Archive for May, 2010

2010/05/31

Bum’s Rap

by mdjb

Ain’t been sleepin well these days. fraid of one o them bums takin my stuff. i got lots o good stuff here. evrythin i needs to get by.
Lord ahm so tired. not from walkin, you know. i gots these good runnin shoes though i ain’t hardly had to run in a long time.
Once, bout a year ago, some punks set fire to my cart and i lost everything, but you can see i got lotsa new stuff. i ain’t wantin for nothin.
Tell you a story though. i knowed a guy walked away from his job, his wife and kids. said he had enough of all that earnin wages stuff. thought he could make it on the streets. he didn last three months. he got desperate and tried to rob a 7-eleven, but the indian runnin the joint shot him in the stomach. the skinny mucker bled to death before the cops come. put an end to his hunger that did.
Takes a knack to make it on the streets. me i got the knack. comes to ya when yer forced into the life. it’s not a choice you make, but ya develop it.
I don’t need nothin really, but if yer gettin some coffee at that place over there and ya feel like tossin the change in my cup i won’t say no.
Course i don’t need coffee myself. i got the fear to keep me awake. and you can see i ain’t wantin for food. i won’t tell ya what i been eatin. it’d make ya sick.
It’s not like you’d be throwin the change away. ahl say a prayer for yer good fortune. lord listens to folks like me. he likes them what feels fear.
Truth is it’s only an act, ya know? i can take care o myself, but it don’t pay to be lookin cocky about things.
Gonna get me a dog though. i think i could get some sleep if i had a dog with me. she could eat what i eat. there’s plenny around if ya know where to look for it.
Hey thanks lady for the quarters. and thanks for listenin. ahl get right in on that prayin, soon as i take my constitutional round the park.

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2010/05/29

A New York Fable

by mdjb

Today would be different. We would argue about something else. Suzanne told me she would meet me by the bus stop on 5th and Broadway. I took it she meant by Madison Square, where Broadway cuts across Fifth Avenue. It had to be. And so I didn’t bother clarifying before signing off. East and West Fourth Street is divided by Broadway, and one block north is Washington Place. East Fifth Street doesn’t reach Broadway and there is no West Fifth Street in Manhattan. Am I right or what?
Guess where she waited for me.
I ran into the kid with the red cap who will do a favor if I pay him enough, walking down Broadway, and asked him if he spotted Suzanne down by the park to ring me on my cell phone, but by no means to tell her he’d seen me.
That kid is like a character from one of the fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. I guess I didn’t pay him enough, however, because he took on the role of the ravening wolf. He charged her double and made me look stupid.
Later, when we finally did hook up, Suzanne said she was in desperate need of a drink because all she could taste was dust in her mouth from the park. I told her dinner was free for my misunderstanding. You see, I really don’t like to argue with her.
She said she couldn’t be bought off that easily, and returned the key to my apartment. I was left feeling hollow and empty, but certainly not hungry enough to have dinner alone.
Jacob and Wilhelm were a big influence on my early writing, and I guess I have trusted too much in their words. That kid is immoral, though, and I should have boned up on Aesop. I would avoid suppositions, and rarely have to eat by myself.
Milady downed her gin and tonic all too quickly, then went off with some friends, and I walked through Washington Square Park wondering how I could ever believe fairy tales could happen in New York City.

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2010/05/22

In the Backyard

by mdjb

“I’d flown thirteen time zones just to see him,” says the woman, “And then he tells me I’m just in time for his wedding–to her.”
“Maggie, I’ve been telling you for years, you’ve got your heart set on the wrong guy. Jonathan’s a bum. You deserve better,” says the man, and you know he’s the bad guy.
“Better? Like you, Walter?”
The man and woman are talking about things you have no interest in. You hate all that mushy stuff, but Mommy listens to that show every afternoon.
You peek in the window, but you don’t see her sitting there with her cup of coffee and her cigarette. Most days Daddy is at work, but today for some reason he came home early, and even though the radio show is on like every other day, you just know today is going to be different. Maybe something really important is going to happen. But if Daddy has something important to tell, why didn’t they let you stay to hear it?
You duck quickly when you see Mommy look out from behind the door, and ooh boy are you surprised when you see her run to the icebox in her short nightgown, and then run back with a bottle of beer and close the door. She doesn’t even stop to hear what’s going on on her program.
Then you’re looking at an empty kitchen, and the woman on the radio says, “Oh, Walter, you and I live in different worlds.”

