Benjamyn checked his phone again, hoping that there would be a call or text from Joleen or Davvy. Nothing. He had thought he’d dulled out his emotions while he swabbed the cement floors in the stadium, but somehow deep in the pit of his stomach, he had hoped that this year it would be different; that this year either the kids would insist or Nancy would relent.
He wasn’t surprised. Nine months after Davvy was born, Benjamyn got jail time for possessing drugs. He’d been trying to rustle up some cash to buy diapers and a decent car seat for his son. Dumb move. One of many dumb moves.
Nancy had dumped him while he did his time. She didn’t care that he was on a work release program because his background was mostly clean and he was careful about his behavior. None of the cursing, hitting or drinking he had grown up with.
“You celebrating today?” Florence Cho, who worked in one of the concession stands, called to him. She only knew he had kids, didn’t know that Nancy kept them away from him.
“When I get home,” he called back. “You?”
The boys are taking their dad to a movie. I get a nice peaceful evening.” She grinned, picked up her shoulder bag and headed out.
Benjamyn put in the last three hours of his shift, trying without much luck to stop replaying his last conversation with Nancy.
“You’re no good,” she’d told him scornfully, “and I ain’t exposing my babies to someone like you!”
Benjamyn knew she’d had a couple of boyfriends, one that had been on drugs. He tried not to think about his old girlfriend’s hypocrisy. But as the bus lurched on toward his stop, he couldn’t help but get angry. All he wanted was to let his kids know he loved them, even though he hadn’t been much of a dad.
Once again, he wondered if he could send the kids a card or letter. Nancy, he knew, would throw it away. What about her sister? Janey was a lot less crazy. He decided he’d text her and see if she would do that much. Kids needed to know both parents cared, even if he wasn’t around.
Back in his room, Benjamyn sent the text to Janey, then emptied his pockets. He was thinking of getting Chinese food for dinner but didn’t want to show up by himself, even at the takeout. And he still had a little over seventeen dollars, with payday tomorrow.
Nostrils flaring, he dumped the bills and change into the jar he kept in the cupboard. He’d labeled it, “College.”
There was nearly two hundred in it now. Time to go to the bank and deposit it into the savings account he’d opened three years ago.
“I blew away our past together,” he murmured, staring at the jar. “I ain’t got a present with you, but Joleen and Davvy, I’m your Daddy. I’ll make sure you got a future.”
He shook the jar, listening to the clinks muffled by a wad of bills. Then he put it back in the cupboard, and fried himself some eggs for dinner.