A Father’s Quest to Save His Son in Trevor J. Houser’s New Book

Trevor J. Houser


AFTER MY SON’S last surgery, we thought he’d gone blind. “A complication,” said the doctors. Anyway, he couldn’t see, so I handed him a Hot Wheels car and we both played Hot Wheels on his hospital bed, using the creases and folds like jumping ramps.

He kept blinking and trying to see and making the sounds of a car jumping over massive canyons of stiff blue cotton that said, “St. Luke’s.” My wife was crying, piled up somewhere near the air conditioner. I think maybe there was a nurse. It was nighttime outside in New York City. The window was cracked to let in the fresh air. You could hear taxi cabs and a bar playing jazz somewhere. It was late summer. My son had suction cups and wires sticking out all over him like a billboard for death. He probably wasn’t even the sickest person in this hospital, I thought, as we jumped our cars from one of his little knees to mine. Other children might’ve actually died in there that day. Their tiny hearts and lungs failed somewhere windowless and cold, and never got to play Hot Wheels one last time with their father, hearing faraway jazz on a summer evening.

After a couple hours, my son began to regain his eyesight, but I remember thinking at the time he might be blind for life. He just kept playing cars, though, so I did, too.

He reminds me of myself in a lot of ways, although I come from a heart-diseased people.

In the winter of 1980, my grandfather died of a heart attack and I ran away from home with three cans of tomato soup. I lived in a thatch of bamboo in the neighbor’s yard. A few hours later my parents found me and took me home. They fed me some of the tomato soup with saltine crackers and a chocolate square for dessert.

“How do you feel now?” they asked.

“Good,” I lied, feeling hollow, and thinking about death more than ever.

As my father got ready for work the next morning, I alerted him to the presence of a six-foot albino witch who, at the time, I was certain lived on a branch outside my bedroom window.

“She wants to pull my guts out,” I told him.

“Oh yeah,” my father said, shaving in his black socks and tighty-whities.  “What’s the old gal’s name?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but I think she wants to eat my guts while I’m still alive.”

“It’s alright kiddo.” He patted my head. “No more scary movies for awhile, OK?”

He went back to shaving. He owned a private security company and years later also died of heart failure while looking at magazines in the Denver airport.

While he shaved, I went inside a closet behind some old smelly coats and cried. I was crying because one day my father would be in the ground with grandpa, and the albino witch would be eating my guts while I was still alive. Once I even tried talking to grandpa through the floor heater, but he couldn’t hear me because of all the dirt in his ears. Then I got older and worried more about the imperviousness of bra straps which begat mortgages which begat interventional radiologists on 99th and Madison.

I didn’t have time for six-foot albino witches and speaking to the dead.




WHEN I WAS nine, I went camping with my father near Mt. Hood. One evening while getting fresh Cherry Cokes from a nearby mountain stream, he saw a bald eagle preening atop a halfcarbonized tree.

“F**k bald eagles,” my father said.

I laughed.

“F**k bald eagles,” he said, gathering up the Cokes and karate kicking a tree, feeling excited about using the word “f**k” in front of his son.

Later my father put on a gray sweater. We ate chili by a fire. We talked about baseball. My father smiled. He was growing a beard. One day he would be smiling in the Denver Airport of Death, but today he was smiling under normal non-death conditions; breathing without making fearful choking faces, with his bowl of chili, and his facial hair, that together signified peerless health and stability or something like stability.

My father’s stability made me proud. I wanted to be like him and Steve McQueen from Bullit. I wanted to wear dark blue turtlenecks and give a hard-ass look at some D.A. who was trying to screw me over and just walk away, even though I could probably knock him out with one punch if I wanted. My life should be like that, my nine-year old self thought. Eat fresh fruit off of beautiful women. Write long, thoughtful letters to my mother. Drive sports cars in the dazzling sunlight of Monaco, laughing.



This is an excerpt from Pacific by Trevor J. Houser. It’s printed here with permission.


Highbrow Magazine


Image Sources:

--Unsolicited Press

--Vidal Balielo Jr. (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--Mehmet Ali Gokci (Pexels, Creative Commons)


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