Carl’s daddy left one day. He wore boots and a hat. Carl remembers that.
Every night, Carl would find some new way to wish his daddy would come home. He told his therapist he wanted him home, he told his teachers, and his friends, he told strangers in waiting rooms. He told everyone. They all gave him different advice.
“I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.” Carl liked that one the best. But he tried praying, too. He lit a candle with his grandmother in a church once. And he tied a note to a balloon with his babysitter. Carl’s mommy told him he could write real letters and they did that a lot.
Every morning, Carl would wake up and smell the air. When daddy was home, he would smell coffee in the morning. Mommy didn’t drink coffee. Every morning, no coffee smell. Daddy wasn’t home and Carl would have to keep trying to find ways to bring him back.
He would sneak into mommy’s room when she was making dinner and put his feet inside daddy’s extra boots in the closet. Maybe when his feet were bigger he could wear the same outfit and they could go together.
Another day, no coffee smell.
Carl tried making a ceremonial spirit circle with rocks in the backyard; Tina had suggested that.
He made ribbons out of paper rings and hung them in his room, Brian’s suggestion. But he wasn’t sure what to do after he made them.
Then one day the doorbell rang and two men came to talk to mommy. They wore clothes that Carl’s daddy wore on fancy work days.
Mommy was crying when she noticed Carl hovering in the doorway and she told him to go watch a movie in her bedroom. Movies were only for special days. Carl didn’t ask why it was a special day because he hadn’t been allowed to watch a movie in a long time. When the first movie was over, his mommy didn’t come tell him to turn the tv off so Carl watched a second movie. And then a third.
Grandmother took Carl back to the church and they lit more candles while grandmother cried. Lots of people cried around Carl. They let Carl watch a more movies, but he didn’t know why.
Carl tied again. “I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight. I wish my daddy would come home.”
The next morning, still no coffee smell. But later, another fancy dressed man showed up at the door. Mommy signed a form and brought in a large box. Carl watched her remove a triangle frame that had the flag inside of it. Mommy took their family photo off the hook above the fireplace and put the triangle frame there instead. Then she put a shiny wood box on the mantel below the flag.
“Daddy’s home now, Carl.”