family

Anteroom

20 Jul: Anteroom

“The undertone, the savage old mother incessantly crying,
To the boy’s soul’s questions sullenly timing, some drown’d
secret hissing.”

– Walt Whitman


I waited for the right time to leave,
which was not a specific time,
but how to tell? He was dying now,
so time was stuck in hell. Better
to say something than sit
like a sentry beside his bed. Better
to act as if we were home and I
was twelve again. So, I rose

Returning

19 Jul: Returning

Tucker was struck by how different Miles looked in his pictures. Time had been good to him. He was bronzed and broad-shouldered, muscular and bearded, a handsome, smiling buccaneer. Gone was the pale, waifish, gloomy boy of Tucker’s memory.  Tucker looked different, too, he knew. His hair was thinner. He was softer and flabbier, thicker around the middle. There was more flesh under his chin. He had, by his own admission, not aged as well as his friend. But he reassured himself. Looks aside, he had been pretty fortunate. He had a beautiful wife who loved him. He had sold more houses last year than any other Realtor in his company. He had financial security, a nice house on a good street, and a son on the way. By nearly every objective measure, he was doing quite well.

By the looks of his house, Miles was doing quite well, too. He lived in a large, impressive Tudor in the middle of a broad shady street lined with other large, impressive Tudors. As Tucker and his wife pulled into the driveway, Tucker estimated the house’s value. He figured it would go for about four hundred and fifty thousand if it were listed tomorrow. If he were the seller’s agent, he thought he could probably get five hundred thousand for it. He quickly calculated the commission in his head: a little over six thousand dollars after the buyer’s agent and the brokers took their shares. Not a bad haul. With that kind of paycheck, he could take a month off.

Tucker and his wife parked and got out of their car. Miles came out to greet them. Dressed in a tight gray t-shirt and form-fitting jeans, he looked even more chiseled and strapping in person than he had in his pictures. Behind him came a tall, trim man with a shaved head and dark, deep-set eyes. Tucker reached out to shake his friend’s hand. Miles ignored the hand and went right for a hug, wrapping Tucker up in his strong arms. He slapped Tucker on the back and pulled away. “Tuck,” he said. “It is so good to see you.  It’s been too long.”

The Calm

17 Jul: The Calm

Haiti was in ruin. Again.

It was one of those places outside my consciousness most of the time—couldn’t tell you anything about the local politics or even, with any precision, where to find it on a map, until it materialized on the news, the victim of earthquakes and tropical storms and hurricanes.

It was on TV. Sheets of rain, trees pulled up from their roots, homes torn asunder. “It’s coming for us, buddy,” Uncle Ron said.

After the Storm

17 Jul: After the Storm

The hurricane passed in rain and in wind that threw sand from the beach against our windows. But none of the windows ever gave and we only lost power for couple-minute spans, never for the long haul.

That next morning, the sun was shining. It was still windy, but not the kind of wind that would overturn a car or uproot a tree. The kind that would, at worst, mess up your hair, maybe pry loose one of the balloons outside the venue.

Comrade Dog

14 Jul: Comrade Dog

For a long time Tatiana allowed no one but her father to touch her. In those days there was no understanding of her strange condition: if a mother let it be known that her five-year-old daughter screamed at her smallest caress, there was a good chance the girl would be taken from her and locked up in the crumbling asylum outside Perm, indistinguishable from a gulag but for the tender age of its inmates. Other odd children had disappeared; few had returned.

Old News

14 Jul: Old News

In August of 1934, when my father packed his bags and went to bury his friend Otto, I was still too young to have any friends among the dead. Otto would have been a good friend to have, I suppose, if his keen sense of politics helped him to open any doors in the world beyond, but the sad truth was that I could barely remember his face. For obscure reasons he’d stopped coming to visit us long ago.

Demington's Dream

14 Jul: Demington’s Dream

Demington had been dreaming the dream, in one form or another, for as long as he could remember. The action was always extensive and complicated, as it usually is in dreams, but the principals were always himself and his wife, Morgan. All manner of things happened inside his personal nighttime movie: sometimes he was lost on the highway in his car, or he was about to run out of fuel, or the road was slick with ice or snow and he panicked

Across the house

12 Jul: Around the World

The phone is all the way across the house. The kitchen, the dining room, the long corridor. It didn’t used to look so long. I’ve told you this house is too big for you. Each step is so slow. Just three digits to dial, 9-1-1. And yet, it’s so far. A trip across the house like a perilous adventure. One more step. Betsy offered to stay, didn’t she? You should’ve taken her up on it. She will feel terrible if…no, no, you can’t think that. Not as long as you keep making step after step. Yes, that’s right, step after step. And that pressure in my chest is okay, it’s not so bad. It was nice of Betsy. She’s been nice to me for the last year or two. She used to be so irritable. I wonder what’s changed. One more step. Don’t panic. You can make it. Yes you can. One more step. One step at a time, nice and slow. Betsy has been doing better since she divorced that terrible man. Why not let your daughter stay overnight? You know why. She can’t stay every night, can she? Then she might as well move in. Tonight is like any other night, or at least it was supposed to be.

How to Disfigure a Body

07 Jul: How to Disfigure a Body

With the exception of the hand towels, Edith and Mark’s mom kept a neat house. Every Sunday, she’d crouch down and slide ratty bath towels around the just mopped wood floors, dewey and smelling of fresh pine. She’d scrape Mark’s salty and crusted remains from the corner behind the toilet with steel wool. Emptying the trash, she’d find the cigarette butts he tried burning us with wadded up in toilet paper.

Symptoms

02 Jul: Symptoms

Rolling the ball of her mother’s carpal-friendly mouse, Ani woke the hibernating laptop to find an unfamiliar screen. The last person in the office, a balding guy Marie had called an impudent beast because he’d devoured the last package of peanut butter cookies without asking, must’ve changed the default from Chrome. This new search engine’s logo was a cyan ball with big, cartoon eyes that glanced toward the text box when she hovered the cursor around it. Ani steadied herself as she typed.

Rapid heartbeat, nausea, confusion, dizziness.

“Ani, we need those sheets changed.” Marie hustled down the hall with a bottle of window cleaner and a bundle of newspaper. Her dark hair was held in a high bun that looked like it’d fall out if she turned her head too quickly, and she was still wearing the loose cotton pants and tank top that she called her pre-guest outfit.

“They’re in the dryer, Mom.”

The computer stalled. The impudent beast must’ve forgotten to clear the cache. She refreshed, noticing that the camera light was blinking purple instead of red. When the same old links came up, she deleted the search and began to type impudent, just to be sure.