, but I am going to ask it this one time. I’ve made sure that these instructions will keep you safe. I’ve checked, double checked, and used them myself. They will make sure you don’t get hurt. Just think of me dad, and make a leap of faith.”

I go over the instructions, and then go over the instructions again. Then I go over them a third time, and reread the last time sentence in the letter ‘Just think of me dad, and make a leap of faith’. There would be no going back from this one. I had no experience in with this sort of thing. As far I knew, these could be instructions for very fancy shoe lace tying.

I think of all she’s done for me. Every single step has made me a better, stronger, more confident person. I like who she’s shaping me into, and she has guided my footsteps deftly, knowing every step and miss step I would take. It was time to figure out just how far this could go.

There are no eager and rapid internet searches this time as I purchase the necessary equipment. Looking up more information would betray her trust again. She didn’t need to write it for me to know. I’ve broken her trust once, I would redeem myself.

Once I’ve bought and assembled all the gear, and there is a good bit of it, I start up my nightly camp fire and prepare for bed. There isn’t enough daylight to do what she is asking. So I go to bed that night dreaming of great heights, and great falls.

She wrote me the letter on a Friday, so I have the whole weekend to do what she asks. On one of the extra pieces of paper she had stowed away in the secret compartments she included a map. I had brought all the hidden papers with me, and now consulted the map. I checked the coordinates with the GPS on my phone, and found the location it led to was not far from here, only a few miles drive. Who knew I had rock climbing locations so nearby.

I’m not thinking of time travel or what the next letter contains as I load up my car with my new thrill seeking toys, as well as a bunch of energy bars and water. The system doesn’t look like it will take more than an hour to set up, even with all the knots I was going to have to learn. But I want to take a long time to make sure I was going to get it right.

She wasn’t joking about taking my life in her hands. I didn’t have a second source of information to check her facts against, and I didn’t bring any friends or hire some mountain climbing professional to check my work. I was going to live or die by her hand.

On the drive out I don’t turn on the radio or play an audiobook on my phone. I just watch the terrain. On the walk up to the cliff, as I make my way through the forest, there aren’t any people, which is fine, because right then the silence is fitting. I arrive at the top of the cliff and drop my gear a few dozen feet from the edge. I want to take a look before I start setting up.

The edge of the cliff is a very sharp looking thing. About where I’m standing the dirt and roots of the forest give way to solid rock, and about twenty feet in front of me the ground just stops, like it was cut off with a knife. As I approach it I appreciate how final a cliff edge looks. It feels like an end. I crouch with my toes almost sticking into open air, and peer over the edge.

Far, it looks far, but my science oriented brain won’t be happy with such an in exact measurement. I pick up a rock and gently toss it over the side. One one thousand, two one thousand, thunk. It only takes two seconds to hit the bottom. That might not have sounded too bad if I didn’t know that meant the cliff was a little over 60 feet high. A fall from this height was a one way trip.

This isn’t helping, I’m only going to psyche myself out if I stay here, so I remove the Sarah’s instructions from my pocket and get to work. It’s slow going at first, there are only a couple of knots you need to know, but each requires several tries to get write, and there’s a lot of measuring and re-measuring. I have to untie and retie one specific knot 5 times before the system looks right. It’s not a terribly elegant looking thing, but it works. I tugged on every single knot and rope several times as hard as I could to make sure it works. As far as I could tell this thing was going to support my body weight.                 Then again, when I was thirty feet down the cliff I would be applying a lot more torque due to the distance and stretch factor in the rope, not to mention the possibility of falling a few feet and generating any more force. I wish I had some tools form the lab to test the strength of this rope.

I take a few paces back and look at the system, hoping its appearance will somehow make what I’m about do easier. I’m going to tie myself into the system, take a piece of the rope in my hand, along with a small little metal device that looks like it could open bottles, and jump.

Nope, looking at it from a few feet away didn’t help one iota. I’m going to need some help with this one. I really wish Sarah was here now. I didn’t know why she was insisting on keeping this distance between us. Couldn’t she say what she needed to say in person? If she checked over the ropes herself it would make what I was doing easier, and it would still be trusting her.

Unfortunately, not amount of wishing would conjure up my daughter. I take out the support she did give, me the most recent letter she had wrote, and read it again, focusing once more on that last line. ‘Just think of me dad, and take a leap of faith’.

