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Recovering Charles Chapter 3 Excerpt

Author : Jason F.

Submitted : 2009-09-29 20:15:12    Word Count : 1472    Popularity:   49

Tags:   Recovering Charles, fiction, Jason Wright, Christmas Jars, The Wednesday Letters

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Six o’clock am.

The TV was on again.

A reporter at the Convention Center described terror overnight in a bathroom. A rape. A knife attack. Mayhem as refugees battled for water and a cot. Circumstances at the Superdome weren’t much better, warned another reporter.

Gunfire peppered the air from underneath an overpass. A pickup raced away with a man standing in the bed of the truck, holding a roll bar with one hand and a gun with the other. An eyewitness used the third Mad Max reference of the day.

The fierce debates over the government’s response continued. There were more facts in dispute than agreement. But one truth permeated the Gulf: people were suffering.

The “city in a bowl” was drowning.

I didn’t sleep much that week. Katrina’s images and the evolving stories of heartache and heroism spun nonstop through my head. Experts warned it could be the end of October before the city was dry. Somehow the “Army Corp of Engineers” was becoming a household name.

The economic numbers were so staggering they didn’t seem like numbers anymore. Damages topped $125 billion, five times what Hurricane Andrew cost South Florida. Insurance companies were already educating survivors on the difference between coverage for floods and coverage for hurricanes. With fanfare, FEMA was promising pre loaded debit cards for everyone, a program that barely lasted long enough for a single visit to Home Depot.

I went back to the Red Cross web site and donated another two hundred dollars.

CNN was replaying snippets of a press conference. A FEMA spokesman was debunking the Convention Center rumors: no rapes. No murders. No anarchy. Later we’d learn the truth was somewhere in the middle. Yes, there had been anarchy, an understandable battle for survival that would have unfolded in any city in the world under similar circumstances. Yes, there were dead bodies and murder, but more of the former and fewer of the latter. In fact, only a few cases of homicide were confirmed.

Houston had begun receiving evacuees by the thousands, almost five hundred buses made the trek west on I 10. Others went north. Most of those who sought refuge at the airport weren’t told where they were going until the planes touched down— Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Phoenix.

I wondered if the families, many of them permanently incomplete, would ever again see their beloved Big Easy. Would they cram into small spaces between tourists to watch the Zulu parade during Mardi Gras? Listen to jazz in the French Quarter? Watch the bucket drummer perform a one handed drum roll at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse?

I also wondered where my father was living.

Does he even know who Katrina is?


Dad and I had last spoken sometime during the summer of 2003. He called from a pay phone in Austin, Texas, outside the Alamo Drafthouse. He was broke. Again. The script was familiar.

“Hi, son.”

“Hello, Dad.”

“How are you?”

“What do you need?”

“I asked how you were.”

“I’m fine, Dad. What’s up?”

“You ever been here? Austin?”

“You’re back in Texas?”

“It’s an amazing city, Luke. Come visit your dad this weekend.”

Some nerve, I thought. “What happened to LA?”

“It wasn’t for me.”

Code for, “I ran out of money.”

“Have you found a real job yet?” I stuck to the script.

“I’m looking. It’s not easy for me. Not at my age.”

Age is the least of your concerns.

“How about you? How’s the photography? I always check the photo credits when I pick up a paper. Even saw the one in Newsweek of Hillary at the Yanks game. Great shot.”

I would never admit to him that I’d wondered if he’d seen that particular photo. It had been a welcome boost to my career.

“Guess who bought me dinner a few weeks ago?” Dad asked.


“How’d you know?”

“Lucky guess,” I said. Who else would still buy you dinner?

“He was in LA. Hadn’t seen him in two or three years. Had a good time.”

“I’m glad. He’s a good man.”

“The best,” Dad said, then fell quiet. “Hey,” he picked up a moment later, “you remember that summer that you, me, and Mom drove—”

“Yeah, Dad, I remember.”

