I woke up and squinted my eyes against the harsh sunlight. My room was missing a wall. I stood up and walked to the edge of the floor. Action was in the front yard, holding the wall up above his head.
“It’s my house now, motherfucker!” he shouted.
I was still tired. I couldn’t even really comprehend what he could possibly mean. I went out into the living room and found Gary Wrench exactly as I had left him yesterday. He sat with his legs crossed, stroking his chin and staring out the front of the house. That wall was gone too.
“You been sitting there all night?” I asked him.
“Been thinking,” he said.
“I thought you would have left. You seemed awfully eager to leave yesterday.”
“Yeah. But I’ve been thinking.”
“Your dad. Your grandfather. Your mother. I think this family is cursed because your grandfather stole Brilliance.”
“That might be a rightful assumption.”
“No. Take this seriously. It should prove especially meaningful for you since you could very well be next.”
“I’ve felt cursed my whole life. What about Cassie, though? She doesn’t seem to be too cursed.”
“Well, you know she’s adopted?”
“And I’m pretty sure she’s sleeping with one of the Nefarions. It’s rare that they make the transition between their world and ours but, when they do, they are usually pretty successful. I mean, after all, they’re magic. If I could have any job I wanted it would be one that allowed me to surround myself with beautiful women willing to do anything to advance their careers.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “So what are we going to do about it?”
“That flame,” he said. “It’s up in the attic. I think we should try and restore it. Give it back to the Nefarions and then maybe they’ll lift the curse.”
“Sounds a little shaky.”
“Well, first we’d have to find them... of course.”
“You’ll have to help me.”
“Look, I’m pretty tired and I’m really lazy. I don’t know if I have it in me.”
“Well, after today, you won’t have a place to live.”
“Meant to ask you about that. What’s happening to the house?”
“I sold it to that Action fellow. I thought he would just move in but he seems to be moving it out to where his tent used to be. Says he’s going to put a bus station here.”
“Sounds like him.”
“So, whaddya say? You up for a road trip?”
“Do I really have much of a choice?”
“That’s really nice of you. Offering to help and everything.”
“Truth be told: I don’t really have much else to do these days. I’m too old to start a second job. And I don’t really have any skills. Imposter father doesn’t really do much on a resume. I’ll go up and get Brilliance.”
“I’ll sit here on the floor,” I said, noticing the couch was gone.
I sat there on the floor for a few minutes, listening to Wrench stomp around up in the attic. It sounded like he tripped over a number of things and maybe fell down a few times. Action loosed another wall from the house and I thought about how he didn’t really look that strong when he had given me a ride in his truck. I got tired and fell asleep. Wrench woke me up, shouting, “Rise and shine!” and nudging my leg vigorously with his foot. He held something that looked like an urn, a weak flame licking out the top of it. I wiped the sleep from my eyes.
“That’s Brilliance?” I asked.
“I think it has to be. Don’t you?”
“I guess. I can’t imagine how many eternally burning flames my parents would have kept in their attic. I was expecting it to be a little more...”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Also, while I was up there, I found this.”
He handed me a Ziploc bag of something that looked like old poop.
“What’s this?” I asked, thinking I probably already knew the answer.
“If I’m right, I think it’s the bark from the ancient Arapahoe canoe. We might need that if we want to find the Nefarions.”
“I thought that was for the Johnsons.”
“Whatever. We’ll have to alter our perception of reality in some way or the other.”
I watched Action singlehandedly remove the roof from the house and march back to the woods with it. I thought my perception of reality was probably altered plenty enough just the way it was.
“I guess we better get rolling,” Wrench said.
I followed him out of the house. I felt like, for an excursion of this scope we might need some form of supplies but he seemed to be perfectly content with just the flame and the bark. It was hard to imagine he had been my father for the past twenty years. In a lot of ways, that made him more my father than my actual father. If I were feeling sentimental, perhaps at a later time, I would have brought that up to him.
Outside, the sky was a radiant blue. The rains from yesterday had completely disappeared and the air had just that hint of crispness it has in late summer. All in all, I figured it was a good day to set out on a fantastic journey. In the driveway, Mom’s El Camino had turned into a black Econoline with a giant white skull painted on the side.
“That’s odd,” Wrench said. “I don’t remember the car looking like this. Oh well, I guess we can use the room.”
He hopped in the driver’s side. I hopped in the passenger’s side. He pulled the steering wheel a couple of times and the van started right up.
“These new cars are amazing,” he said.
I had to agree with him.
“Do you have a map or anything?” I asked.
“Nah,” he said. He handed me the urn. “How’d you like to be the keeper of the flame?”
I didn’t guess I had much of a choice. I sat the urn on the floor and enclosed my bare feet on either side of it. I still wore the suit from yesterday, minus the blazer. Luckily, the prolonged wearing had loosened it a little bit. I rubbed my beard. The constant, steady, evergrowing beard.
“We don’t need a map, do we?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I find they come in handy sometimes.”
“It’s all intuition. We’re not dealing with the everyday world, here.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“We’ll let the flame lead the way.”
I looked down at the flame. It didn’t seem to be pointing any particular direction and I didn’t think the van traveled up.
Wrench navigated the van down the driveway and we hit the road just as Action pulled down another wall of the house.
“It’s a good thing I decided to sell the house,” Wrench said.
“Was it really your decision to make?”
“Do you want to be the decision maker?”
He had a point there. I definitely did not want to be the decision maker.
“If I hadn’t sold the house,” he said. “We might never have left. Or maybe we would have left for a little bit but then come back after we’d given up. I don’t want to give up. I want to find your family and help you lift this curse.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
And that was how my road trip with my father’s imposter began.