This Is Daddy’s Last Check and I Deserve It

"The Winner Is," flash fiction by Elaine Crauder

This Is Daddy’s Last Check and I Deserve It

The Winner Is

The bank closes in fifteen minutes and this check has to go in and clear before Daddy ends his hospice stay. Dies. I grab my purse and keys, and dash out.

My sister could have helped change a diaper or two. Instead, she stayed across the country and didn’t take off a single day of work. Her choice. Said she’d lose her job. Maybe so, but I had to quit mine at the fulfillment center.

That job wasn’t my idea of fulfilling but I got a sweet $500 Covid signing bonus. My classmate, Pammie, was smart to start at the center the day after we graduated high school. In two years, Pammie got promoted to supervisor. Her benefits include a double discount on pet supplies. If I got that, might get myself a dog.

If I’d have stayed on the job for six months I’d have gotten benefits, including dental. My molar kept me up last night more than Daddy did. I had it checked a couple of weeks ago and the dentist decided I needed a crown and, after I jumped when he scraped around back there, he unearthed a rotten tooth. A crown and a root canal together come to thirty-five hundred bucks. The receptionist said if I had insurance it would total just two hundred and fifty.

I’ve been using clove oil to take away the pain. Each application buys me two days almost pain-free, if I remember to keep away from soda and popcorn.

Seeing as I was the one looking out for Daddy, I was, also, the one to uncover his hidden checkbook, where he tucked that one-time shocker of a lottery win into his account. Daddy’d crowed to my sister and me that he won, but I never believed him. Guess my sister didn’t, either. When this check clears, she gets nothing, nada, zilcho.

I’m gripping the steering wheel going thirty-five in a twenty-five zone and my faded Neon shimmies right, then left. The sides are dented and rusted. New designs sprout overnight on the body, like poor snowflake cousins. I press the pedal to the floor and get up to thirty-eight. For once, the traffic lights don’t know I’m in a rush and go to green, green, and green again.

I sprint across the steaming bank parking lot and spot ancient Libby, quick-stepping her varicose veins across the blacktop in worn sandals. I’ve been avoiding her for two weeks and it’s like her to catch me with minutes to spare, Daddy propped up on a hospital bed in the living room, and a check practically sizzling in my purse.

Libby catches her breath and says, “How’s your daddy doing?”

She looks like her future depends on my answer. I say, “It’s hard,” and keep on walking to the bank’s door.

“Honey,” Libby says, shuffling to catch up, “I heard he’s not going to make it.” She’s had a crush on Daddy since elementary school.

It’s all I can do not to cry. Maybe I got him to write this check though he might not have been 100% sure what he was doing, but I will miss him. I shrug and shake my head, which Libby interprets as he’s already gone. I turn away as best I can without being rude. “Not yet. Daddy’s almost gone. Now I’ve got to do this one last thing—for him.”

“You’re the best daughter. I wish my Pammie were more like you.” A cascade of brown freckles jiggle white cellulite while Libby pats my arm with full-on sympathy. “She’s so focused on her job I hardly see her.”

My cheeks flush, shifting from slight summer tan to embarrassed, hot crimson, which I choose to disregard. Though she’s a supervisor, Pammie’s stuck working twelve-hour days and must have protected her mom from the knowledge: If she asks for relief she’ll simply be cut. My face still radiating heat, I duck into the bank.

The teller raises a plucked eyebrow, evaluating my deposit-worthiness across the plastic shield. “Nice check,” she says.

“For sure."

“It’ll take two-to-five business days to fully clear. You knew that, right?”

“They always do,” I reply to deflect any suspicion that I don’t know how a gigantic ten thousand dollar deposit works, and to hide my sore disappointment.

Before I leave the parking lot I figure out the date of five working days from now,  and dial. The dentist’s receptionist picks up on the first ring and fits me in. I accelerate out and make a second call. “Keep breathing, Daddy. I’m on my way.”

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