“Great summer. Really great summer . . . You still dating that girl from Mexico City?”

“No, Dad. That was three relationships ago.”

“Oh . . . Sorry then.”

“No need.”

“Anyone new? You serious with anyone?”


Enough time passed without another question that even I became uncomfortable.

“Maybe it’s time, son. Time to find someone special. A girlfriend who can become a wife. Someone like your mother was when she and I got married . . .”

His voice fell and I knew his mind was wandering. I knew he was drunk, though most people wouldn’t have caught on. He’d become very adept at functioning while intoxicated.

“What’s in Austin, Dad?”

“Music, son.” His mood lightened instantly. “I followed it here. It’s really something. Come on down and see your old man. I’m in the heart of this place. Heard of the Drafthouse Cinema? Famous, great character, great movies. Hop on a—”

“You know I can’t.” More like I won’t, I admitted to myself.

“Can’t or won’t?” Dad asked.


“Maybe some other time.” His voice darkened again.

Why bother? Next time you call you’ll be in San Antonio or St. Louis or Miami.

“What’s your One Good Thing today?”

I paused. I hadn’t been asked that in years.

“I haven’t had one yet,” I said.

“Mine is right now. Talking to you. This is the best O.G.T. I’ve had in an awfully long time.”

“That’s nice.” I was done with small talk. “Do you need money?” I counted six seconds tick off in silence.

“If you could.”

“How much?”

“Whatever you can send—”

“How much?”

“Couple thousand?”

Rent or debts? I wondered. “Five hundred.”

“That’s perfect.” A few beats. “I hate to even ask. You know, I’ve been eating leftovers from the kitchen here the last few nights. Staying on the couch of the drummer at—”

“Was it hard last time you called? Where was that— West
Hollywood, right? You asked for twelve hundred that time.”

“Luke. I’m trying. You know I’m trying.”

“Trying what?” I knew.

“To dry out.”

He’d been trying since his inappropriate dance with an ice sculpture atop the hors d’oeuvre table at his firm’s open house barely a month after Mom died. In a catastrophic collapse he went from a social drinker to someone who couldn’t have smelled worse if he ran moonshine.

“I’m trying,” Dad repeated.

“I’m sure you are.”

“I am, Luke. I’m getting there. I’m playing at a club. I only got here two weeks ago and I already got a regular gig with a local band. College kids. Talented kids, Luke. Really talented. We’re playing Friday and Saturday nights. They start paying me my share this weekend. Playing mostly guitar . . . Miss the sax though.”

“You’re a middle aged man playing in a band with college kids? That should sober you up.” Cheap shots: my specialty when it came to my father.

“I said I’m trying.”

“Great? How’s A.A. then?”

“Actually I’m looking for a new sponsor right now. But I haven’t had a drink—”

“Look, Dad, I really need to get going. Anything else?” I decided to make him ask again.

He took a few audible breaths. “You’ll send the five hundred then?”

“Western Union.”

“Thank you. There’s one about two blocks—”

“Got it. I’ll find it online.” Then I repeated what I said every time this call came, though this time I hoped to actually mean it. “This is it. No more bailouts. Get it together already.” Then the words I heard in my sleep for many nights thereafter: “Please, don’t call ’til you’re sober.”

“I understand. And I’m going to make it all the way back, Luke. I promise.”

“Good bye.”

I wasn’t sure I knew exactly where he’d make it back, but I hoped it wasn’t to Manhattan.

(Excerpt from Recovering Charles and reprinted with the permission of the author, Jason F. Wright)

(Originally published at GoArticles and reprinted with permission of the author, Jason F. Wright).

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Jason F. Wright is a regular contributor on Fox News and is founder and managing director of the political destination, Jason is the New York Times Bestselling Author of Christmas Jars and The Wednesday Letters. To Learn more about Jason and his most recent novel, Recovering Charles, visit:

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