I regret that I don’t have a picture of her to think of her with, or even a picture of her mom to try and guess what she looks like I mean she’s in the future so if I was just thinking of someone who wasn’t around I might as well just think of a generic sonogram or somebody’s grandmother. Those would probably be as accurate.

I push that unhelpful thought of my mind. Think of her, think of the good. Think of her support, think of her words. I already hear a voice in my head when I read her words. I don’t know if there’s any way it could possibly be hers, but I think of it anyway. I look at the letter in my hand and think of her words. I can hear her voice clearly say ‘think of me dad, and take a leap of faith’.

I focus on those words as I tie myself in. I make it a montra. I force all thought from my head except those ten words. ‘think of me dad, and take a leap of faith’. I walk to the edge of the cliff, now mouthing the words to myself. ‘think of me dad, and take a leap of faith’. I grip the rope firmly in my hand, and jump.

I fall for about a quarter of a second, and then I grab the rope hard, stopping myself after only a few feet of free fall. A few feet is enough though. ‘Think of me dad and take a leap of faith’, I say without thinking about it. I say it again to comfort myself. I did it! Hear I am, sixty feet of the ground, and only a firm grip is keeping from me giving the ground a bear hug at nearly highway speeds.

I no longer feel an ounce of guilt for opening that letter early. “I love you sarah!” I shout, hoping somewhere nearby she hears me. A few jovial moments later I reach the bottom and look up to the top of the cliff. I punch the sky in elation. Best father daughter bonding experience ever.

I start doing a ridiculous rhythm less dance at the bottom of the cliff when I think back on the first letter with today’s date on it.

Hang on a minute, she said the reason she didn’t want me to do this is because it required strength, and while the gear wasn’t pleasant to haul out all this way it certainly wasn’t anything I couldn’t have managed a week ago, and while rapelling was fine, I don’t think I could manage climbing back up by myself. She hadn’t explained how to do that and I certainly couldn’t fathom how it was done.

“Are you going to climb that route friend?” A male voice behind me asks. I turn around and see another mountain climber with the same gear I have standing behind me. “My crew is going to be here in an hour but I’d love to climb with you if you’re up for it.” Sarah thought of everything.

The next week passes quickly and well. I’m beginning to revel in this life my daughter has set up for me. I have a couple hobbies, a healthy body, and I’m starting to make friends to do outdoors trips on. It’s a good time, and while I miss my daughter, I feel good about our odd relationship, and when I take out her next letter it is with a sense of hope.

06/05/2014

Hey dad, thank you for this last week. It’s been good. You’ve done a lot of difficult things, and will still do a lot of difficult things, so I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for a good week.” It was like she had experienced it with me. “This next request is going to be a little interesting. You’ve got some great hobbies, and a healthy lifestyle, now we need to learn you a basic skill of courtship, ballroom dancing.” Alright! I had always wanted to learn ballroom dancing. This would be an easy one. As much as I appreciated what she did for me in hindsight, a nice easy slow pitch that I could knock out of the park would not go amiss right now.

There’s a catch.” Of course there was. “You’re going to have to teach your younger sister how to dance.” Grace? That wouldn’t be so bad. Grace was a good girl. “I know you haven’t figure out why this is difficult, so I’ll just let that sink in a second. Go on, put the letter down, think it through dad.” She’s got me trained well, I put the letter down without hesitating or questioning it.

Grace is a nice girl. She’s doing alright in school, got some friends, is always friendly when I come over. She’s still in high schools so we haven’t talked in a while. Didn’t she graduate recently?…..Oh, right.

Yup, that’s right dad. You’re neglecting your family. I’m your family too dad, are you going to neglect me?” Of course not, how could she possibly think I would neglect her. I would and have jumped off a cliff for this girl. “I know you’re dedicated to me dad, but you need to start showing the dedication to your family with the family members you have right now. I’m not always going to be a mature inter-time mastermind of personal growth that I am today. You made me who I am dad, and you need to start making your siblings the best that they can be. So here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to go take lessons from a local dance instructor. The number is written on the bottom of this letter. Normally I’d let you figure it out for yourself, but I want you to go to one particular dance instructor. These things require a special touch, and I want you to learn from someone that I’ve personally vetted.” Personally vetted huh? Good to know I was going to be in expert ‘daughter approved’ hands. “One more thing, there are a few words for you on the back of this letter. Don’t look at them until the time is right.”

When eventually she’s all grown up and writing time letters through ancient annals of history we are going to have a talk about not talking mysteriously and saying what you mean. I dutifully fold the letter and stick it in my back pocket after I dial in the number to my phone. Let’s see who this dance instructor was who so impressed my daughter.

