By Chris Milam
The man trying to change his life pumped his fist like a madman at the plasma center. It wasn’t a job, which he lacked because he was fired numerous times due to his alcoholism, but it paid seventy-five dollars a week for two donations, better than nothing.
After leaving the plasma center, he went to the Liberty Mall. He knew exactly what store he was going to visit. At the Build-A-Bear Workshop, he searched through the deflated bears for just the right one for his daughter. He chose one the color of dark honey. He had it stuffed by the staff worker and went about finding cute clothes for the bear he called Chelsea. He dressed it in jeans and a light blue shirt and a pair of tiny shoes. He was happy with how Chelsea looked. He took it to the counter and got a birth certificate for the bear and paid the fifty bucks it cost him. Money well spent, he thought. The salesperson placed the bear in a cute box, a cardboard home. Jason left the store and the mall and headed to his ex-wife’s house. It was Jasmine’s birthday today, but he did not call and tell Mary he was coming, she might say no. He had decided to just show up at the party without warning.
He arrived at the brick ranch home and knocked on the door. Mary opened it up wearing cotton shorts, a black blouse, and fancy-looking flip-flops. Her face was twisted in contempt, a pretty contempt, he thought. Before Jason could say a word, she said, “No way. You’re not showing up unannounced at my girl’s party, no way. You haven’t paid child support in a year and failed to show up on numerous weekends. You’re not coming in.”
“But it’s Jasmine’s birthday, and I’m her father, not your husband. I want to see her.”
She shook her head. “Not happening, Jason. Just go away. This conversation is over.” She began to shut the door, but he stuck his foot in the way.
“Fine, fine, I’ll leave. But I brought her a gift, can you make sure she gets it?”
Mary grabbed the box, nodded her head, and shut the door.
At home, Jason plopped down on his torn couch. He really needed a drink; he still had some plasma money left. Not today, he thought, not on her birthday. He got up and poured himself a cola without the rum then sat back down. He pictured Jasmine opening the box and pulling Chelsea the bear out and smiling from ear to ear. It made him smile, too, a real one, the first one in months.