It’s the last night of my once a year visit nearly complete. Actually, it’s our last visit ever. Another uncomfortable Thanksgiving has come and gone. Tomorrow, it’s back to Chicago.
Earlier in the day, mother asks me to trawl through the attic boxes, and fish out our childhood memories before they place the house on the market.
Later in the day, after an early supper, father and I sit alone facing each other at the opposite ends of the kitchen table. Mother is at church, volunteering for just about anything.
I stand; push two dusty childhood photographs I discovered toward father.
Father look, these are so familiar, yet distant? I voice.
Yes, they are nearly identical son, except one is underexposed, sepia. Not sure why you retrieved the photo box from the attic. Most of those years are dead and buried.
I only asked you to look at these two father.
Son, why do you insist that we look at any photos?
Not sure father, maybe it’s time. I remember you thumbing the fat camera levers on your new Polaroid 900. Mother was hovering nearby. I recall your big smile. We were posing and …
Its then father stands to exit the room. His massive hand smothers the handle of his lacquered Mallacan cane, veined & crooked, a tan leather glove. Then he limps away.
In the chilled lens of a dusty sunset, the parched air drifts through the half closed window, hissing faintly through the screen, like a thousand tiny tongues singing a chorus of truth. A chill slowly slithers up my spine. It’s moments like this I dread. I feel such gloom, like an orphaned child.
Goodnight father, see you in the morning.
Much later, as I retire, I hear subtle moans coming from his room, as he toils in the muddy pastures of his sleep. As if on cue, at 3:00 A.M., he sits up and stares into the dark, at nothing in particular. I know this because mother spoke of his nightmares that have only increased after he quit drinking. She also confessed his depression is getting worse.
Over the years, our family has weathered torrents that have washed away bridges, only to be restored by the uncomplicated architecture of distance and malaise. I still want to understand, but after so many years, the melody of deception is a cappella. I close my eyes and begin to wade into the shallow waters of sleep.
Then I enter the dark of a dream,
You take us to the park. We play hide and seek for hours. Only this time I am never found. Mother, crazed with fear eventually finds me walking into the mist of her high beam headlights, a shivering apparition. Nothing is ever the same.
Swimming back from the deep waters of sleep, toward dawns pale shore, I hear an unseen small voice, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four…
Dan has an MS Degree. He is the author of four poetry Chapbooks, and a new collection of fiction, Second Stories. Recent Credits: 101 Words, Amethyst, UK., Chaleur Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, Dissections, Door=Jar, Entropy, Esthetic Apostle, Foxglove, Frogmore, High Shelf Press, Poetry Northwest, Rue Scribe, Runcible Spoon, Skylight 47, Spelk, Spillwords, The Fiction Pool, The Stray Branch, Urban Arts, The Zen Space, Tulpa and zeroflash.