Creative Nonfiction: I love them all by Al Kratz

Photo by Charles Ducroux: Permission given by the artist. 

My dad can only come to me in my dreams now, but when he does, he comes in versions. I get Real Dad and Fake Dad, and they both are my favorite. 

Fake Dad likes to sit in the background, on a park bench, pretending silly things like he doesn’t know me or he’s not really there. Maybe he thinks I won’t notice him there, but Fake Dad is an extra I always know is a star. 

I can make him real. 

He asks me questions like have I remembered to do the things I’m supposed to do. 

He brings lucidity, and I play a game called Guess the Dad. There’s a little different shine, a little more reality to the illusion, but it’s also trickier than it seems, and some nights I’m not even sure which me is the real one and which is the fake—so, we are generous with our passes around here. 

Some nights I get to put my head down on his chest, still larger than the outside world, still too safe a place to ever be faked.

People ask me what was it like, being a preacher’s son? I used to answer that where Dad might put the resurrection in a sermon to save people’s souls, I might drop it in a poem to try and get laid.  

He was always more successful than me. 

My favorite thing behind Fake Dad is an imaginary conversation so easy to hear now you could convince me it really happened, with him arguing it would be wrong to lessen the value of Fake Dad, it would be wrong to miss the gift, wrong to ever underestimate love. 

These mistakes would be the tragedy—the rest of this is nothing. 

Some nights I am so sure we are the fake ones, and then he leans in close, taps a gentle hand on my shoulders, and says, it’s time to wake up, Bud.  

Al Kratz is a writer from Des Moines, Iowa. His recent work has been in Ruby, Janus Literary, Bending Genres, and Bull. More about his writing can be found at

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