Half an hour later, you are still in the backyard and you have seen the shadow of something pass across the window and you’re a little scared, but you know Mommy and Daddy are inside so you really shouldn’t be scared. The wading pool suddenly does not feel like the place you want to be though. You want to know they are all right. Neither has looked out to ask if you are all right for such a long time.
Maybe you could get out of the pool and dry yourself off, poke your head in the window again and call for one of them, but you were told to play until you were called for supper and you don’t want to look like a crybaby.
Mrs. Annunziato is hanging out laundry up on the top floor. Sometimes when you look up, you see her smiling down at you, but she doesn’t say anything. Mostly she has trouble speaking to the neighbors because she can’t always think of the English words to say what she wants. Once Daddy complained to Mommy that Mrs. A asked him to help her move a chest of drawers but she couldn’t make him understand exactly what she wanted and she wore him out asking him to try it here, no here, no there, before she settled on one place to leave it. Mrs. Johansson always calls Mrs. A the B word, but Daddy says Mrs. J is a B. She drinks a lot and sleeps late on Saturdays and Sundays. She never goes to church even though Mommy said she is Catholic. Daddy says, “She may be Catholic but she’s not very Christian,” and you wonder how you can be one but not the other.
Once, you saw Mrs. J with black make-up all around her eyes because she had been crying. She looked scary. Mommy said she felt sorry because Mr. J always treats her badly, but Daddy said, “His name is Ingersoll,” as if that explained anything.

Mrs. A, up in her window, is smiling at you while holding up a clothespin and pointing downward because the shadow you saw was Mrs. A dropping a clothespin which fell into Larry’s yard. That means it’s lost forever because nothing ever comes out of Larry’s yard when it falls in there. Larry lives in the back of the house across from the kitchen and your room. Jimmy lives on the first floor in the front across the hall from Mommy and Daddy’s room and the living room. Everybody else in the building has the same size apartment as you do. Only Jimmy and Larry have smaller apartments. That’s why each of them has his own section of the backyard fenced off. So it’s like one big yard and two small ones. Jimmy grows tomatoes and grapes in his yard way in the back and Larry grows grapes in his which is right outside his window. The kids who live in the building are allowed to play in the big yard where nothing grows, but if anyone gets caught reaching into Jimmy’s or Larry’s yards through the chicken wire to steal grapes, the old men start hollering and chase you. Once Jimmy came after Little Frank, who lives on the second floor, swinging a broomstick and he hit Frank on the back of his legs and hurt him. That night when Big Frank came home from work he went down to the yard and with his bare hands he pulled down all the wood and chicken wire around Jimmy’s yard and he cursed at him and said, “If you ever come near my kid again you guinea bastard, I’ll kill you.” Big Frank almost tore down Larry’s yard too but Larry came out and said, “I no do nothing. I don’t hit the children. You no touch my yard.” And he didn’t. Daddy always laughs when they sit around and remember that story because he says, “Frank and Annette are Italian. Everyone in this building is Italian except us and Ingersoll and Mrs. J. I can’t figure out why Frank used that kind of language.” For a long time you thought all the bad B words were Italian, but you know one thing. Now that Jimmy’s got his yard back, you don’t go near his or Larry’s space.
Besides, those little yards smell pretty bad, at least Larry’s does, with all the cats that walk around in there. Larry has twelve cats and they crawl in and out of his window and they poop in his yard. Jimmy has four cats but they stay in his apartment all the time.

Once there was a big rat by the garbage cans in front of Jimmy’s window and Bernadette said to Mommy, “Can you imagine a rat around here with all the cats in this building? I never would believe it. You know what it is? It’s all those Puerto Ricans next door.” Bernadette is Annette’s sister and lives right over you. She and Sal have three kids also and all she does is complain. You know what she said about the people next door can’t be true because once Manuel and Jose’s mother invited you up for supper and you watched their television and their apartment was very clean, and no one in your building even has a television, but maybe some of it is true because the downstairs hallway was pretty dirty. That building is made of bricks not wood like yours and it’s got more floors in it.
You remember another time when Manuel was sick and couldn’t come down to play and he was throwing wooden matches out their window because when they hit the stone ground in their yard, the matches would light up and it was like fireworks without the noise. All the kids were laughing until Manuel’s mother came up behind him and smacked him in the head. Then she pulled him inside and shut the window real hard.
You remember the lady on the radio said one time, “Oh, Walter, I would feel trapped in your world.” And even though you don’t pay much attention to her, you know feeling trapped is an awful thing.
You wish there were more kids your age around here but all of them are older and go to school in the day time so you have to play by yourself. In the summertime it’s more fun because then Little Frank is around all day and he’ll play with you. Mommy says maybe soon you’ll have a little brother. Maybe when you have to go to school next year and then when the summer comes, you’ll be able to stay home and play with him. She says, “God willing. And if Daddy gets another job, maybe we’ll get you a little brother.”
Big Frank works at the car place and Sal drives a taxicab and they both have their own cars and sometimes they take their families and all of them go on picnics together. Once they took you and Mommy. That was the time when Daddy moved out. But the car was very crowded and it rained that day, and then after Daddy came back, Frank and Annette didn’t ask you to go with them anymore.

