A Father In Disguise
This is from a short story called “The Names and Faces of Heroes”, published in 1963 by the late novelist Reynolds Price.
The narrator is a young boy. His father has come to the front door in disguise, to play a trick on the family. At the moment this part of the narrative begins, everyone except for the small boy has recognized the father. In fact the boy fears the mysterious stranger has come to take him away. It’s helpful to know that the father calls his boy by the nickname ‘Preacher’…
“The man walked in right past and slowly stopped six feet from me, holding out his hand to take – he and I the two in the room not laughing. So I knew he had come for me, that I was his and would have to go…I could not take his hand just then, and not for terror. I was not really afraid but suddenly sorry to leave people who had been good to me, the house which I knew. That was what locked me there. I must have stood half a minute that way, and I must have looked worse and worse because my mother said “Look at his eyes” and pointed me towards the man’s face. I looked and at once they were what they had been all along – Jeff McCraw’s eyes, the size and color of used nickels, gentle beyond disguising. I said to him then fast and high, “I thought you were my real father and had come to get me”. He took off his derby and the old glasses and said “I am Preacher. I have, Preacher,” and I ran to circle his thighs with my arms, to hide my tears in the hollow beneath the black overcoat. And I did hide them. When I looked up, everybody thought I had loved the joke like them. But I had not. I had loved my father found at the end with his hand stretched out. But I had hoped not to find him again that way under glass and powder, mumbling, so when he came into my bedroom to kiss me that night, I asked would he do me a favor. He said “What?” and I said “Please warn me before you dress up ever again”. He said he would and then my mother walked in and hearing us said, “You will not need warning. Just stare at his eyes first thing. He cannot hide those”.