“Dad, what is it you don’t understand? I love what I do and I’m damn good at it.” Jason Carr bellowed.
Taking a deep calming breath, he wished his younger sisters Jessica and Anise were home and not on a week-long shopping trip in New York with their paternal grandparents. The elder Carr tended to not behave like a colossal jerk in their presence.
This argument, every time he came home for a visit, was getting really old. He didn’t know why he continued to do this. His flaring nostrils struggled to deflate as he glanced across the table into his mother’s worried eyes. The two of them going at each other broke her heart.
If it wasn’t for the close bond with his mother and younger siblings, he wouldn’t be here having this heated exchange. Why couldn’t his dad give it a rest for once and let him enjoy spending time with the family?
Bernard Carr glared at his firstborn, the white of his eyes barely noticeable through their slits.
“What I don’t understand is why you prefer running in and out of burning buildings instead of working in the family business. I paid—”
Furious, Jason cut his father off. “I don’t need you telling me how much money you spent sending me to school! And how my Master’s in Finance is going to waste!”
Being a firefighter in a big city was what he dreamed of since he was a boy. As a kid he would watch television shows and movies that featured firefighters. The brave men rushing into fierce flames in order to save lives fascinated him. He would daydream for hours about growing up big and strong like the men on the screen so he could save people too.
Jason’s wish of sprouting up brawny was no longer a fantasy. By the time he was sixteen-years-old, he was six-four and weighed two hundred ten pounds. Eating healthy and pumping iron, he grew massive with the strength to carry a grown man nearly twice his size. If he had any say so over his life, after high school he would have taken the firefighter’s exam. Keeping the peace, he gave in to his parents’ expectations to attend college and grad school.
After obtaining a MBA in Finance, he worked fifteen months in the family’s winery business. Although he was efficient at learning the financial side of the business, he was absolutely miserable. He didn’t care about quarterly cost of goods sold, profit and loss, account receivables, or account payables. With each day he spent at Carr’s Winery he resented his father even more for having to live his dream.
At the urging of his then girlfriend, Kristy, Jason registered to take the National Firefighter Selection Inventory in Virginia Beach, Virginia. A year dragged by before receiving the good news that would forever change his life.
In between the waiting period, Jason physically pushed his body to the brink of exhaustion with cardio and weight training. Mediocre strength and stamina was unacceptable. He had to prove not only to himself, but to his worse critic that his childhood dream was a worthy pursuit.
His resignation from Carr Winery caused a considerable dilemma. Senior Carr did what he did best. Go on the warpath, hurling threats. The bullying tactics of losing his inheritance didn’t deter Jason.
And now five years later, they were still arguing over his decision to be a man and strike out on his own.
His mother, Tremaine, spoke up in her son’s defense. “Bernard, Jason hasn’t been home in months. Why are you starting in on him already?”
She lifted a bowl of string beans and passed them over to her husband. Managing a tight smile, she added, “Please, let’s enjoy dinner.”
Mother and son jumped, startled by the slamming of the fine china bowl on the mahogany table. Green vegetables and white shards went flying everywhere.
“Look what you’ve done! That bowl belonged to my grandmother!” She sucked her teeth in disgust, willing the tears not to fall at the ruined pieces of a family heirloom.
The flashing in Bernard’s eyes was an ominous sign he was rearing up to rain down a blaze of fury.
“Woman! I don’t give a rat’s ass about some dish! What I do give a damn about is my son, our son being a disappointment. Carr Winery has been in my family for six generations. He knows it’s his responsibility to one day take over the family business!”
Tremaine gasped at her husband’s harshness. Head held high, she opened her mouth in retaliation, but quickly shut it. When he was this way, she couldn’t do a thing with him. She would have to wait him out to let him know how much of an unreasonable jackass he was being towards their son. She did not agree with him. Tremaine was very proud of her son for making his own path in life. And besides, it was Jessica who loved the business and desired to one day run the winery.
Jason’s left eye twitched and his hands balled into large fists under the table. Substantially larger than his dad, he reined in his desire to reach across the table and body slam him. His dad looked so smug sitting at the head of the table, as if on a throne and they were his lowly subjects.
His gaze darted over to his mother. He wasn’t fooled by her ramrod posture. Through clenched teeth he gritted out, “Do not raise your voice at my mother. I’m the one you’re angry with for being such a disappointment to you.”
“Boy have you lost your mind! She’s my wife!”
“And she’s my mother!” Jason roared back.
Neither backed down as they stared each other down competing for alpha status.
“Bernard! Jason! Stop this! Stop this right now!” Lord have mercy Jesus! These two are going to kill each other! If they don’t kill me first!
The older man’s face contorted into a mask of disgust. How dare Jason stand up here in his home, and disrespect him? Everything he had done for him, still trying to do for him, and he had a nerve to throw it back in his face.
“You ungrateful little piece of—”
“Bernard!” Tremaine shrieked before he could finish. He would not call her child out of his name in her presence. This was going too far. Someone was bound to get hurt.
Jason forcefully stood from the table. His dad wasn’t the only one disappointed. He threw the cloth napkin on the plate of food he hadn’t touched.
“I’m out of here. Don’t worry, Dad. I won’t be back,” he clipped out. He mellowed his tone when he spoke to his mother. He kissed her forehead. “Mom, I love. I’ll give you a call sometime next week.”
“Bernard, look what you’ve done!” Conflicted, she didn’t know if she should stay or go.
Motherly instincts overruled. She pushed away from the table to run after her son. The gust of wind nearly pushed her back inside as she opened the heavy, ornate door.
“Jason! Come back! It’s raining too heavy for you to ride your motorcycle!”
Over the hard, pelting sheets of rain he never heard his mother’s plea as he sped off into the dark night.
Restless, Tremaine tossed and turned for hours. Still shaken up over the harsh words hurled back and forth between the two most important men in her universe, sleep eluded her. The ringing doorbell accompanied by the loud knocking hadn’t disturbed her.
She nudged her snoring husband. “Bernard…Bernard…Bernard!”
Startled he jolted from his sleep. “What is it dear?” He sleepily answered as his lids began to close only to be snapped open by the persistent banging.
“Someone’s at the door.”
The couple stuffed their feet into slippers, quickly grabbing their robes. She followed closely on her husband’s heels. Her fingers fumbled at tying the thin fabric belt around her waist. A sickening feeling formed in the pit of her stomach. Who in the world could be at their door at this hour? And why would they travel so far up the rural road leading to their home?
The sickening feeling dug deeper when Bernard opened the door to find Sheriff Dougherty on the other side. She instinctively reached for her husband’s hand. In the dark, the sorrowful look in the sheriff’s blue eyes was unmistakable.
“Bernard, Tremaine…there’s been an accident. It’s Jason. You folks need to get to the hospital right away.” The sheriff hesitated before adding, “He’s in bad shape.”