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 Coley Genger

My Father's Secret


"You have no idea what I've been through, you don't have a clue what my life has been like. You go marching around and think you can do whatever you'd like, but this is your family too."

Sorry you had to hear that, but I have to listen to this crap almost everyday. My mom and dad have been fighting more than they usually do, I don't understand why. They're both happy, or so I thought. The worst part is that I'm an only child, (big mistake by my parents), and only fifteen so I have no insights into "marital life." I don't know, I'm still unsure of whose side to take or who to defend. It's true, my mom was very sensitive, but my dad really is always gone; she has a point. 

I'm going to be honest with you, I've never been sure of what my dad did. He was gone a lot on "business," but I never knew where. It was weird, one week he'd be gone and then back again, as if nothing had happened, and he wouldn't say a word about his trip. Of course who could blame him? If he'd try to explain, my mom would probably reprimand the man somehow for never being home. He was already a pretty silent guy, only talking about how important it was for me to be the "man" of the household and all that. He was a fairly macho guy, I guess you could say, and compared to my petite mom, I felt like he really held the reins in the family. However, my mom did have one secret weapon. The second she opened her mouth to speak, she won everything back. Maybe if my dad weren't so quiet we wouldn't have a problem….

Regardless, one day I decided to fake sick with a fever, the old, classic Ferris Bueller stuff, (pretty badass I know.) After my mom had left, I took it upon myself to explore my father's study. I knew I had never been allowed there before, in fact the door practically screamed "back-off Jacob," but I couldn't take the secrecy any longer. When I first walked in the room, it seemed cold, everything made of dark old wood and ancient books lining all four walls. 

I didn't know where to start looking, or even what I was looking for exactly, but I decided to start searching through his desk. After a drawer or two of the typical odds and ends I came across a couple of photos. "It can't be, I said, that's my dad…. but he's with Napoleon, and that's Lincoln, and Martin Luther King?" I thought to myself, "Wait they didn't have cameras there. This is impossible, simple technological trickery." Yet my suspicions did not leave me as I kept searching. I found copies of, seemingly, every significant document ever written, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and they were all written in actual ink, these were no photocopies. None of it made sense and after getting rather frustrated, I slammed one of the drawers shut. To my surprise, the desk began to move and revealed a tunnel to a dark room underneath. 

I grabbed a flashlight from the desk and slid myself into the crevice, unknowing of what I would find. These walls were different, I didn't quite understand it all. They were covered in hooks and every hook held a different set of clothes on it. They were arranged by year and every twenty or so years, the clothes were updated. There was just one other object in the room and that was a rather large steel door, which I proceeded to open and enter. A year was blinking on a screen,"1940, 1940, 1940," and there was a large red button beside it. After perusing the walls of the chamber I found that none of the other buttons or dials interested me, so, being the curious guy that I am, I reached my hand out to push it. 

"Hey you, get over here! What do you think you are doing outside? Don't you know it's past curfew, they'll find you. Just get in here." 

I awoke to that voice calling me and a light rain splashing my face. The wet pavement scraped against my legs as I got up; unaware of where this voice was coming from. As things stopped spinning I followed the voice into a shabby looking house just a few feet from where I had woken up.

"What were you thinking, did your mother tell you nothing about playing in the streets after dark? You know as well as I do that those cops aren't going to give a rat's ass about your age. There's no mercy here."

"Oh, um, yea I'm sorry, it won't happen again. Look, if you don't mind me asking, where am I?"

"Well my boy, you're in Germany's finest ghetto, you may thank the wonderful German government for that."

She was a rather thin woman with tangled, dirtied hair, yellowed teeth and dark eyes, the likes of ones that had seen much pain and little sleep. I felt pretty bad; you probably could have seen my disgusted face a mile away; (she wasn't the prettiest of babes if you catch my drift.) It was then that I looked at the woman's soiled clothes. Underneath her apron was an oversized, hand-woven sweater dawned with a nice sized yellow star. She must have seen me gaping at it because she soon exclaimed, "yes, yes I already noticed you were missing yours. You really are lost aren't you? Well I'll sew a patch onto your sweater cause we can't have you going out like that can we?"

Luckily I wasn't wearing anything too distinguishable, just a navy sweater and old khakis, but I was missing the big picture until I started putting the facts together, "Wait…Germany, yellow stars, ghetto? It's really 1940!" 

I think I must have passed out, (kinda girly of me I know) because I didn't remember anything until the next morning. "You look so peaky, here take this bread, it's not much, but there's not too much here." I took the thin slice of rock-hard rye bread and soaked it into the bit of water I was given. "Look I am sorry, I'd love to help you more, but there's only so much I can do. There's a patch on your sweater and I suggest you go home and get some rest, You can find it can't you? I'll be here if you need anymore help."

Still disillusioned, it didn't dawn on me that I had no idea of my whereabouts so I just replied, "Oh, well thank you for your hospitality. I'm sorry for being a burden. Thanks." (I can't explain to you how much I regret that stupid move; leaving that house.) 

