A couple of days later I'm sitting with my dad outside of the hospital, waiting for Sonic to come and pick us up. I'm not sure how he's getting here but he said he was going to come get us and not to take the bus. I don't think dad wants to take the bus anyways. Having to actually use his priority seating card would not sit well with him.
After the meds kicked in dad improved really fast. I didn't realize how much he actually was trying until then. I should've known, though. My dad works harder than anyone I know. Except Sonic. And I guess that my dad worked as hard as Sonic does when he was his age.
Sonic finally shows up.
He's driving dad's car.
"Oh my," says my dad, and when Sonic stops he runs his hand down the hood of the car. "It looks brand new."
"It should," says Sonic, leaning on the top of the car, "because it is. I couldn't bang the hood out enough so I had to get a new one and repaint it. Luckily they still sell automotive paints in old man colours.
"You completely restored it," says Amadeus. "It's better than it was before."
"My gift to you," Sonic says. "You wanna drive 'er?"
"I…I don't know if I'm quite ready for that."
"I think you should give it a shot," Sonic says. "I don't think Rosemary would want you to stop driving forever."
"I barely got through being driven in a car…actually driving one may be more than I can take."
"Man, that was a while back. I know it'll never be long enough, but I think it's time you start doing things that make you uncomfortable before you can't do them at all, and regret it."
Dad just stands there and looks at the car like he wishes he could get in and drive it but isn't sure if he can.
See, when mom was killed in the car accident, it threw dad into such a deep depression that we actually had to take him to a special hospital to get him out of it. Being a general, my dad has seen quite a bit of things he'd rather not have seen, and watching his wife die was the one thing that put him over the edge. It shook up Sonic and me a lot but we got through it. After almost a year we got dad through his depression, and we moved in with him for a while to make sure he was alright, which he kind of wasn't, but we got through that too. A few months later we moved back out when he swore up and down he could live without us and that we really should get on with our lives instead of coddling an old man any longer. Getting into a car hurts him a lot, and I honestly don't know if he could drive it. But Sonic lends confidence to people somehow. He makes them believe.
On the other hand, dad was driving when they got in the accident. Maybe that's too high a hill to climb.
"I suppose I can try," he says, surprising me. "I can always pull over if it's too much."
"Absolutely," Sonic says. "Go for it."
Dad sits down in the car and runs his hands over the steering wheel.
"I did miss this car…" He leans over and looks in the glove box. My dad's so old-fashioned he actually has driving gloves.
"I took 'em out, sorry," says Sonic. "I was cleaning the whole car and I forgot to put your stuff back in."
"That's quite all right," says my dad, and I climb into the passenger seat. "You even did the leather too, did you?"
"It's a really nice car," Sonic says. "I don't get to fix up nice cars like this. I get rust buckets and clunkers that I could duct-tape together if I was feeling cheap."
"I hope you didn't duct-tape my car together."
"Nah, I was polite. I used glue."
"Sonic, do I owe you anything for this? The parts can not have been cheap."
"They were free."
"How is that possible?"
"All the guys I called were out-of-their-minds happy to help restore a classic Caddy. All they wanted was a chance to see it when it was finished. So don't get creeped out if some strangers come to your place asking to see your car."
"All right," says my dad. "I can certainly allow that."
"She's running alright," says Sonic. "She's a little sticky in fourth, but otherwise…"
"What the heck are you doing putting it in fourth?"
"I'm just kidding," says Sonic. "I didn't go higher than second."
"I hope not," says my dad. "I don't even know if fourth works. I haven't taken it on the highway in I don't know when."
"I'll check the tranny for you later," says Sonic. "Let's get going, huh?"
"Right," says my dad, and he puts the car in first and heads off.
Dad does alright driving, but it's obvious he's uncomfortable. He stalls it at every red light and keeps forgetting to use the clutch, but Sonic picks up on what he's having trouble with and helps him out as best he can by reminding him to do things.
When we finally pull up to our house dad puts it in park and then just sits there with his hands on the steering wheel. "Well," he says. "What do you know. I did manage it."
"You sure did," says Sonic.
"Not very well, but I did."
"Eh, you did fine," says Sonic. "Considering."
"Your age, of course."
"I'll go with that," Sonic says and hops out of the car. Dad gets out more slowly but I can tell he's pretty proud of himself for actually driving his car all the way home without getting into a panic.
"Good job, dad. I'm proud of you," I tell him.
"Thank you, son," he says.
"An' Amadeus?" Sonic says.
"I know Rosemary's proud of you too, wherever she is."
Dad is quiet for a minute.
"I know," he says, and he has to blink very fast to stop from crying. "Thank you."
