Desperately Seeking Epic

By: B.N. Toler

You’re my father.

I don’t know much about you. I know your name is Paul James, you’re a thrill seeker, and once upon a time you did stunts and people called you ‘Epic.’

I’ve been told you don’t know about me. That it’s complicated.

But for me it’s simple.

Here’s the thing: I’m twelve years old . . . and I’m dying.

And as much as this could crush my mother, I have to meet you before I go.

In time, I’m sure she’ll understand. She’s still in love with you.

So, Epic, if you read this, please come back. You don’t have to be my dad. You don’t even have to tell me you love me or you’re sorry. Just come see me.

Patiently waiting, but running out of time,

Neena



The coffee mug in my hand crashes to the ground, cracking in half, the brown liquid splashing my bare legs.

“She didn’t,” I gasp.

Ignoring the sting from the coffee droplets dripping down my legs, I hustle to the counter where the small television is and turn up the volume. My favorite morning show, This World, This Morning, is on. The blonde news anchor, Veronica Marsh, sits across from her co-anchor, Brett Adams, a large screen behind them depicting a Craigslist ad titled: Desperately Seeking Epic.

“This,” Veronica swivels in her chair and motions to the screen, “just breaks my heart, Brett.”

“Mine, too,” Brett agrees. “This Craigslist ad was posted four days ago and has spread among social media like wildfire. This World, This Morning is working diligently to locate the author of this ad because we’d love nothing more than to help her find her father.”

“That’s right,” Veronica chimes in. “So if any of you know this young girl or a Paul James that goes by the name ‘Epic,’ go to our website and email us. And, Neena . . .” Cringing, I listen as Veronica says my daughter’s name, her tone full of intent, “If you’re watching this, we’d love to have you on the show.”

Hitting the power button, I spin around with the intention of bolting up to Neena’s bedroom and giving her the verbal thrashing of her life, but I slip on the coffee I spilled two minutes prior, landing hard on my ass.

With a groan, I move slowly to my knees, attempting to pull myself up, but can’t seem to complete the task. I don’t do happily ever after echoes somewhere deep inside of me. Even the memory of those words is like a hard punch to the gut. From out of nowhere, a sob bubbles up and bursts free from my chest. How could she do this? And why wouldn’t she have asked me first? My body shakes as I continue to cry, the images of Paul flickering through my mind like a TV channel with poor reception; quick, and not nearly long enough to really understand. Which is Paul down to a T. You only ever get a taste, and it’s never enough.

I nearly jump out of my skin when someone lightly touches my shoulder. When I jerk my gaze up, Neena’s red and swollen eyes meet mine as she flops to her knees on the floor near me.

“Don’t,” I sniffle. “The floor is sticky and you’ll get your pajama pants wet. Please look out for pieces of my mug. I broke it.” And I point to where the mug lay in front of us.

She ignores me and sidles closer. “I’m so sorry, Mama,” she whimpers after a moment. I forget about the coffee and pull her in, hugging her tightly. I’m mad—mad as hell. But I can’t watch her unravel, not now, not when there’s so little time left. “I didn’t know they’d put it on a television show.”

“I know that, honey. But now it’s out there. They’ll find him.”

Pulling away, she wipes at her nose with her forearm. “But that’s a good thing.”

I exhale slowly as I stand, then bend down and help her to her feet. I have no way to explain how not good it is if they find him. She’s a hopeful child with this romanticized idea her biological father will meet her and fall in love. That’s extremely unlikely, and the last thing she needs is to have her father reject her on national television.

I don’t do babies and white picket fences.

I’ve only ever wanted to protect her. But maybe I can’t protect her anymore. She’s bright and loving, and extremely curious. And when it comes to Paul, it’s better to keep most things in the dark.

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