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Page Turner Challenge: Picks

Optimist Road by MJ Snyder

The last time I saw my old man, his knuckles were bloody, his face spattered with red freckles. Blood on his mouth too, thanks to my one good punch. His eyes were empty, the pupils black holes. I remember thinking He’s going to kill me. This time, he’s going to kill me. 

When I came to, hours later, he was gone. I never saw him again. A couple years later, two Mounties showed up to tell me he’d picked a fight in a roadside bar and got himself killed. Idaho. Somewhere down in Idaho, six hundred miles from home. 

I’m afraid we have some bad news, son. Your stepfather’s dead. We’re very sorry for your loss.

And I laughed. Man, I laughed.

It probably looked like shock, but it was relief, plain and simple. I’d been looking over my shoulder for so long, waiting, worrying - but it was finally over. 

Nine years later, Cliff Harper was back.

At six AM, the Ident squad room was sleepy. I was digging through my In basket, hoping to lay claim to an interesting case, when I spotted the photo in the M.E.'s press release. Unable to ID some old remains, they’d done a facial reconstruction and were requesting our help.

It was him. One look at that face, and I knew. 

Nine years ago, nobody stood to gain if Cliff Harper died, but one person would have lost everything if he’d lived. Still would, if those remains were identified.

That would be me.

MJ Snyder is from Fort McMurray, AB   

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