“Hello this is Sarah at dance works, how can I help you?”

Letters to my father part 1

It should be noted a more polished version can be obtained by downloading the free PDF under published works. It also includes an alternate ending.

03/5/2014

Hey dad, it’s me Sarah.” I drop the letter I found inside. There were many letters, this one said ‘open first’, and the rest had more dates on them. As far as I could tell, all of the dates were in the future. All of that was insignificant next to the fact that I didn’t have a daughter. If I did I would’ve called her Sarah. With that thought sticking out in my mind like a stop sign, I pick up the letter and start reading.

May 22nd 2008, the day you went to prom with Jennifer. April 6th 2010, the day you switched majors and became an engineer. September 1st 2013, the day you bought this house. I’m sure right now you’re justifying how someone could know these dates, but right now can you just trust me okay? I’ve written these to help you on your journey to find mom.

I put the letter down for a moment. I don’t drop it, but I need a moment to think. I hadn’t written those dates anywhere, much less the name of the girl I went to prom with. This didn’t seem to be a scam. As long as this person didn’t suggest I buy anything, I guess this was okay.

Since you’ve decided this isn’t a scam, I promise not to ask you to buy anything, and if I do, I’ll keep the suggestions general like ‘clothes that fit’. Now then, currently I’m your only child because you and mom split up.” I have to stop again. I find out I probably get married and have a daughter cool enough to time travel, and then almost instantly find out it’s all going to crash.

I don’t have you in my life anymore.” Had I done something to prevent me from having custody of my daughter? Or had I just gambled and lost in the court system? “And I’m awful lonely without any brothers and sisters. Not to mention my stepdad.” I didn’t know it was possible to hate someone you didn’t know for something they hadn’t done yet. “I won’t talk much about him, suffice it to say things are not healthy. So I’m going to help fix your life dad. My mom isn’t perfect, but she’s got her own letters, and when the time is right, you’ll meet up.

A nasty thought occurred to me. This could still be some elaborate joke, I wouldn’t know until I met the woman probably, but if it was, my daughter could very well be erasing her own existence. I knew how reproductive possibilities worked, and the odds were basically zero of having the same sperm hit the same egg twice. I don’t know if I want to do this, maybe it’s not too late, maybe if I just put this box back it’ll still all go the same. I’ll still get divorced, but Sarah will still be alive. I take one last glance at the letter before finalizing my decision.

I know you’re now thinking that by sending you these I’m committing a kind of temporal suicide, and I accept that. I know that by you reading these, maybe by you just even reading one, I’ve already written myself out of the timeline. If you and mom are happy together, and if you have your kids, then it was worth it. One last thing though, and I know there isn’t any science for this, so bear with me, but I believe we’re more than DNA. I believe there’s something about us that you can’t diagnose or identify with a thousand tests. I may not look like your Sarah, I may not even have all of her talents, but it’ll still be me dad. Trust that it’ll still be me.

Love,

Your daughter, Sarah

I put the letter back in the box and close the lid. I need a second to breath. So I have a daughter. I’m going to get married. I’m going to get divorced. My wife is going to get full custody, and my daughter. Humanity invents time travel, and now my daughter is trying to retroactively fix my marriage.

Where do you even start to process those feelings? I think I was excited. I have a daughter who as far as I can tell is very dedicated to her parents, and very intelligent. That’s great! I had always had nagging doubts that I was sterile or would marry too late to have kids, and now all that was settled. I was excited to meet her!

Would I meet her though? I mean, what she said was poetic, but did it really work like that? I had better process that later, there was still the marriage and divorce. My wife got the custody, so I guess that means it was my fault. She still had her letters though, which meant there had to be things she was doing wrong too, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty about it being me.

I sat down, I felt overwhelmed and I had barely begun to think about it. Okay, I’m an engineer, I organize and streamline things. I figure out how they work, and then pursue a solution. I would probably still be thinking about this years from now. I could spend years just thinking about the concept of time travel, much less all the personal stuff. I would have to whittle this ocean of information down to a few manageable glasses of water that I could actually swallow.

So first, I need to work on some things. I’m sure she’ll help me out with exactly what. That must be what the other letters are for, things that she needs me to work on. I felt a warmth in my stomach at that thought. My daughter was such a good friend that she was willing to reach across time itself to help me.