Ok so, maybe I'm not as tough as I had thought 'cause I have never been so terrified in my life. I was walking on streets with heaps of garbage and foul smelling water, not to mention everybody I passed looked like a moving corpse. The streets were filled with gloomy old men, scrawny children and boys my age already heading off to work. The sight of it made me want to hurl. I was just waiting for some kind of "divine inspiration" to lead me in the right direction, but I had yet to find any clues. After hours and hours of weaving in and out of the grey and decaying buildings I found myself utterly helpless. 

I was about to give up searching for my way out and had just gone to sit down in an alleyway when I was grabbed from behind. "Son? What are you doing here? For God's sake why are you here?"

"Dad, is that you? Wow, I am so glad to see you."

"We've got to get you home, I can't believe this happened. Do you know how dangerous this is? I can't finish my mission, but we need to find the portal now."

"Wait whoa, the portal?"

"It is an object that will send us back to the future; back home. It has to be something significant from this era that will be the gateway through time. We have to escape the ghetto to get back home. "

It was getting later in the evening and my father had said few words to me then, he was searching so frantically. I was sick of this. It was the same situation, the same secrecy as always. I suddenly stopped running; I had no intention of blindly following my father anymore. 

"Dad, I'm not moving anywhere until you explain to me what's going on. Why the hell are we here? How did I get here?"

"Jacob, not now, can't this wait?"

"No, don't you understand, I've been waiting for an explanation all my life and have received nothing, you have given me nothing! My own father has only been a drifting passerby in my life, no kid deserves that. Mom doesn't deserve that."

"Son I will explain this later, you have to trust me. We simply haven't the time now."

I could see the tears in his eyes and his efforts to try and keep them back. I have never seen my dad like this. He was always the strong, masculine man. I wanted this answer badly, I wanted to get the explanation I deserved, I was fed up, but something in his expression and worn-out stance told me to believe him, just this once more. 

"Fine, let's go, but don't think I'll forget."

"I know you won't. Please hurry."

From there on out there was a lot of tension. I felt guilty as I saw the tears he had been trying to hold back fall onto his sleeve. (I'm not a bad son, I swear.) I didn't expect my old man to react like that. At one point he muttered to himself, "if he can't get out of here quick he won't be able to leave. I'm already used to this, but he's so vulnerable." I didn't ask what that meant because I didn't want to know the answer. What if I would be stuck here forever?

Finally, after another hour of silence and searching, he pointed ahead to a gate. "That's it," he said sighing. 

As we approached the gate there were voices from behind us becoming louder and louder. We heard, "where do you think you're going?" followed by the shrieking laughter of five men who began to surround us from all sides. Where I expected to see a gold star on their clothing I saw a dark swastika in its place. Then my eyes shifted over to the guns each man held at the ready. (God I wanted to bolt out of there like crazy.)

"Hey boy, don't you know it's best not to play in the streets after dark?" The laughter rose until one of them fired a shot in the air. My knees felt weak and I thought I would pass out again right in front of those men, but my dad's tight grip on my shoulders kept me up. 

"Look we don't mean any harm, we were just passing through." 

"Yes, I'll bet, you dirty Jew. Oh the things I should do to you right now."

"Please sir, just please spare my son's life." 

The most menacing of the guards was ignoring all of my father's pleas, "Haha, Daddy can't protect you now boy. Maybe I should send you both to camps, or should I shoot you for attempting to escape right now?" 

My dad was whispering something incomprehensible to me and began to reach for something in his coat pocket. He never revealed it, but I could just make out something resembling a small remote control. His finger pressed a button and everything paused; except us. "Quick son, run into the portal. It will wear off in a couple seconds." The last thing I saw was the guards beginning to shake off the spell, but we were already off. My body went numb and every part of me seemed to stretch until I was sucked into some kind of vortex. 

The next thing I remembered was waking up on the floor of my father's study. My dad was hunched over me and calling my name, "Jake, Jake, it's all over. You're safe now. You must have passed out."

After speedily gulping down the water my dad forcefully gave me to drink, he sat me down and said, "Son, I'm glad you're ok, but what are you doing on my floor? Why are you in my office?"

I was startled, still waking with an awful headache pounding on my skull. "Oh, I, was just, um, looking for, I stuttered, I was looking for answers." With that statement I seemed to gather strength. 

"Answers about what?"

"About why you're always gone. Why do you always leave? Do you really travel through time?"

"Travel through time? Jake, what? No, you know what I do, I just travel a lot for work."

"Yea? Is that right? Well, why are you always gone, why can't you be here?" I found that not only were my cheeks turning a dark shade of crimson, but a couple tears were also sliding down my cheeks. 

The guilt on his face was completely apparent and with one big swallow, he started to say, "Jake, I hate that I'm not here. I haven't seen you grow up, I haven't been much of a father, huh? Well, that will start to change, I promise."

"How do I know I can trust you?"

"You are just going to have to try. Here let's get you up." 

As I stood up, I thought about my dream. I thought about what I had found in that office, in Germany. It all seemed so real, it couldn't have all been a dream, right? 

"Let's spend some time together now, how does that sound? Here, I'll start with a tour of my office….."

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