We go into the house and sit down at the kitchen table. Dad is doing better but he's nowhere near normal, so me and Sonic pretend we need to sit down too so he doesn't feel like he's holding us back or anything. Sonic sits on the table though.
I get up and make dad a tea, a real one like he hasn't had since he got too sick to make one himself, and I guess he wasn't paying attention because when I give it to him he looks pretty surprised.
"Why thank you Miles," he says. "I haven't had one in so long."
"You're welcome, dad," I tell him, and then I get a box of crackers and me and Sonic eat them while Sonic tells dad about the automotive place and how he fixed my dad's car. There's something kind of different about them. I don't know what it is but I like it. I think that Sonic didn't know how to deal with my dad, because they're so different, but it seems like they've built a bridge over that, somehow.
"I hope Knuckles gets what's coming to him," Sonic says suddenly.
"Oh, I think he will," my dad says, smiling at a private joke into his cup.
"You do?" says Sonic.
"I'm fairly confident," says my dad.
"Oh dad," I say. "What did you do?"
"Me?" says my dad, and he's doing a very good job of being the kindly but slightly senile old man, "I didn't do anything."
"Then why would you be fairly confident?" I ask.
"Well…there is karma…"
"Yeah, there is that," says Sonic, entirely unconvinced.
"I guess we'll just have to wait and see," dad says, and he takes his cup to the sink.
"So you're not going to tell us."
"Tell you what?"
"Give it up Tails," Sonic says. "Let him play his little game. If that's the only thing left in life that makes him happy, let him go on with it."
"Ahem," says my dad. "Don't talk like I'm not here."
"When are you heading back out, Sonic?" I ask him, climbing up on top of the table too.
"Eh…pretty soon. I've been gone too long. Maybe tomorrow."
"Can it wait a few more days?"
"Uh…if it has to…why?"
"We want to come with you. Not forever. Just to visit. Just to see where you're living and who your family is now. We won't stay long. But I don't think we should go for a few more days yet. I think dad needs a few days to get used to living out of the hospital."
"As if I've never done it before," dad says.
"You've been in a sterile environment, dad. Let your body adjust to the change."
"Such a bossy boy," my dad says. "But since he's so demanding, can you wait, Sonic?"
"Sure," says Sonic. "The next plane out doesn't leave for three more days anyways. So I'll book you guys on and we'll all head out. But you guys have to plan ahead for when you want to leave. The planes in and out only leave every three weeks."
"All right," I say. "You want to give him your Visa, dad?"
"Only if he plans on giving it back," my dad says. "My pension doesn't cover outrageous teenage spending."
"My dad's not even using his pension," I tell Sonic as we go to get it. He keeps it in his desk drawer. "He made so much money from the army it just goes into the bank with the rest of it and sits there."
"Cool," said Sonic. "So he won't leave us with any debts."
"I don't think so," I say. "I think he would have planned for that anyway, if it were even an issue."
We go on the computer and book the tickets, and then I go to my dad's bank account and pay off the Visa. Sonic just looks at me.
"Your dad has you pay his bills?"
"Well he doesn't know how to use the computer. How is he supposed to do it?"
"He could go to the bank…"
"He couldn't drive."
"He could call them…"
"He doesn't have a phone."
"God Tails," Sonic says, "give your dad some tech lessons or something."
"I try…but he's so old-fashioned…"
"Hey old man!" Sonic hollers.
"Yes?" dad says from the living room.
"I think you need to get a cellphone so you can keep track of this kid here."
"I can't use those things. They're too complicated."
"You're a smart guy. You'll figure it out."
"I don't think so."
"Oh yes you will. 'Cause what happens when Tails starts going out on dates and you want to call him all night and bother him? Just to be the annoying parent?"
"Miles has a girlfriend?"
"No…it's a future scenario."
"I wouldn't call him. I know he'd be responsible."
"Amadeus, you're gonna get a phone and you're gonna learn how to use it. And that's that."
Dad looks at the ceiling.
"What did I do to deserve this! They're both insufferable!"
"I think I won," says Sonic.
"I dunno…dad's pretty good at pulling them out at the last minute."
We sit down on the couch with my dad and he and Sonic start arguing good-naturedly about cellphones, but I sit back and wonder:
What did my dad do to Knuckles?
Well, back to the Island I go.
I don't really want to go back. Much as I hate Sonic, I don't want to go back to that island and watch over a damn jewel all day.
I need a new hobby.
I get to the Island, wander through the jungle, and climb the steps of the shrine. Then I sit back and decide to take a nap.
Wait a minute.
I turn around.
The Emerald is gone.
I run all around the shrine like an idiot, hoping it just fell off or something. But no, it's gone, good and gone, and I have to go and track it down.
It's all his fault.
I know it is.
I'm going to kill him.