#My52 “Night Light, Conclusion”

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#My52: Week 12

Word prompt: socks

Word count – 1685

Reading time – 4 mins,  19 secs


Part IV

Jo walked to the stove, donned two large oven mitts and removed a deep casserole dish from the oven. Turning, she presented her surprise.

“Shepherd’s pie!”

“Dad’s favorite!”

The boys fist-bumped each other and raced off to clean up for dinner.

Jack went to the bathroom in the hallway while Kent took the small half-bath on the back porch.

While washing up, Kent raised his head and looked into the mirror.

A young version of Wes Tanner stared back at him.

Though he was often reminded of his resemblance to his father, Kent never saw it.

Until now.

Light brown hair, velvet brown eyes, pug nose.

He smiled.

There was the crooked grin.

The one dimple on the left side.

He shook his head remembering the last time he saw his father.

“Hey buddy, you finish your English homework last night?”

Kent gave his dad the thumb’s up sign, his mouth full of eggs and toast.

“And are you ready for the quiz today?”

He swallowed and grinned. “I will leave no participles dangling.”

“I look forward to being moved to tears by the glowing red A at the top of your paper.”


Jo entered from the back porch carrying laundry. “If you want to be moved to tears, next time you can wash his socks.”

Wes Tanner laughed aloud at his snarky wife as Kent buried his face in his hands.

“It’s okay, buddy. We’re manly men, not dainty flowers. Our socks are supposed to smell.”

Father and son high-fived.

Jack rushed into the kitchen wearing his backpack and carrying Kent’s.

“Let’s bounce, K-man. Old man Gantz is supposed to wait ten minutes but if he can’t see us from the road, you know he won’t even slow the school bus down.”

Jo frowned. “Is that old man still speeding? Why is he even still driving? Isn’t he like a hundred and forty years old?”

Jack chuckled. “Nah, he doesn’t speed. He just floors it over dips to shake up the kids in the back.”

Wes and Kent snickered.

Kent gulped his orange juice then headed for the door behind his brother.

“Don’t forget, kiddo. I’ll be at the field at 4:45 sharp.”

Kent whirled around, grinning. “You have band snack duty today?”

“Yes, I do. Juice boxes and graham crackers are already loaded in the truck.”

His face fell and he looked to his mom. “He’s kidding, right? Mom, please tell me he’s kidding.”

Jo Tanner turned away and buried her face in the towel she was folding to muffle her giggles.

Kent turned back to his father. “C’mon, dad. We’re not kinder-…”

“Bottled water, turkey jerky, Zone bars, and trail mix.”

His grin returned. “Turkey jerky and Zone bars? I’ll be the most popular kid in band.”

Wes folded his arms across his broad chest. “Wouldn’t that make me the most popular band dad, or cool… sweet, or whatever you guys call awesome?”

Kent walked over at fist-bumped with his father. “You’re all those things already, dad and more.”

Wes beamed at the compliment but before he could respond, they were both distracted by Jack calling from the driveway.

“K-man, let’s do this!”

Hiking his backpack up onto his back, Kent bolted for the door, stopping to kiss Jo’s cheek on the way.

“Bye, mom. Cya’ after band practice, dad… with turkey jerky!”

He could hear his parents laughter as he ran down the driveway to catch up with Jack when Wes called after him. “Make me proud on that English quiz!”

Kent Tanner averted his eyes from the bathroom mirror.

His dad never knew about the B+ Kent received on his English quiz and he never arrived at the football field with band snacks. By 4:45 that afternoon, Kent and Jack sat huddled together on their grandmother’s back porch, numb after learning their father was gone.

Staring again into his own eyes, Kent’s lips twitched as Wes Tanner wisdom invaded his thoughts.

“Kiddo, bad days are a part of life, but any day you live through is a good day and goes in the win column.”

He smiled despite the pain and irony of his father’s words. He wasn’t putting anything in the win column yet.

Kent returned to the kitchen and feasted on the shepherd’s pie. More stories about Wes were told. Some brought laughter, others brought tears.

Jo wasn’t surprised when during dessert, Kent told her about his nightmares.

“I’m so sorry you didn’t feel you could come to me sooner.”

“It’s okay, mom. You were so… sad. I used to have two or three a night. Now, it’s just a couple of times a week.”

“Don’t let me off so easy, sweetie. We’re all sad. It’s no excuse, but I do promise to do better.”

“Okay, momma.”

“Ooooo! “Momma,” Jack quipped.