I put my hand on the box. It’s wooden, and I can feel all the little random divots and ravines in the wood. There are dozens of little imperfections that let me know it wasn’t made with a machine. This was hand carved, or at the very least it was made with minimal machine work. I can’t know this for sure, but I know she carved it, for me. She must know I always admired handmade items.

I shake myself. I need to focus or I’ll get lost. Fact one, my daughter loves me. Fact two, she needs me to improve for her so that I can be a better husband, and probably a better father too. Fact three, she has written me instructions in these letters, which I should read.

Good, nice short list, all that time travel stuff was crazy, not to mention the divorce, and the subsequent custody battle was ominous, but if I did what she asked I wouldn’t have to worry about all of it. I would also get to talk with my daughter about time travel someday.

There was a little nagging doubt in the back of my head, like a fly that I just couldn’t swat. This could still all be some very elaborate joke. Maybe some local TV channel thought this was funny enough to put the effort in, but I didn’t want to believe that. I wanted to believe that somewhere in the future there was a wonderful little girl who cared enough to write me all these letters, and dig into my past enough to know what to write. I wanted to believe it, so I did. I might have been crazy, but there was enough evidence in the first letter that I wasn’t ready to question my sanity just yet. It also probably wouldn’t matter, if these letters were for real, and they made me a better person, then the self-improvement would be worth the heartbreak.

Well, that was enough introspection for now, best to get started with these letters. If they were a joke it should come out pretty quick.

I empty the box and spread the letters out in front of me. It’s an odd collection, counting the one I’ve already opened there are 20 in total. I fold the original up, and place it with the rest. They all have dates, so I line them up in chronological order, starting with the already opened letter.

Open this first

03/5/2014

03/11/2014

03/30/2014

04/09/2014

05/15/2014A

05/15/2014B

05/30/2014A

05/30/2014B

06/05/2014

06/09/2014

06/12/2014

06/19/2014

06/26/2014

07/03/2014

07/10/2014

10/17/2014

12/25/2017 7:53 PM

They mostly follow a pattern, with about 3 or 4 letters a month. That’s good, most self-improvement plans I knew followed a regular schedule. Then there were a couple oddities. Firstly, some of the letters were on the same day. There were two letters on the 15th of May, and 2 on the 30th of May. Huh, May must be an interesting month. There was also a letter with today’s date on it. That would be interesting. Why would she write me two letters today? I would have to open that one next.

The other oddity that sticks out to me is that the last two dates are so far apart from the rest. The first 18 letters are all within about 4 months of each other. The nineteenth is three months after the eighteenth, and the twentieth is over three years after the nineteenth. Why the large distance. What could cause a need for such a large gap? Couldn’t she at least have written me a few filler letters? Maybe something about her favorite book or movie? Maybe I shouldn’t be greedy, this was a lot of work she had put in, but I got the suspicion I was supposed to open each letter on the date that was written on it, and I didn’t like the idea of going so long without hearing from her.

Well, I got to hear from her at least one more time today. I had better go ahead and open the other letter with today’s date on it.

03/5/2014

Dad, I wonder what stuck out to you first. Was it the multiple letters in one day, or the large time gap of the last two letters?” My daughter knows me well. “I can just see you now, with them all lined up in chronological order.” Had she come back and watched me open the letters? I feel eyes on the back of my head and spin around. I see nothing but boxes. I pause to listen for a moment, but here nothing except the air conditioner running. I don’t if she’s not here, or if she just knew I was going to turn my head, but either way I’m not going to find her. I turn back to the letter. There’s still an odd feeling of being watched, like an itch on the back of my neck, but I force myself not to scratch it.

So does she know that I was going to turn my head around because she knows me really well? Or has she gone back and seen what I was going to do to so many times that she has my every move memorized? Lol, I should stop. I know you’re now equal parts fond of me for getting inside your head so well, and creeped out that someone can map out your actions so thoroughly.” It’s a good kind of creeped out though.

I hope you asked yourself why there were multiple letters on the same day first, because that’s the question I’m going to answer.” ‘I hope’ she says. Not, ‘I know’, so she hasn’t memorized absolutely everything about me. “As you’ve already suspected, you’re supposed to open the letters only on the date shown. I know it’s going to take a lot of willpower to open them all at once, but please dad, for me, only open them when it’s time. For the ones on the same day, the first one, you can open it at midnight if you want, but the second one, you’ll know when it’s right.” That’s vague. She knows I’m an engineer. I like precise things. I don’t decide to run an experiment or perform a mechanical operation ‘when the time is right’ I do it as soon as the data tells me too. “I know that sounds vague, but trust me, you opened this letter when I wanted you to.” That was it. The only way she could possibly have known when I opened the letter was if she had come back and watched me open it.

