Gone Daddy Gone

Hudson Hongo explains to his son why he’s leaving and never coming back.

Illustration by Hallie BatemanNow son, I imagine you have a lot of questions right now. “Why has Dad pulled me out of class?” you’re asking, or “how come we’re getting ice cream, when my birthday’s next week?” You may even be wondering, “who is the chain-smoking man in the velour tracksuit?” or “why won’t the man in the velour tracksuit say anything?” These are perfectly good questions, and I’m glad you have them, but Daddy’s a little short on time, so it’s important that for now you just listen.

First off, we’re here because I have some urgent news, and I won’t lie, it’s a bit sad. The sad news is Daddy has to go. Some bad men think he did something naughty and want to put him in time-out, but Daddy (who was miles away when the naughtiness happened) doesn’t think this is fair. He thinks a crime like Conspiracy to Commit Naughtiness is bullshit. So Daddy has to leave and it may be for a long time, which brings us to the subject of the tracksuited man. He’s here because he’ll be taking care of you, and he doesn’t say anything because the man in the velour tracksuit only speaks Russian. You know what Russian is, like Grandma?

The second thing, and this may be a bit hard to understand, is that you have to pretend the man in the tracksuit is Daddy. He’ll be wearing Daddy’s glasses and sleeping in Daddy’s bed and if anyone says Daddy’s name be sure to look to the man in the velour tracksuit promptly, like it was a totally natural, unweird thing to do. And when people ask you’ll say, “yes, my father has always smelled proudly of Romanian cigarettes” and “he’s never been much of a talker, that ol’ tracksuit-wearing dad of mine.”

You need to be consistent too: remember when you were crying because you found that hurt squirrel and how after I told you about where we go when we die? You weren’t crying for me, you were speaking Russian, like Grandma, with the man in the velour tracksuit. And I didn’t tell you where we went when we died, I was smoking. Or that time I taught you how to throw a curveball? Make sure to note how much I was smoking then too. Also, when people ask what happened today, remember that we didn’t go out for ice cream. We were smoking.

Think of it like a play. Do you remember the pageant where you were Joseph and got to hold baby Jesus? It’s like that, except in this play you’ve won the role of “son,” opposite the man in the velour tracksuit, playing “father.” And instead of just one night, you and the man in the tracksuit get to perform these roles forever.

I know it may seem strange, why we have to do all this, but someday, when you have a child of your own, you’ll understand. You’ll cradle your boy, fresh to the world and innocent of its cruelty, and realize you’d do anything in the world for him, even if it meant dying, even if it meant disappearing forever. And when you do, I can promise you won’t be alone. The man in the tracksuit will be there for you, puffing as always on his Sobraine lights.

Illustration by Hallie Bateman

Hudson Hongo lives in the Pacific Northwest, and it will stay that way if he can help it. He has written for McSweeney's and The Morning News. Hudson maintains a web presence here.