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  • As Far as You Can See
  • Jesse Lee Brooks (bio)

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[End Page 150]

What was funny was that despite being a self-proclaimed visionary, a seer of fortune, an intuitivist at cards, Sam never could have anticipated when he returned home late from another shift at the tables that he'd find Lori locked inside the Honda and that this time he'd be unable to stop her from leaving, [End Page 151] unable to open her bags and scatter her clothes or throw her keys into the woods or carry her over his shoulder back into the trailer. Not funny ha-ha but funny in the sense that those used to be normal evenings. That that man used to be Jack's father. Where now Jack attended dinner parties with people who'd studied at liberal arts schools, who'd grown up staring at Giacometti statues, who assumed the same about him. Funny how he'd grown up in a place so absurd and inconceivable that he'd tried to hide it. Funny that where Jack came from had actually been destroyed the instant he left. Funny that he didn't even realize until twenty years later.

After years of not speaking, Jack had nearly forgotten what his father looked like. Sam had been declared a missing person, and eight months later, Jack received a call from a state health official. She informed him that they had recovered and identified his father's body through DNA testing. She asked for an address where she could send the results. In the packet was a copy of Sam's last renewed driver's license, attached to the statistics confirming the match. Jack was stunned to think how easily he could have used the license as his own. He and the man pictured both had large heads with thick mahogany-brown hair, deep green eyes, and small, slightly rounded noses. Sam Theodore Renault smiled in the photo, showing that a set of yellowed teeth was the only feature they did not share.

What came after was one of those convoluted emotions where Jack felt a sense of guilt despite knowing, having become an adult himself, that there was no reason to feel this way. That he'd been just a child and Sam was the parent. And yet, despite his consciously rationalizing this, the feeling remained, leaving an opening in the boundary he had created, between that time and this current one, for an entire life to return.


The evening Lori left, she had of course tried to bring Jack along to her parents' in Pensacola. But he had refused, and she was unwilling to force him. So he stood there outside the car while they waited for his father to return. Behind locked doors and rolled-up windows, Lori made a muffled threat to Sam that he'd better take good care of Jack. She swore to return for their son with an officer and a court order. And not five minutes after her taillights faded into the dense Louisiana brush, Sam brought Jack to the casino for the first time, in order to win his mother back.

The next day, Sam announced that he had quit his job at Bayou Plumbing to work the tables full time, because now, he said, other people's [End Page 152] shit was the least of their concerns. Except on Sundays, when they attended mass, they drove to the casino every morning around ten and stayed until six, taking lunch breaks at the bar. In the early evenings they'd sit out on the porch under the awning of the trailer with a cooler full of sodas and beers, watching the thunderstorm roll in. After, when the rain stopped and the clouds cleared and the mosquitos returned, they'd go inside to adjust the rabbit ears and watch reruns of Cheers or the Cardinals game while eating a frozen pizza or burgers cooked on the grill. Summer had just begun, with its sunsets that lasted hours and its cool, humid nights that made Jack feel buoyant and careless: if things weren't going...


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