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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Shades Of The Father

M. Adrian Sellers is the 5th son of a 5th son, an accidental Buddhist, and a writer of speculative fiction. An alumnus of the Viable Paradise XV workshop (and future alumnus of the 2013 Taos Toolbox workshop), he currently resides in New England with spouse Rebecca and their dog Daisy.

As he stopped off at Marty-Mart, Aubrey saw that someone had scrawled across the store front: Martin Paxson has only one testicle but he's a righteous dude. You can trust him.
Paying old Mr. Paxson for smokes, Aubrey tried not to laugh.
"You seem in a good mood, Aubrey."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't laugh."
"I should think not, at a time like this. Your father, he was a good man. The very heart of this neighborhood, he was."
Aubrey sobered. He nodded contritely at the storekeeper.
Perhaps feeling he'd been too hard on a grieving son, Mr. Paxson clapped Aubrey on the shoulder. "So hey then, aren't those his famous sunglasses?"
Yes, the distinctive shades were part of his father's classic persona. An affectation harking back to the man's days as a would be art-rocker. The eccentric signature of an incurable individualist.
When he'd first received the shades, Aubrey had sworn he'd never wear them. But on the drive to the Marty-Mart the sun had been in his eyes, and the shades were right there in his glove box.
He had to admit, it did feel good wearing his father's signature shades.
Aubrey smiled. Tilting his head slightly, he peered over the top of the glasses, meeting Paxson's gaze. It was a fair imitation of his father. "Yes, Martin. Yes they are."
Now it was Paxson who laughed. "Well, all right then, you wear them well. He wouldn't have entrusted them to anyone else!"
Returning to his car, Aubrey reflected that it was indeed a nice gesture for his father to specifically leave the glasses to Aubrey in his will. What Aubrey was still trying to understand was why the sunglasses had been the only thing he'd inherited.
Aubrey was the one who had always tried to understand the man's strange ways. Aubrey was the one who had been there until the end. But when the will was read, there it was: to Aubrey, the sunglasses. His sister Samantha got everything else. Samantha, who hadn't spoken to their father for more than five years. Even when she'd known he was dying.
Aubrey had always thought their sense of humor was something he had in common with his father.
But this?
The sunglasses? Nothing else?
He didn't get the joke.
Sighing, but still wearing the shades, he lit a cigarette, backed out of his parking spot, and cruised aimlessly through the neighborhood. His iPod seemed intent on shuffling the most depressing tracks it could churn up: "Pictures of You" by The Cure was the current downer--one of his old man's favorite bands. But melancholy had no chance to take hold, for whoever it was that had victimized the Marty-Mart had not stopped there--the prolific vandal had apparently tagged the entire neighborhood overnight.
At Kane Music Emporium was scrawled: Billy Kane will sell you the best marijuana, at the fairest price.
The Jones house featured the warning: If Karen Jones asks for your help, expect that she will try to seduce you. Use a condom.
Around the block, the Canada's house proclaimed: If Jack Canada starts talking about lizard DNA, walk away. Just walk away.
Aubrey was laughing so hard he had to slow down to a crawl. He thought, "Wait till I tell dad about this," then found he had pulled to the curb, crying. He removed the sunglasses to wipe his eyes and blow his nose.
He took a deep breath, composed himself, but couldn't resist another glance back at the Canada house. But now there was no graffiti. Nothing at all.
Could grief cause insanity? Hallucinations?
An impossible thought crossed Aubrey's mind. He tried to dismiss it as ridiculous, but honestly, it couldn't be any crazier than what he was experiencing--he seemed to be seeing incredibly specific graffiti that wasn't actually there.
But only when he wore the sunglasses.
Aubrey put the sunglasses back on, looked again at the Canada house, and the graffiti had reappeared.
His father had left him more than sunglasses. He had left a whole neighborhood full of secret advice.
Aubrey took his time driving home, wandering aimlessly through the streets of his father's life.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 29th, 2013

Author Comments

"Shades of the Father" in its original form was intended as a submission for a themed issue of a particular online magazine. After receiving no response for 90 days, I exchanged emails and learned, oops! I had submitted via a link to an outdated web form. They had never received the story and the deadline was long past. Taking a fresh look, I rearranged and tightened the story, sent it off to DSF, and am proud to see it published as my first sale. I'm tempted now to put each story in a box for 90 days before first submission.

- M. Adrian Sellers
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