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America's Favorite

Grab a bowl of Jello and throw on your favorite ugly sweater.

This week, we've got a special visit to the Gutter.

America's Favorite by Hector Duarte Jr.

African-Americans. Fuck it, black families started being taken seriously because of me. I was the alternative. Compared to what? A junk yard owner and his son nailing stereotypes into the civil rights coffin every week. What happened to Sanford after that? Dead of a heart attack like his TV character always predicted he would. They had nothing on me as they watched me slowly inch my way up to that sacred 8 o’clock time slot. A black doctor and his lawyer wife living in a New York brownstone dominating prime time slots while yuppies were at the peak of their Babylonian excess. Top jazz musicians were always on the horn asking for a part. I was on all the magazine covers. My sweaters sold like mad on holidays. During a time when family values were careening down the shitter, everyone wanted a father like the one I played on TV.              

Things change like a motherfucker, though, and quick. The show tanked cos people started looking for a different image of a father. One to match up with their real-life shitty ones. No one wanted the squeaky clean black doctor anymore. Even those who’d given me an Image Award just two years earlier. They said they couldn’t relate. All the hip-hoppers came out of the woodwork to go on and on about how pops was never given an opportunity by white America to even try and become a doctor; same for Mama. Change the fucking record was always my response, but who wants to hear that from America’s once most-favorite dad?

Then everyone started giving me shit when I decided to plug one of the country’s favorite desserts. What do you want from me? It was America’s favorite dessert; America’s favorite father. Simple enough, right? Wrong. People baffle me. Soon as anyone—even America’s favorite dad—falls flat on his face, everyone just points and laughs. Shitty movies followed, even a shitty detective series. Man, all I wanted was a sliver that life on top again. Nobody wanted me, though. Next time I was on the TV screen, it was after my son was killed helping a woman repair a flat tire on the roadside. Everyone had a fucking opinion about that. What was he doing helping a random woman on the side of the road that time of night? Was it a random woman? Things like that don’t just happen randomly. There has to be something more. Yes, things happen randomly. My son was stabbed on the side of the road by a delusional derelict who thought my son had risen from the underworld to kidnap unsaved souls.

I wrote some op-ed pieces asking people to stop resorting to arguments about the white American conspiracy against them. I was looking for them to become such a powerful force that white people would have to invent conspiracy theories about them. Everyone thought I was old. Mid-seventies at that point, it was easy for them to blame senility and dementia. Like a God damn racing horse, there was no more of me to give. Society’s gun pressed to my temple, I was ready to go gentle into that good night.

There’s no rest for the wicked, though. Some girl; a grandmother now, takes to all the big news outlets about how I was supposed to have done some shit to her more than thirty years ago. I mean, how the hell am I supposed to remember what happened thirty years ago? Of course I fucked around. All of us did. America’s favorite dad doesn’t come without its perks. Drugs? It’s insulting anyone would think someone like me would resort to drugs to get women. Now everyone stands by and awaits the second fall of America’s favorite dad. Why? You need to prove to yourselves your own father might not be the worst out there. So I’m the one who takes the axe. Like your father was supposed to commit to doing soon as you first stared into his eyes. Where is he, then? Which direction do you point your finger to lay the blame on him? None, because you have no idea where he is. Here I am. Easy to spot. Easy to point at. So, go ahead. Point. That’s why I’m still here: reliable and ever-present, ready to take the punch, absorb the black eye. America’s favorite dad.

I’m still here. So, tell me: where is he?

Hector Duarte Jr. is a writer out of Miami, Florida. To keep himself financially stable, he teaches English to seventh graders. To keep himself mentally stable, he reads, and writes as many stories as he can. His work has appeared in Bewildering Stories, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Sliver of Stone, Foliate Oak, Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Rockwell’s Camera Phone, Near to the Knuckle, Shadows and Light: An Anthology to Benefit Women’s Aid UK, and The Whimsical Project. He has presented papers at The Crime Fiction Here and There and Again Conference in Gdansk, Poland; the Captivating Criminality 2 Conference in Corsham, England, and Therorizing the Popular at Liverpool’s Hope University. He loves his cat, Felina, very much.