Mitchell Barnes was working a late shift at the Pasta Compound family restaurant off High Street. He was due to close and be off in a little under an hour. Friday nights meant something to a lot of folks but Mitch was a waiter and the service industry didn’t give a damn about your weekend. Tilda Baylor called Mitch’s phone around 9:30 that evening. She was a neighbor of Earl Barnes, Mitch’s Dad. Earl had been found dead on the front porch late that afternoon.
Mitch took the call quite calmly, he acknowledged Ms. Baylor and assured her he’d be down in the morning. He had camly informed his boss R.J. of his father’s passing and the time he’d need off. R.J. had mentioned that with the weekend and short notice, Mitch was killing him, he then realized what an asshole thing that was to say and told Mitch to be safe traveling.
Exiting the back of the Italian eatery, Mitch bummed a cigarette from the new bus boy Philip, then onwards to the big SUV on the back lot. The old Bronco was nearly 20 years old, forest green with a tan roof and matching details down the side. Mitch’s Grandpa, Jacque had bought for him as a graduation present back in 96. His Grandpa would die a month later of a sudden heart attack. Less than a year after that Mitch’s mother would pass leaving only he and his father Earl.
Mitch had hung onto the green Ford Bronco as a last connection to his family, minus until now his father, but he was as gone too. There was no one left who knew Mitch as he was, when he was young and full of dreams and potential. He was a geeky, nerdy, and emotional boy. He loved books and movies. His mother and grandfather adored him. His father thought he lacked grit and was just kinda weird. Not sacrificing the neighbors cat to Marilyn Manson weird, just rather stay inside and read a book then go fly fishing. Mitch’s comfortable crowd was Vonnegut and The Amazing Spider-Man.
He’d moved to Columbus, 3 hours from home for school. He dropped out of 2 different ones. Mitch wanted to be a writer. He wanted to make things like the books he loved so much. His professors always liked his work and encouraged his efforts. All he’d really done is submitted a few poems to no avail. A wide array of half started notebooks floated around his apartment.
Mitch set behind the well worn steering wheel and felt bad for not crying. Odds are he’d have a good cry later over not crying. Life had some rough cycles. So it goes. The old Ford rumbled to life and carried Mitch home. He’d need to be up early tomorrow, a few beers and some YouTube and he’d need sleep.
The following morning Mitch awoke naturally at 10 minutes till 6. Showered and shaved, he’d found a blue Oxford and paired it with a dark blue tie. He’d wear jeans and a blue blazer. His go to 90’s professor look. His thoughts lingered on seeing his Dad’s pale face. They only lived 3 hours away but hadn’t shared space in over a year. The faithful Bronco was a nightmare on gas mileage and Earl didn’t travel much, usually the liquor store and the gas station for smokes. While walking out the door Mitch grabbed his coffee mug and while passing a bloated book case grabbed a book off a sideways stack. It was Vonnegut’s Jailbird.
Heading out to interstate 270 Mitch pulled into a Speedway gas station. The old Bronco would need a fill up. He’d have to break out the plastic for that. Usually the full size Ford received a full tank at income tax time and then lived a diet of meager twenty-dollars here and there. Going inside the station for a diet Coke he’d spotted the new Marvel movie was featured as a tie in on a bag of nacho chips.
Back to the truck and on South to finish his Dad’s business, Mitch tossed the chips in the passenger seat beside the novel. It would be a day he could use some friends.