The first page of this came to me when I was thinking up a story starter for someone, and I couldn't get it out of my head, so I'm going to keep going with it…I think it's probably a short story. If anyone's reading 'sir rong', I'm probably going to keep going with that, but I need a break from it for a bit. Do review, even if you hate it…I'm never going to be a better writer if no one tells me what I'm doing wrong.

….

'Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the presence of fear, and yet the will to go on.'

It kinda bugs me how popular that saying is. Maybe it's 'cause there are so many good opportunities in clichéd movies to use it, and maybe it's 'cause it sounds really good, and, I guess, romantic or something. Maybe it just makes people sound tough. Whatever. It's used in a lot of movies and a lot of bad books.

But it's funny, cause I'll bet it wouldn't have caught on so well if the movies put it the same way my dad did.

He said, "You wanna know what it means to be brave? Here it is. Courage is when you're scared shitless, and you can't get a thought in, but for whatever reason, you finish what you started. It's a good dose of stupidity, together with a hell of a stubborn personality. And," and here he grinned, "it's being a damned good actor. It's the ability to be scared shitless and pretend to be laughing."

That's what he said, and even if it didn't sound romantic, it made sense, and it was true. At least, it was true for him.

He said it after I asked him how he could act the way he did, with things the way they were. If it wasn't taking being brave too far. I was half crying when I asked him, but he was laughing when he answered. He was laughing in a way that was awfully familiar, him being my father, but also awfully strange, because his laugh didn't sound like laughing, really, but more like misery.

He said it with a wry half-smile, and his fist clenched on the arms of his chair.

He said it about dying.

It takes a long time to get balanced when something throws you off. Not only that. It takes a long time to even get up, and when you finally do, you find you've got to learn to balance all over again, because something's changed, and it won't go back. And even when you think you're balanced, later, it's easier to get thrown down, because you're never really as stable as you were before.

I've been ok with the balancing, I think, but sometimes stuff happens that makes me wobble. And sometimes, if I wobble too much, I fall again.

It's the wobbling that bothers me the most, because it shows me that things really have changed, and I know they won't be the same again. Not for a long time anyway, and maybe not even then.

I wasn't best buddies with my dad; not like some of the guys I know. And I didn't do any of that stuff like baseball and fishing, so don't even think it. If you're trying to picture my dad with a mitt on his hand, hollering instructions to me across a field, you can forget it. My dad didn't play, and neither did I. And he didn't sit there and tell 'old days' stories either, to pass on wisdom or something. That bit about being brave was different. He wasn't like that, not really.

If we'd been real close, I think it might have been different, because maybe those last few months might have been easier. Like maybe we could have had some talks or something. But he mostly just sat on the porch and sipped his beer, staring off past my head at something I couldn't see.

I tried to sit with him for a bit, but he wasn't really there, so I gave up. I didn't just give up on him, you know. I tried to talk to him, and he would, but it wasn't because he wanted to. He'd have been happier trying to forget about it.

I don't think he talked to my mom about it much either, but who could blame him? She was crying all the time anyway, and it bugged him. He'd look at me with this weird expression and say, "Does she think I'm already dead?"

But he never said it when she could hear.

We weren't always so great at advertising, but he did love us, my dad, and we loved him. And if he didn't want to talk, well fine. It was his choice, after all.

But, in a funny way, we were the ones who had to live with it.

And then the next few months went by, and after that, the black place. That's the part I don't remember so well, except for the sick feelings, and the strangeness in my head, like something was missing.

Then, after the black place, that lasted forever, I had to get up. When I'd figured myself out later, I got it straight that the missing thing wasn't inside my head; it was Dad. And I'd best give up on finding it again, because it was pretty permanently gone.

But after that, I was mostly all right. Not always, mind you, but mostly.

Except for the wobbles.

That's what Sophia Triggs was; a wobble.