Sarah.” I call out. “If you can here me, come out and talk to me. I’m your father and I want to talk to you.” Silence, if she was here, she wasn’t coming, and I might have to look around later, but if she knew when I was going to write things, then she probably knew where I would look. If I somehow randomized my search would that help? What if she had written this letter, and then just not come back this particular time. But did that mean she had traveled back multiple times? Man, my head was starting to hurt. I was not supposed to have to think about time like this. We are four dimensional beings, but one of those dimensions doesn’t go backward.

This was getting to be too much. Maybe that was her goal; maybe she wanted to confuse me so I wouldn’t question it as much. If that was the case, it was working.

Now that I’ve thoroughly freaked you out, let’s both drop the time travel shenanigans. I promise to stop playing with your head so much, and you stop trying to find me. Deal?” Yeah right, like I’m going to give up on finding my time traveling daughter whose delightfully witty and sharp as a tack. “Well, maybe don’t give up on trying to find me entirely, but can you keep it to a minimum? If you try and find me I’m just going to go back and change what I did so you don’t find me next time anyway.” I smiled. She had to have put that in there because I found her a couple times and she had to go back and change it. “So go ahead and smile because you know I would only say that if you found me, and let’s move on with this letter.

Now then, you remember a couple paragraphs ago where I talked about the letter? I’m not sure the message got through here, we kind of got side tracked with the whole time travel thing, which was cool, but I really just wanted to make 3 points with this letter. 1- Don’t open a letter until the right date. 2-For the couple of letters that are written on the same day, you’ll know when to write them. 3- I’m not going to tell you why the last two are so far apart or why the very last one also has the time you have to open it. You’ll just have to wait and see. Once you read the letters, this will all make sense. So, as you can see, that’s it for today. I know you’re reeling from all this information and you need some time for it to sink in. If you try to do everything that I’m writing about it won’t sink in properly. You aren’t like a car. I can’t tell you what the problems are, and then you’ll just take a couple hours to fix it. These are life changes that take time. Even with all the extra motivation of having your future daughter cheering you on, these things take time. Right now, if you opened the next one, you’d just spend the next week or two thinking about time travel and it wouldn’t sink in. Believe me dad, I’ve done my homework. Only open the letters when the time is right. I’ll give you a hint for the next one. What does everyone have, but no one wants, and dies without.”

She makes riddles too! I wanted to get this framed so I could prove to all my friends how smart my daughter is. Or maybe I should say how smart my daughter ‘will be’, not ‘is’, or wait, maybe it was ‘is’. How did tense work for time travelers? Because she isn’t born, but she might be here, I wonder if there are inter-temporal grammar Nazis that sort out these kind of things.

I wanted to read through the letter again. If I had to wait almost a week for the next one, then I should get as much mileage out of the two I had first. I pick up the original, but then I think of all the moments when I was reading it that she knew what I was thinking, or played with my mind. That wouldn’t happen on a second read through. I already knew what I would read. Maybe at a later date I could go through again for nostalgia’s sake, but something tells me at least for these first two, I’m only supposed to read through them once.

I feel a sense of loss as I pack up the letters and put them back in the box, taking a few moments to admire the craftsman ship once again, before closing the lid. It’s like when you say goodbye to a good friend, when the time has gone too fast and you really want to stay for just a few more moments to talk about that one last thing, or when you leave a movie theater after watching the last movie in an epic series. When I was reading the letter it was as if my daughter was there with me. Especially with all the time travel business meaning she very well could have been, but now that the box is in another room, I’m alone again.

The attic had been the last stop in my walk through of the house. I had walked through it several times in the buying process, but this was my first walk through after getting everything settled in. All the furniture was in place, everything was on the proper shelf or cabinet, and I had wanted to admire my handiwork. Now I went to my kitchen and picked out some leftover Chinese carryout from the move in.

I go and sit in my living room, watching a clock on the wall tick away the seconds. Part of me wanted to go get sleeping pills and just knock myself out for the next six days. I couldn’t wait to see what she had written to me in the next letter.

The time for the next week passed very slowly. The project that I was working on with my job as a government contractor just needed some final touches, and none of my friends were in town. My family might have wanted to do stuff to take my mind off things, but I never knew what to talk about around them, so instead I just buried myself in a couple seasons of a show that was just put online. Thank goodness for streaming TV, I didn’t know how people survived without it.

