Title: Driving to Montauk
Category: Pre-XF, Angst (Doggett)
Summary: Doggett remembers an unusual conversation with his son, Luke.
"Which way are we going, Daddy?" the little tow-haired boy asked enthusiastically.
"We're going East, Luke, toward Grandma's house." His father looked briefly at the child in the passenger seat and smiled kindly. "Remember, it's Grandma's birthday today."
"Oh yeah," Luke said with some embarrassment. "Grandma lives East."
"That's right. She lives further out on Long Island than we do."
"Does great-grandma live East too?" Luke questioned.
John Doggett sighed. It was going to be a long drive. "Great-grandma isn't alive anymore, Luke. She doesn't live anywhere."
"Oh..." Luke's brow knit thoughtfully, his forehead wrinkling up in the same way his father's often did. "Did she used to live East?"
"No, Luke, she used to live in Queens. That's West of here."
Luke turned and put his face between the seats, peering through the rear window. "Back there?"
"Yes, Luke," John said patiently. "That's where she used to live."
"If we turn around can we go visit her?"
"No, we visit her at the cemetary now." He pulled the car to a stop at a red light and looked gently into his son's face. "Great grandma is in the cemetary in Queens. We can visit her, but it's not the same as visiting Grandma. Great Grandma is in the ground because she's not alive anymore. We put her in the ground because she died."
"Oh," Luke answered in confusion. "So West is in the ground?"
John couldn't help smiling. "West and East are like right and left, Luke. They aren't places."
"Oh," Luke said again, still not understanding.
The light turned green and a horn honked behind them. "Luke, Queens is a place and it's west of here. The ground is a place, and it's under us all the time."
"I'm glad we're going East," Luke answered. "I don't want to go under the ground."
John sighed and wondered if he should keep trying to explain. In his peripheral vision he could see Luke turning in every direction, peering out of each window. "What are you looking for, Luke?"
"East. What does it look like?"
John laughed. "It doesn't look like anything. But if you look ahead you'll see it." He wondered if he could explain without becoming philosphical. "See? it's a direction, like right and left, up and down. You can keep going and going and going and always be going East and never get there, because it isn't a place."
"Then that's where I want to go," Luke resolved.
"We *are* going there," his father answered, frustration creeping into his voice. They stopped at another light, and he looked into his son's face. "Luke? What's wrong?" Luke's eyes were big and round, and his lips were quivering.
"Are we going to die?" he asked.
"No, of course not! We're going to Grandma's."
"I don't ever want to die and go in the ground, Daddy," Luke said, his voice trembling. "I want to go East and keep going and going and going and never be in the ground in Queens."
His son's sweet confusion pulled at John Doggett's Adam's apple. "Okay, Luke. East it is. But first before you die, we're going to Grandma's for birthday cake. Isn't that better?"
"I want to go East and East and East and never stop."
"Well, Luke, if we do that we'll come to Montauk Point, then there's the ocean and we can't drive on the ocean."
"I don't care," Luke crossed his arms in petulant defiance. "I want to go to Montauk and keep going forever."
"Okay, Luke," his father capitulated. "Someday we'll go to Montauk at least, but first we go to Grandma's for birthday cake."
Luke remained silent for the next several minutes until they arrived at the Doggett family home, smiling faces and open arms greeting them gleefully. At the sight of his favorite cousins, Luke's demeanor brightened, and he forgot all about East and West, life and death. His father looked on as the little boy with the profound thoughts ran to the backyard where he'd played so many games with his own cousins. Luke was so much like him, yet so different. He couldn't remember ever having a conversation like this one with his father.
Years later, John Doggett let his fingers graze over his son's name, engraved on a wooden box. But despite training his fingers on the name, he couldn't help staring at the dates beneath it. Blurred by his tears, the two dates, dates that occurred far too close together, were no less clear in his mind than the day they were etched. It was time, he thought. It was finally time to let Luke go, to let him go East and never stop.
A few hours later, he watched as the remains of the curious little boy blew Eastward from Montauk Point, never to end their journey, freed forever from the etched container that had restrained them. He closed the box, sealing inside forever the emptiness left behind by a departing soul, and handed it to his ex-wife. He had held on long enough.