Henderson Lovely, Last of the Munchkins

The crowd remained silent as if someone had used a remote control to pause them. Brett and Dean held the cans of beer suspended. Henderson suddenly broke into laughter. He raised his arms and clapped. A few in the crowd joined in. Henderson took the beer from Dean and winked at him. Dean actually smiled at the old man. Henderson raised the beer to the crowd in a cheers salute, and then he drank. More residents whooped and hollered.

Pat finally acknowledged Brett.

“Take the beer, Dad.”

Pat expected his son’s eyes and voice to fill him with venomous hate. Wasn’t this sabotage? Or, perhaps like the launched dentures, another cruel test? But there was no resentment. Somehow, it seemed a harmless command. When Pat reached out and accepted the hefty can of beer, Brett’s expression softened. Pat realized his eyes had wandered to his son’s scar, and that it no longer repulsed him—at least not now.

Their offerings accepted, Brett and Dean clasped their hands together and tossed their fists over their shoulders. The entire crowd cheered.

Pat felt a jab in his side. “Stand up, Mayor,” Henderson said. “You’re on.”

His legs raised him as though being hand-cranked. When he stood, the residents cheered. Emboldened, Pat imitated Henderson: he lifted the can to the Chittenangoans and took a chug of the warm beer. The people roared and pumped their fists. He took another swig, the foam fizzing his nose, causing him to cough. The alcohol was already warming his blood.  Henderson put an arm around Pat’s waist, and they drank together.

Brett and Dean hopped off the truck. They ran down the street, laughing and pushing each other. Maureen directed the Flower Munchkins back to the float. The truck started up again, and with it, the music.

Kevin Catalano is the author of a collection of short fiction, The Word Made Flesh (firthFORTH Books). His stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in PANK, Pear Noir!, Atticus Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Used Furniture Review, and others. He has an MFA in fiction from Rutgers-Newark, where he also teaches literature and composition. He lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey. Visit him at www.kevincatalano.com.