“Sir, Harry’s body has not been found!”
Mang Jun was glad to see Tom visiting. He always liked the intelligent and responsible young man keeping Harry company.
“What’s that again?” he asked, trying to figure out if what he heard was correct.
“He is still missing, sir.”
The old man laughed which made Tom uncomfortable. He did not want to think that a father could be overjoyed of his son’s possible demise.
“He was here an hour ago, drenched if I may say. I did not talk to him, you know. We had a spat before he left yesterday morning.”
Tom was not sure if he could share the old man’s merry mood until he actually talked to Harry in person.
“You said an hour ago. Where is he now?”
“You know, Harry, how secretive he is, especially with me,” Mang Jun admitted, “he left without a word. I believe he’ll go to your school to clear everything.”
There was something wrong. Tom could not point out the inconsistencies because what he heard was inconsistent with reality.
“Did you actually see him?”
Mang Jun quickly interpreted Tom’s raised eyebrows, the young man’s doubts sounded distinctly suspicious with his query’s tone.
“Are you implying it was not him I saw, that it was a spirit?”
“Can we check his room, please?” Tom suggested. “Maybe we could check his wet clothes.”
Mang Jun looked exasperated but to quell any talk about ghostly apparitions, he turned around and led Tom to his son’s room.
“There!” the old man exclaimed. “Wet clothes.”
“That’s not what he wore during the trip, sir,” Tom revealed, his confusion now complete.
“I saw what I saw,” Mang Jun reiterated. “Maybe he had another change when he got here.”
“Sir, the coast guard recovered his shirt, ripped and bloodied.”
“This discussion is getting us nowhere,” the old man said, definitely tired of a non-issue if he was to be asked. “When Harry comes back, we will talk. I will ask for forgiveness for all the things I’ve done to him. We will begin again from scratch.”
“Harry would love that, sir,” Tom agreed. It was indeed a good sign that the animosities between them would be settled once and for all. “Harry told me often how he loves you so much.”
Mang Jun bowed his head, a silent recognition that almost everything bad that happened was his fault. Blaming others for his shortcomings as husband and father ceased when he realized he almost destroyed his son’s life.
“I know Harry will forgive me. He is a great son even though I was a detestable father.”
“He did not think of you that way, sir. He always feel you are in pain, emotionally in pain. He understood completely, sir.”
Before Mang Jun could add how regretful he was, Tom’s cellular phone rang.
“This is the number of the liaison officer. Excuse me, sir. I need to take this call.”
The old man nodded, still collecting his thoughts on how to patch things up with his son.
“Do you have good news, Ma’m?” Tom asked, trying to lower his voice further.
“I am sorry. It’s bad. We found a body a few minutes ago.”
Tom held the phone so tight it could break. He did not have the courage to relay the news to a hopeful father.
“Is it him?”
“Can you fetch his father to identify the body?”
“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t!”
Note: There is an alternate ending to this short story, something less darker.