Moments between Chase Hunter and his father.

***

“Dad!”

Chase’s father barely had time to say “Hello there, champ!” before the otter collided with his dad, nuzzling deep in his embrace.

“How was school today?” the older otter asked, stroking his son’s face gently.

“It was okay. Leo met two other kids, Sydney and Flynn, and we got to hang out!”

“Wait, Flynn like Flynn Moore?” the older otter asked, “As in the gila?”

“Yeah I guess” Chase replied sheepishly.

“So you’re hanging out with the mayor’s nephew” Chase’s father said in a playful deviousness, “though isn’t he a bit old? Like 13 I think?”

“Yeah, and he’s awesome! He swears, he rides a bike, he’s so cool!” Chase said.

“Mm, alright, but if he does anything weird tell me, okay?”

“Daaad, he’s not like Clint or Jeremy, he’s cool!” Chase pouted.

“Alright alright” the older Hunter said, raising his hands, “If you say so I believe you.”

Chase smiled triumphantly, then had a realisation.

“Oh, he and Sydney are hanging out at Carl’s place! Can I go dad?”

“Okay, but only if you paint the fence a little.”

“Daaaad!” Chase whined, then pouted.

“C’mon Chase, just a little, it’s getting a bit dry. I’ll help ya!”

Chase muttered an “I guess” while his father went to grab the paint can and roller. He sat down near the entrance, and motioned to the opposite side.

“I take this side and you take the other, okay?”

“So you can run off inside and leave me to do the rest” Chase huffed and puffed.

“Maybe” his father stuck out his tongue playfully.

Chase began to turn around when his father picked him up gently and began to tickle him.

“And where do you think you’re going?” he said.

“Okay dad!” Chase giggled, pushing his father’s paws away.

As he began, his father dripped a little paint on his son’s tail, and a paint war soon began. Both otters splashed white paint at each other, careful to avoid each other’s faces, but doing a real piece of work to their clothes, heavy and soon almost cemented. In the end little of the actual fence was repainted, but the older otter decided to let this one slide, and laid down on the ground as his son run off to play with the other kids.

***

“Chase?” his father asked, not finding his son in the house.

He eventually found him outside, the air cold and dry in Echo’s morning, painting the fence. He looked every bit as dead inside as yesterday, and a few hiccups and dried tears made it clear he hadn’t stopped crying.

“Oh Chase” the older otter said, running up to sit beside his son “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.”

He laid a paw on Chase’s shoulder, which felt absurdly cold. This prompted the younger otter to look at him, wiping away nascent tears and giving a small forced smile.

“It’s okay dad” he said, a hint of guilt in his voice.

His father said nothing, simply pulling him into a hug. Chase remained stunned for a while, before slowly returning it and crying into his father’s chest.

***

“Dad!” Chase protested.

“Paint the damn fence, Chase” his father said, fingers on his own brow as if his subdued rage was a strained effort.

Chase considered for a moment just ignoring him, but the glare he gave him shocked and stunned him, almost forcing a whimper out of his mouth. He wasn’t going to let him off this time, and for someone with no previous experience with an angry father this change was beyond terrifying.

Perhaps in an earlier time he could see past what could be — or was it? — a bluff, but lately he felt increasingly dormant, as if any willpower was snuffed out. He simply nodded and went to work, a sense of powerlessness that was becoming the new norm.

Mr. Hunter simply stood, watching his son under the blazing sun. The heat and light were oppressive to both otters, whose shirts quickly got damp with sweat and whose fur began to bleach slightly, yet somehow they still felt cold, as if a hearth had been reduced to white and black ashes.

For the longest time he just watched, but Chase’s internal death was replaced by increasing ansiety. Tears began to form on the corner of his eyes, and his fingers began to shake. It was bubbling inside both of them, and eventually it came out:

“So fucking lazy” his father said, “You’re not even doing it right.”

Chase said nothing, trying but failing to shield his eyes from the light.

“You’re such a spoiled little brat, you know?” his father went on, the heat doing wonders to his already overwhelming frustration, “First your grades and now this. It’s like you don’t live in the real world! Do you think you can get by without working? Christ, even your major choice!”

Chase let the tears out but tried his hardest to not whimper. His dream career was apparently “a useless degree”, so he just barely fought back to get something at least vaguely in the same vein.

“It’s always video games with you, and when it isn’t it’s fuckin’ Leo. Literally! How the hell did you turn into such a lazy little f-”

Time stopped for both of them.

“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-” his father desperately apologised, but before he finished his sentence his son had regained something he thought he had lost:

The ability to walk out and shut the door.

***

“Chase…” the older otter said.

Before him stood his old house. The fence had rotted away completely, yet another part of his son lost to him.

He sat down, as he used to do so many times before. He didn’t care about ticks or glass shards, only the feeling he had when he was with his son for so many summers. Part of him wanted that those moments were longer, but he knew the source of his regret was in those moments by the blistering sun in the first place.

And for the simple failure of being a shitty father, he was left with his son’s final gift to him: regret.