“Leave him alone, Jackson Alan.”

“Ha! Full name! You’re in trouble!”

Kent arched away from the elbow jab Jack aimed his way.

“Kent, do you want to talk about the nightmares?”

He froze, hanging his head.

“I’m sure it’s not uncommon to have bad dreams about losing a parent, honey.”

Neither Jo nor Jack could hear his mumbled response.

“What did you say?”

He raised his head, hesitant and embarrassed. “They’re not about dad.”

Jack grabbed his wrist. “But K-man, you said-“

Kent cut him off.

“I said they started after dad died. You said you understood me having nightmares about him because of the way we lost him.” He ducked his head again. “I just didn’t correct you.”

“Baby, what are the nightmares about?”

Kent didn’t respond.

“It’s okay. You don’t have to tell us.”

He spoke without raising his head.

“I wake up for school just like always. I know dad’s gone… but I can’t find you and Jackie. I go from room to room, searching and calling your names. It’s gets weirder because it’s our house, but there are so many more rooms. And I can’t open doors to leave. The more rooms I pass through, the darker and warmer it gets until I’m drenched in sweat in the darkness.” Kent looked at his mom. “I wake up screaming… and sometimes crying because I can’t find you or my way out.”

Jack set his fork down, staring at his dessert.

Jo reached over and clasped Kent’s hand.

“You said you don’t have the nightmares as often, but you do still have them, right?”


“I’m glad you told me, Kent, but I can’t explain them. What if I call Dr. Riley tomorrow and get a referral for counseling? Talking to someone who has knowledge about these things might help.”

Kent remained silent until Jack touched his arm.

“I’ll go too, K-man.”

Turning to his brother, Kent saw the love and concern siblings of a certain age dance around, but at that moment Wesley Kent Tanner knew nothing would ever come between him and his brother.

“Okay, mom, do it. I’ve got nothing to lose at this point,” he glanced back at Jack, “and everything to gain.”

JoAnna Tanner leaped from her seat, rushing to the other side of the table to hug the two boys. “I love you both madly, and we’re going to be okay.”

After exchanging man-hugs with Kent, Jack decided things were getting too mushy for him, and excused himself to take his evening run.

Kent helped Jo clean the kitchen while she quizzed him on biology terms and international capital cities.

Jack returned and after a shower, the family settled in for another Wes Tanner-favorite, the movie Spaceballs.

Jo shooed them off to bed when the movie ended, and Jack had said, “May the Schwartz be with you” one time too many.

The brothers made their way down the hall to their rooms, engaged in a duel with invisible light sabers.

Jack dropped his arms to his side and Kent moved in for the kill with a run-through.

“Hey. What gives? You gave me that one.”

Jack rested his hands on his hips Forrest Gump-style.

“K-man, I just thought of something.”

“You want me to alert the media?”

Kent laughed at his own snark, but Jack silenced him by holding up his hand.

“We know mom is out of Aunt Pearl’s good graces, but dude… what if she cuts us out of her will too?”

Frowning, Kent was about to lash out, but Jack waggled his eyebrows then moonwalked through his bedroom door.

Kent guffawed at Jack’s antics and stumbled through his own bedroom door, grateful again for his older brother.

So used to a sense of anxiousness when he entered his room every night, Kent Tanner took notice of its absence.

Pete Michaels was right.

An open conversation with his family had alleviated much of his fears. Talking with a family therapist… and time could only help take him the rest of the way.

Stripping out of his clothes, Kent pulled on a pair of flannel lounge pants and went to his dresser.

Opening the drawer, he pulled the threadbare Crowded House band t-shirt out and slipped it on.

He’d taken it from the laundry room two days after Wes Tanner died.

Every morning, Kent would open the drawer and stare at the shirt, missing his dad.

But now it was no longer a remnant of what he lost, but a reminder of who he was.

He switched off his light and crawled into bed.

His gaze went to the glow-in-the-dark night light next to his bed. Its luminance appeared brighter than usual, almost harsh. Kent considered it for a moment and decided not to drop the light into a drawer.

He wasn’t ready for that.

He hoped the nightmares didn’t come, but if they did, he would deal with them… and tell someone.

He wasn’t alone and never had been, he understood that much. Until the rest was sorted out, the night light would be his comfort instead of his protector.

Kent snuggled deep into his bed and sleep came with ease to his exhausted mind.

His last thoughts were to thank Pete for his kind words… and that he would try out for the basketball team.

Part 1    |  Part II   |  Part III  |


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