Asher stared into his bowl of cereal, pressing Cheerios under the milk with the back of his spoon. He didn’t know why he’d poured himself breakfast; he had no appetite. Nor did he have any motivation to kickstart his weekend. He’d only come downstairs for company, and even that was scarce.
His dad was sitting across from him at the kitchen table, sipping hot coffee, scratching his chin, typing frantically on his outdated company laptop. He had to do a presentation on Monday and Asher could tell he was dreading it. The TV was on mute and the radio was switched off at the plug – eliminating any chance of distraction. It was depressing as hell.
Asher was suddenly drawn to the crows’ feet at the edge of his old man’s eyes and the permanent worry lines on his forehead. He’d always looked old for his age, and Asher was starting to see why: his job sucked royally, he was trying not to drown in a sea of debt, and then there was Asher and his younger sisters – constantly running circles around him. The amount of times they’d ignored or backchatted him; the amount of drunk phone calls they’d made to him in the early hours of various Sundays, asking for a lift home from whoever’s house – and then throwing up half-conscious in the back of his second-hand Citroen … He’d joked that they were the reason his hair had started greying so early, but was there some truth to it?
Now that Asher thought about it, he couldn’t help feeling like he’d ruined his father’s life. Surely he’d had dreams, ambitions … Instead, his priorities were keeping his three ungrateful kids out of trouble and in school, while holding down a crappy job he only took because his girlfriend fell pregnant with their only son. How did he do it? How could anyone do it?
His dad sighed, rubbing his stubbly face with his hands before slamming the laptop lid shut. That’s when he noticed Asher looking at him.
“Yes?” he asked.
Asher bit the inside of his cheek. Right now, there was only one thing on his mind. “What’s it like being a dad?”
Surprisingly, his dad’s face lit up. “Son, it’s the most rewarding thing.” He leaned back in his chair and chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong, you and your sisters can be a real pain in the ass at times, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Asher smiled. Maybe he was looking at it all wrong. Maybe grades, money and careers weren’t everything, after all.
He turned back to his bowl of Cheerios, finally having the appetite to finish his now soggy cereal.
“Why d’you ask?” His dad asked, taking another sip of coffee.
“Because my girlfriend’s pregnant.”
His dad’s face turned red. “You idiot.”