Dan's dad is here. Which is strange because we talk about him all the time and he's become something of a mystical, fictional figure here. Dan's dad, who lives in a tiny house in Idaho that doesn't have a bathroom, just a hole he dug on the side of the hill. Dan's dad, who builds hovercrafts. Dan's dad, whom Dan visited in October and returned with a 3-foot tall, 20-sided isohedron, crafted from a raw aluminum sheet in the high desert.
And suddenly, here he is in the living room, drinking whiskey of course and debating who would win in a bar brawl: smokers or nonsmokers?
Dan's dad is named Charlie and he's more personable than the stories made him out to be. He may know the finer points of building a pipe bomb, but he's affable, too, and talks about wild things in a low voice. Attempting to explain how Dan has a "double cousin" ends, somehow, with, "My sister went fuckin' beserk! She yelled at him, 'We're gettin' married tomorrow and you've got the clap!'" Sometimes the entire premise behind a story doesn't make sense to my rigid, rational world. Like the time a moose ran him off his sapphire mine claim.
Sapphires come up later, too, after Charlie rolls a cigarette and they start debating whether it's better to mine for gold or crystals. Dan shakes his head and argues that either are preferable to sapphires.
"I have this bad association with sapphires and nose bleeds. I got a really bad nose bleed in this swamp one time looking for sapphires and I got covered in flies, flies up my nose, flies in my lungs. The first thing you said was, 'Don't get blood on the company truck!'"
Charlie laughs, this is true. Dan was 11 at the time. "And I was like, eat all this bacon and drink all this beer. He stopped thinking about all the blood, I can tell you that much," says Charlie.
I'll tell you one thing, we are all jealous of Charlie for our own personal reasons. Jill has always dreamed of riding a hovercraft. Nate admires his entire life ethic, his crystal mine, his insane skills. Me, I regret the time I've wasted listening to "No Scrubs" on repeat while eating soup at New Seasons rather than casting my own manta ray belt buckle out of brass.
"That is so hip," says Dan, when I gush about the ray, "You are wearing the zeitgeist." His dad invites him out to Idaho for Christmas, they could build a furnace in the shed out of a 55-gallon tank and some propane, they scheme, and cast all kinds of sea creatures. When he first got here, Dan's dad pulled a box of Jim Beam out of his bag and offered whiskey all around. Then he pulled out his knife and carved little apartment windows into the box and set it in the fireplace. Nate, Jill and I stared in horror as the building went up in flames. Not one month ago, Dan built his own little city of apartment complexes in the fireplace and watched it burn. We don't become our parents. We already are them. The horror, the horror.