“You probably didn’t know that you wouldn’t be here if not for me avoiding a life-threatening moment in the woods,” my father said.
“What? Were you almost eaten by a bear?” I asked.
“Nope, it was a train accident,” he said. We were looking at some old photos of his life working on the Canadian railroad. “See this here.” He tapped his finger on the photo.
“That looks awful. Did anyone survive?”
“Not a one.”
My mother walked into the den. She recognized the photo album. “I hope you aren’t telling her that awful story?”
“Why not?” my father said. He looked a little put out. “It’s part of our family history. She should know.”
“Know what?” I said.
“Our children do not need to know everything.” My mother sighed. “I think we all could do without that particular story in our family history. And besides you do remember that she is a writer and anything can be used as fodder. It’s like having a spy in the family.”
“I’m not a spy. I just happen to be a good listener and stuff gets stuck in my head. I admit some things pop up in my novels but I do change the names to protect the innocent,” I said.
“Like telling the world that I let you fall out of the car? You were saved from, as I remember, a ‘blunt trauma injury to the head’ had you not fallen on the birthday cake. I wouldn’t call that protecting your innocent mother.”
“Well, that story was too priceless to go unnoticed.”
“See, what did I tell you?” my mother said to my father.
“Are you going to write about this bit of family history?” my father said. He eyed me wearily.
“I won’t. I swear.” I had my fingers and toes crossed.
“Okay then, back to the story,” my father said.
My mother threw her hands up in the air. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She left the room. Evidently she couldn’t bear to hear this family jewel of a story again.
“So… what happened?” I said.
“Well, I was what you call a fireman.”
“A fireman on the railroad?”
“It meant I shoveled coal into the boiler. I kept the fire. I didn’t put them out. It was the first job I was ever downsized from when the steam trains switched over.”
“Oh,” I said and stared at the picture again. “So did you work on this train, you know, before it got blown up?”
“I did. Our train was sitting on the tracks at the station when another train came into the yard. It wasn’t stopping at this station. It was passing on by. But down the line one of the switch operators didn’t change the track over so when the train came into the station it hit our train full on. Both engines blew upon impact. It was really nasty. Had I been on that train, I would never have met your mother and had you.” He looked at me solemnly.
“So, if you weren’t on the train where were you?”
“I just don’t think that this pivotal moment in your existence needs to be common knowledge. You could just say you were taking a break and thus wasn’t on the train when the crash happened,” my mother said from the other room.
“What were you doing?” I asked.
“Ugh,” my mother said.
“I was in the woods taking a shit,” my father said, leaning back in his chair and putting his arms behind his head.
“You were spared by a turd?”
“Yep, the butthole of destiny saved me with a timely turd,” my father said.
p.s. Dad, if you’re reading this you should know Mom was right. I am a spy and cannot be trusted.
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