Outside Magazine “Terror in the Wild” edition, page 52
My father’s e-mail didn’t make much sense…
He sometimes gets in these kids of moods, where he will, for weeks at a time, rant about an Atlantis cover-up, or the Moon landing being real, or the fact that those ancient civilizations that left us all their writings in the pyramids really weren’t from another planet. Each time, I dismiss him as a bit of a nut, but every once in a while he’s got a little ring of truth to it.
“I’ve got the key,” he wrote, and that was it. No Hello, no good bye, and no explanation of what kind of key it might be or how it could be used.
So I wondered, is this something I need to understand? Is it a way for me to be a part of the bigger elements of this world? Or was it just a hoax of his?
I considered, briefly, that it might even be my brother spoofing him. Ted’s done that before, pretended to be someone he’s not through e-mail, to try and get me to go to the Appalachian trail with my long-distance girlfriend, or to get me to think I’ve won the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, but this seemed too simple for him. He liked grander, broader schemes, and this one didn’t look like that. I believed it was Dad, then, and decided to reply.
“Oh, yeah? Key to what?”
Even though it had been a couple of hours between when I sent my message and when he’d first sent his, he replied almost immediately. He must have been at his desk, “working”, or whatever he liked to call all this research he did. Old books, old magazines, ancient journals and maps. My father’s basement looked like someone had emptied the Chicago Public Library archive into his room without bothering to organize anything, or even stack anything on shelves. I pictured him, sitting there, hunched over his ancient iMac, green screen and all, typing away at me. Six hundred miles away, lounging in my bed, laptop open on my lap, a stark contrast in experiences almost as strong as the contrasts of our environments and personalities.
“The key to the future,” he wrote. That too was all, in that message. I wanted to call. I wanted to talk, directly, because I could see where this was headed. Fifty messages, back and forth, over the next two hours, would just infuriate me at the man’s lack of focus, at his undisciplined approach to the world. I’d be sitting here, racking my brain trying to understand, to comprehend, to figure out if what he was saying was, or even might be real, or whether he’d finally lost it and we could safely deposit him at Shady Acres to a nice, relaxing retirement. It would do me no good to call, though. He’d disabled his phones months ago, in the belief that the radiation from the handset was making him sterile! Ha! As if he could, or would want to, get someone pregnant again at seventy-five. Why would he do that? And if he wanted to, who would sleep with him? All those are beside the point, but useful in illustrating that my father was not always altogether “there,” and so I would need to play along. Play his game of back-and-forth email tag, teasing meaning out of him one or two sentences at a time, wondering, questioning, probing, when all I really wanted to do was go have a run, and a nap.
I replied, “The future of what?”
“Of Humanity,” he replied. “It’s not looking good for us.”
“When has it ever?” Okay, a little snark, but when you’re frustrated at the imposition, you can be allowed some.
“Well, it was all good up until 53 years ago.” Then that message stopped. Before I could reply, another came in. “When you were born.”