Andrew eyed the soccer goal his father had built for him near the fence. Twelve yards away. Penalty kick distance. He readied himself to take the shot. Imagined a keeper jumping up and down on the goal line and waving his arms. He drew his leg back.
“Hey, Andrew!” his father yelled.
The ball soared over the goal. It splashed down in the neighbor’s pool.
“Language, kiddo.” Dad was leaning out the bathroom window.
“Sorry. What is it?” Andrew huffed.
“Come help me fix the crapper.”
“But Dad, tryouts are Monday!” His first bite at the varsity apple.
“And you’ll do great. Right now, come help your old man.” He shut the window and Andrew went inside.
The “old man” was forty-five and wore his hair in a ponytail that embarrassed Andrew no end when they were in public. A faded Captain America T-shirt stretched over his paunch. He held up a flush valve kit for the toilet. Mom had been complaining about it running all week.
“I thought we’d put this in together.”
“Don’t sound so enthusiastic.” Dad winked at him. He opened the kit and pointed at the toilet with the new fill valve. “First step. Turn off the water to the toilet and flush it to empty the tank.” Dad walked him through it. Take the lid off the toilet tank, sop up the remaining water, remove the old valve kit, and put in the new one. Then hook the toilet back up, turn it on, test for leaks.
“There! Good as new,” Dad said.
“Why didn’t you, like, call a plumber?” Andrew asked.
“How much you make, like, mowing lawns?”
Andrew scowled. What did mowing lawns have to do with the toilet?
“I don’t follow,” he said.
“Per lawn. How much you charge people?”
“Twenty dollars. You know that.”
“A plumber’s gonna charge eighty for this. You want to mow four lawns to pay for something you can do yourself in fifteen minutes?”
He peered at his father for a moment. Dad grinned back at him.
“Why am I suddenly responsible for home repairs,” Andrew asked.
Dad clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re not, Mister Smart-Aleck. But you’ll have a house of your own someday. And maybe you’ll be such a big soccer star that you don’t care about eighty bucks. Maybe. Maybe not. This is easy, and now you know how to do it.”
It would be a decade later, and a month after Dad’s funeral, before Andrew understood what his father had really been telling him.