While watching some of the less intellectual shows I zone out and think about the riddle. Everyone has it, but no one wants it, and you die without it. I assumed, based on the letters, she meant all of those things literally. Which meant it was probably a body part if you died everyone had it, and you died it without it. I could maybe see it being something highly essential like air, or food, or shelter. The trouble with those was not everyone did have them, at least not all the time, and certainly everyone wanted them. That definitely meant it was a body part.

What body part did people not want? Couldn’t be a limb, those were too useful. Anything on the face was out, eyes, ears, nose, those were all too essential. Did acne count as a body part? No one wanted that. I glanced at my reflection in a window. That was a little bit of a fault, but certainly nothing to write a letter that spanned time about.

Couldn’t be any of the vital organs, what did no one want in their body? As soon as I say that in my head I know what it must be. I can’t believe my daughter is going to lecture me on it, but there’s only one thing it could be. I run my head mournfully as I finish watching my show. 03/11/2014 cannot come soon enough.

When the day finally comes, I decide to wait until after work to open it. Just in case it involves immediately doing a lot of work. As soon as I get home from the office I practically jumped up my stairs into the attic, and nearly hit my head on several exposed beams as I made a dash for the box. I take out the first two letters that I’ve already read, remembering fondly what it was like to have my daughter play with my head during my last session with the box, and take out the third letter.

03/11/2014

Enjoy binge watching your favorite TV shows?” This letter was taking a judgmental turn straight away, but I already knew what she was getting at, and had expected this. “How much weight did you gain watching that show? I’m sure you’ve done the math at some point. I hate to start out a letter like this, but there’s going to be a lot of tough love in these letters dad, so you might as well get used to it now.” There were going to be more times where she decided to point out a bunch of my flaws? Great. “As you’ve already guessed, the answer to my riddle is fat. You’ve got a bit too much of it dad, and it’s only going to get worse. If you’re going to take care of me and mom, we’ve got to get you into better shape. I know, I know. She went through all this trouble just to tell me to lay off the cheeseburgers, and hit the gym a little more? Well, yes, it’s unclimactic, but it’s true. Trust me, we’ll get to the more fun stuff later, but this comes first. Once you see what the next steps are you’ll understand why we’ve started her. So, here’s how this works. You need to go rack up a 3500 calorie deficit to lose one pound. Here’s the interesting part. That next letter? You’re not allowed to open it until you’ve dropped ten pounds. That’s 35,000 calories dad, and all that’s before you start working out. Otherwise you’re going to damage your joints too badly. You have 19 days to drop 35,000 calories. You’re a smart guy. You can figure this out. If you don’t you might as well burn these letters. 19 days, 35,000 calories down, that’s 1842 calories down a day, or this conversation is over. On 03/18/2014 turn this letter over and read what’s on the back.”

This was much shorter, much less fun, and much more brutal than I had expected. I knew she was going to talk about my weight, but drop some pounds or we’re done talking? I could add ruthless to her list of qualities. I put the letter in the box and close the lid. I don’t feel the same sense of loss as I did last time.

Before I descended to my living room I wondered how serious her threat was. I knew what she was asking would hurt, a lot, and would probably turn me into a rather unpleasant person. Most weight loss professionals I knew would call this a crash diet, and I knew they were dangerous. I guess if she was suggesting it she knew my body could take it, but if I didn’t , how could she enforce her ultimatum?

Until now I thought her message was much more passive. I hadn’t see her, as far as I could tell she had just time traveled for informational purposes, and the only trace of her journeys was the box itself. Would she steal the box if I opened one too early? Was she somehow watching the box to know when I opened them. I felt eyes on the back of my neck again, and decided my attic looked a little too unfriendly. I had better head downstairs.

I decide I can’t know for sure if she’ll enforce it or not, but for now I had better take her at her word. She can time travel after all, who knows what else she’s capable of.

For now I’m willing to give this a shot. How hard can it be? A couple of internet searches later I realize that making that kind of a deficit means I’m allowed to have about 4 fairly plain protein heavy sandwiches a day, need to drink a bunch of water, and I would even have to take vitamin supplements to make sure my body didn’t run out of necessary vitamins and minerals.

Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be so easy. Well, better not do this halfway. I make my way to my fridge and open it. Time to throw away all the unhealthy stuff, I start taking out individual items and looking at their backs. American cheese, 100 calories per slice. Wow, just 1 slice? That was depressing. The bread was only about 250 calories, and that would be most of my calories for the day with just four of those. I pitch the cheese into the trash can.

Alright, how about chicken nuggets, how many of those can I have? 60!? No way, I’d barely have one full plate to max out. I was no longer entirely certain my daughter wasn’t trying to kill me.

How about condiments, ketchup is basically tomatoes, those are healthy right? Nope, that was going to tack on another 2 or 3 chicken nuggets worth of calories to put that on something.

Was there anything worth eating in my fridge? The short answer was no, no there wasn’t. The longer answer required a trip or two outside to throw away the full trash bags I generated.

Already regretting my decision to do this I head on to the internet for a solution. Several very depressing searches later I have a very boring plan that consists of a lot of fruits, vegetables, and brown rice. I manage to find a way to sneak in some tasty sauce and a little white meat chicken into the rice, but it’s little comfort.

The trip to the grocery store is highly masochistic. I have to walk past isles of potato chips, precooked ribs, ice cream, and soda in order to get all of my items, and it’s like walking past a bunch of friends. I want to stop and say hi, but I know if I do I’m going to leave with more than I came for. As I check out, and sign for my debit card, it’s like signing a ticket to the middle of a desert.

People who never have to know what a large calorie deficit is like are lucky. There are the hunger pains that come and go between meals. There’s the knowledge that even when you finish a meal you won’t truly be full. You start noticing how often people you know just seem to throw 500 extra calories onto a meal like it’s nothing. People actually open cans of soda without having an existential crisis.

Then there’s the more subtle psychological affects. You don’t go out to lunch with coworkers, and when your friends go out to eat, you have to pass. Your social life dwindles, and to top it all off, you get cranky. Your body doesn’t like not being fed, and it makes sure you feel its unhappiness.

After a week of hunger I decide to order a pizza. I don’t care. I haven’t see any more proof that I really do have a time traveling daughter, and it’s not like she’s going to weigh me and find out how much I way, and even if she traveled back in time, was she really watching me every single waking moment? One pizza couldn’t be that bad. I could keep it in the fridge and have a couple slices every now and then. Who does she think she is anyway? I’m her father. I should be the one dictating the rules to her, and why would she set such a ridiculous mandate? One that could only be achieved with a crash diet, this was dumb. I am an adult. I shouldn’t have anyone dictate to me what I should be doing with my own body like this.

Once the call has been made I remember her letter, and how it said to turn it over at some point. I had a few minutes, and I think the day was today. Maybe she could find out what I was going to do, and put some gloating words on the back because she knew this was the day I was going to fail.

I head up to the attic and before I head over to the chest I look around the attic to see if there are any bugs planted. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, so I feel around suspicious looking holes in the rafters, and even get my phone out to look in the head of the air conditioner unit to see if there is anything hidden inside.

She could have some super small future tech camera, but if she does, I can’t find it. As far as I can tell my attic is clean.

My search is completed I open the box and find the third letter 03/11/2014. I skip to the bottom and see the date I should flip it. On the back is written a short statement.

I love you dad, and I believe in you.

I see a mental image of a little six year old girl signing a letter. I know she must be an adult, but for some reason, reading that sentence, I think of her as a little girl.

I fold the letter back up and stick it in the box. I feel guilty. Moments before I had been dead set on violating this girl’s request, I had already called the pizza. It should be here before too much longer. She must’ve known what I was going to do. I wasn’t completely sure how this time travel thing worked, but I was sure she must’ve known. I had expected to find some harsh words chastising me, and instead of condemnation. I find forgiveness. She had been willing to cut off communication for the sin I was still partially in the act of committing, and she forgave it without a second thought.

When the pizza arrives, I ask the guy if he wants it, and throw what he doesn’t eat away. It is absolutely no trouble maintaining my diet until 03/30/2014.

When the day finally arrives I head up the attic stairs with a mixture of fear and reverence. The amount of power this person has over me is sinking in. They really know exactly how to press my buttons, and got me to accomplish the crazy goal of dropping ten pounds in 19 days. Someone who can do that can make me do any number of things.

I feel reverence because the source of that power is my love for her. It’s kind of corny, and it’s kind of weird loving someone that much when your link to them is weak, but it’s there. I suddenly lend a lot more credence to stories I’ve heard about parents hulk lifting cars to save their kids.

I open the box, and pull out the fourth letter.

