Sunday, November 18, 2012


(from Quick Fiction 12, October 2007)

We warned him that if he didn’t stop being such a mean, tyrannical, egomaniacal, bullying bastard that everyone would eventually leave him. And we were right.

Still, we were shocked when we left and he showed no remorse. This was the mistake we always made with our father. We kept expecting decency would at some point kick in.

He has not noticed we are gone.

Now we live in the trees and look down on him. We are not hidden but he does not see us. His notice of us has always been intermittent—it is in this space that we live, the gap of his inattention, the time between rages.

We watch him keep busy. He builds things with the help of neighbor children he grabs off the street. So far he is building a sauna, a boat house, a chicken coop, and an observatory. We can see into all of them and we watch the fresh yellow wood turn gray. He never gets as far as the roof. He forgets, begins another project, loses his workers. These neighbor children are resourceful. They chew off their hands and escape. Our
tears fall on them from the trees as they stagger away.

He is building a fence. His lawyers scuttle back and forth, huddling and pecking about like hens. They’ve eaten everything in sight: the chives, the popcorn garlands, even the forsythia. Our father steps into the gutted yard and shouts, “All of this is mine!”  The lawyers bob and cluck.

He sits in the yard and writes letters to the newspaper. White paper covers the ground around him. “Discipline is what’s lacking in America! Responsibility! Respect!” He waits for respect like a package lost in the mail that will one day arrive for him, a tremendous wave building elsewhere in the world that will at last rain down on him. Respect! Crash!

The letters languish in the yard. There is no one to mail them for him.  The rain comes and ink washes away into the ground. Nothing grows.

At the end of the day the yard is entirely silent. This is it, we think. Now he will notice we are gone. He does not. He looks around and declares that what he needs is a new lady friend.

Despite the failings of his previous women, our father continues to be a great believer in romantic love. He continues to oil his hair and wear cologne and every day he walks the perimeter of the yard to meet eligible women who have been caught in the leg traps. We hear him complain that he is unappreciated. Disrespected. Nobody pays attention to him.

We watch him day and night, even when he seems to sleep. Our trees begin in his yard. He loves his ax. So far he has not noticed us, which is the same as safety.

Many nights we watch our father gazing upward, past us, at the stars.  He loves the stars. He calls their names, Orion, Deneb, Antares, as if they were dogs. They do not come. They are far enough away, we hope, that they will not be harmed. 

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