What Would You Have Me Do?

We’d driven from Baton Rouge to Myrtle Beach to see my husband’s son. Rodney was twenty-one and had been working in South Carolina for the summer. Mornings, he strapped kids into go-carts at Sand Kastle Kingdom, and afternoons, he ministered on the beach. He was raised a Catholic, but during the divorce his mother joined an evangelical church and had him rebaptized when he was fifteen.

“Why’d you let her do that?” I asked once.

“How could I stop her?”

“A court order,” I said, but he didn’t answer.

Rodney had spoken to his father a few times by phone, hadn’t sounded homesick but like he’d be OK with a visit. He was waiting for us at the Pancake Shack with a pretty girl and got up from the table. He had on a kelly-green uniform from the amusement park and a Confederate baseball cap.

“Do you know the meaning of that flag?” Matthew, my husband, said, pointing to Rodney’s head.

“Yeah.”

“Then take it off,” Matthew said, extending his hand. He pulled his son close, and they clapped each other on the back.

Rodney introduced us to Marguerite. She wore dangly turquoise earrings, white denim cutoffs, and a black-ribbed tank top. They’d gone skydiving that morning. “The instructor taped us free-falling,” he said, wagging the video at us, a done deal.

Our five-year-old son, Logan, pushed his chair closer to Rodney’s and wanted to know if he could jump, too.

“No,” I answered.

Matthew asked the waitress to bring ice water. “At any point did you want to change your mind?” he said.

“Never,” Rodney said. “They train you by making you jump off a three-story building.”

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