03/30/2014

“Oh daddy, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t believe you did it! That was so incredible. I knew you could do it! And you did it for me too!” I could just see her jumping up and down, eagerly clapping her hands. “This next part won’t be so hard I promise, but before I tell you what it is, you have to promise me something. I already know who my mom is, and I don’t want you dating any women except her. Call me selfish, but you need to be ready for when she shows up, and you don’t yet know which of these letters is going to be the one where I set you two up. So no chasing numbers, unless I tell you ;), and if you get a number you don’t call them back. Got it? Great, now that we’ve got that down, it’s time to start making you more attractive. It’s time to start exercising! I happen to know a little bit about getting into shape, so here’s what you’re going to do.”

The letter went on to detail how exactly I was going to get into shape, along with a diet that included a much increased calorie count. It wasn’t as hard as dropping ten pounds honestly. As I start taking walks with calisthenics, I think about what the next letter contains.

With the diet instructions she had decided to give me a boost with her next bit of writing. Was this the same thing? It hurt sure, but it wasn’t nearly as unpleasant as the crash diet had been, and I loved the results I was starting to see.

I got an extra bit of motivation from the women I ran in to on my walks. I saw several, and got some second glances that were most gratifying. My daughter hadn’t said anything about smiling and exchanging some cheerful words with appreciative women, and it made working out even more fun.

As the date draws nearer I’m becoming more and more curious. I have it nailed down to two possibilities. Either it’s the fun thing that she hinted would follow, or it’s some sort of joke.

I have built up two a 4 mile walk on 04/08/2014, and am thinking about opening the letter at midnight, or perhaps first thing in the morning, when something happens to take my mind of things. A women who gave me a particularly meaningful glance stops a few paces ahead of me, and gives me a very obvious head to toe look. I’m a little off put by her forwardness, but smile as I start to walk past.

Her head tracks me as I go by, and she quickly fishes a piece of paper out of her pocket and hands it to me. I almost trip as I take it from her, and say a mumbled “Thanks.” Before walking on.

A girl just gave me her number? That never happened. I get half a block away before I realize she doesn’t have mine, and I dash back to hastily write down my number on another piece of paper. I’m thankful that I have a couple pens and scraps of paper from the office in my pockets.

I’m so shocked by the unexpected rapid exchange of numbers that it’s not until I get home that I realize I’ve almost broken my daughter’s trust, again. I haven’t called her back, so I just have to not dial her number. I tear up the piece of paper to make that doesn’t happen.

There, now I’m safe. I can read the next letter with a clean conscience. I still have several hours to midnight, and I spend them looking at my phone. While I’m cooking my nightly whole grain rice with sweet and sour chicken, and assembling the side dishes of carrots and celery I keep my phone propped up in the kitchen to see if she calls.

It won’t to get a call from her. As long as I don’t return it my daughter will be happy with me.

After I eat dinner I keep my phone on the arm of my chair as I watch TV. I bet the girl who I gave my number to was just sitting down to relax herself. I should probably get a call any minute now.

After a couple hour long episodes I turn off the TV and start heading towards the bathroom. Did I write the number correctly? Maybe I smudged an eight into a nine by mistake. I had a couple eights in my number, it could get confusing.

After I’ve showered, taken care of my teeth, I start to wonder if her phone is broken. Once I’ve cleaned my room, taken out the trash, water the grass, trimmed my toenails, washed all of my computer monitors, defragged my hard drive, and done a load of laundry, I knew she wasn’t calling.

I couldn’t imagine why she wasn’t calling. She had started this whole charade. Had she been intentionally leading me on? What kind of person just hands out numbers and then doesn’t call. I scrub an entire floor to vent my anger, and when I ascend into the attic after midnight I’d advanced to depression.

I didn’t get to interact with girls very often, at least I didn’t before I had started exercising, and this was the first time one had actually given me her number. It felt silly being hurt by someone who I had only met in passing, but it hurt all the same.

04/09/2014

I’m sorry dad. I know she was a jerk. I wish I could’ve done something to prevent her from leading you on, but I’m already risking a lot by doing what I’m doing for you. I can’t directly interfere with other people like that. It’s just too dangerous. I can say that she wasn’t my mom, and that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. I know it hurts, but it’s for the best dad. I’m also sorry to say that the next couple of weeks are going to be more of the same, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Your daughter knows what you like, and I know I’m going to put a spring in your step when I tell you we’re going to start turning you into a genuine manly man with the next letter. How you ask? We’re going to make things burn.”