The day my dad became a cloud was the day I nearly died. When the boom roared through his shop, dust blew every direction at once. My body lifted and recoiled, pulling away from the blast, but my mind seized with the sudden shock and anguish of having watch my father being blown to bits. And in a certain sense—a real physical sense—I actually lost him forever in that moment. The plaid-wearing, scraggly beard, Old Spice scented entity I knew as Dad was gone.
With ears ringing, eyes watering, and raw lungs choking on dust, I clamored through the debris, looking for him. A short time later, my mom came pounding in. Her hair a mess, her makeup smeared, and a smudge of soot across her cheek. Then, Mr. Wilson arrived from the farm next to ours. The police. The fire department. They all came to help me search, but no one every found so much as a scrap of his shirt.
When the fire marshal arrived, he pulled everyone out. Until the source of the explosion could be verified—it never was—and the safety of the structure could be confirmed, he needed everyone behind the fire line. A quick glance at me told him I wasn't about to budge and so he gave the nod to Sheriff Red Collins. He heaved my lanky twelve-year old frame over his shoulder and carried me out. And once he saw that I had no intention of “staying out,” he locked me in the bag of his cruiser, where I pounded on the glass and shouted to no avail.
As the sun set and the sky turned from blue to black, I watched the slow procession of agents and experts arriving in small groups, talking in small groups, and occasionally making entrance into the steel building. A monstrous looking truck arrived—I could could only assume that it was a bomb disposal unit—and men in thick suits joined the circle of professional observers. Jeeps and unmarked cars with government plates parked among the cluttered block of cars. Men in suits flashed badges and circled among the crowd.
For most of the night, I watched as our farm became a national security incident, lots of “experts” talked, but no one actually did anything. As the hours tick by the slow realization began to settle on me. Dad was gone.
I waited for Sheriff Collins to come back to check me, but one after another agents continued to arrive and flashed their badges. The temperature fell and a layer of fog crawled across the ground. When I saw the first flicker of light along the ground, I dismissed it as a flashlight reflecting of dew-slicked grass. When it happened again, I hear a crackle, like a giant bug flying into a zapper. The hairs on my arms stood up. The third term is when I heard his voice. “Jeremiah.”
I turned toward the opposite rear window. A thin haze gathered beside the car, like heat rising from a storm drain. “Dad?”
“I'm right here,” he said.
“Here... Just slipped between the cracks is all.”
“The little spaces between us.” But my adolescent mind had no understanding of what he was trying to explain.
“But you escaped the explosion?”
“It wasn't an explosion, son. It was a rift shadow.”
“It doesn't matter right now. As soon as you can, you need to need to get out of here.”
The haze faded.
“Dad, wait! Where should I...”
But the hairs on my arms no longer stood. The charged I felt was gone. And Dad too.