Larry lives alone. He’s very old, and he sometimes paints pictures of his cats in his garden. Jimmy is not so old and sometimes his girlfriend, who’s a big fat lady named Estella comes to visit him and they go out for dinner. Bernadette said once that she was sure Jimmy had a son somewhere but he probably wouldn’t come near this dump. Bernadette is mean and so are her kids. She always hollers at Sal and their kids answer him back and they never get hit for being bad. Once, one of them said, “Shit,” in front of him and it looked like he didn’t even hear it. You would get a spanking if you ever said that in front of Mommy or Daddy and why would you say that anyway? You could say poop and it means the same thing and nobody would spank you for it.
Even though the building is not so big, and there are so many people living in it, it doesn’t feel crowded. Nobody is ever around. Everybody’s got something to do. Except for the cats. There sure are a lot of cats around. And the only nice one is the orange one called Pip. Larry made a lot of pictures of Pip. He says that cat is like his son.
You hope Mommy is right about getting that little brother though. There’s room for one more kid, and you think, Please God let him be nice and don’t ever make him want to say curse words or throw matches out of windows or steal grapes and if we’re both good boys then Daddy won’t go away again and please make Mommy or Daddy come to the window and call me for supper soon because it’s getting cold out here.

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2010/05/15

Dancing Monkeys

by mdjb

“Why now?” Mara was asking again. Only, this time it might be granted she had good reason. She was about to give birth. Her doctor had set a date for sometime this week. Oddly, she claimed she did not feel anywhere near due.
Ockie glanced at the waiting crib with its little monkey acrobats waiting to dance, driven by tiny fingers. That wouldn’t occur for months yet.
“Did she tell you how Laurene died?” he asked. “I mean she seemed well enough two weeks ago.”
“Fer chrissakes, Ockie, the woman was undergoing chemo for the last few months. We know how she died. I was just wondering why now. Such awful timing.”
Laurene was his mother-in-law’s girlfriend. Mara’s mother had left her father to share Apartment 4E with the woman, who for many years had been the picture of strength and endurance.
At his father-in-law’s funeral, Ockie had bent to tie his shoelace and noted how the two women, sitting together talking, had their unstockinged legs pressed against each other’s. It struck him as an unsavory gesture, yet somewhat commiserating in the face of the enemy.
Death brought out the best and the worst in people. Mara was complaining about something else now, but he wasn’t paying attention. The window, opened to air out the room before the baby came, was allowing a soft breeze to enter, and it set the monkeys to dancing and tinkling a tinny song.
“Jesus,” Ockie thought, “How long am I gonna have to listen to this?”

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2010/05/08

The Nest Egg

by mdjb

Nothing else mattered. Janelle was not completely alone on her thirteenth birthday.
Her mother, on a concert tour in Germany, had sent her a blue heart-shaped pendant, which Janelle told her nanny she would wear forever, but something was missing in their affections.
“Your mother loves you very much,” Amelia said.
The color is appropriate, thought Janelle, but she did not say that because she knew her mother would ask Amelia questions when she called. The cottage at Campanella Point might be a lonely place for any other young girl with only a nanny, and housemaid, and neither parent in attendance.
The gift she adored came from her father, who had separated from her mother almost three years earlier, for though he rarely came to visit, his presence was strong in her memory, and his attitude toward her had not changed. On her eleventh birthday he gave her a golden egg which played Brahms’ Lullaby when it was opened, and he promised she would receive something each year to put inside of it. When she was twelve, he gave her a tiny crystal bear and told her that was for luck. This year he had given her a red ruby apple smaller than the bear, and said it represented wisdom. Placing it in the egg she thought, Father will always be with me.
Her mother’s return would be noted, without joy, just as her absence was taken into account without pain.
Deep in the woods beyond the Point, where Janelle would sit with her notebook, lay a little pond, frozen in winter. One day, Janelle removed the pendant from around her neck, and buried her blue heart in the earth at the edge of the ice. Later, if asked, she would say she had lost it.
She returned to her room that afternoon, and warmed her hands on the little round box, knowing it would eventually contain everything with which her father could provide her, including his love, and nothing else mattered.

Deep in the woods beyond Campanella Point, the sprites were hiding as they always did when the young girl came to sit on a large rock at the edge of the pond. She would take off her shoes and dangle her feet in the water in the warm weather, and shiver in the cold, but in all seasons she wrote in her notebook.
The wood sprites being a vain bunch were hurt that she did not seek them out. That was what humans were supposed to do, and this one sat writing and writing, with never a thought to go looking for magic.
They marshaled all their forces to cast thoughts into the girl’s mind, and she soon came to believe that love only existed in a place beyond her reach.
Sometimes after a spell in the woods, she returned home feeling sad, while at other times she came away with a resolve to find the one thing that would provide happiness in a dreary world. As time went on, she realized that thing was not inside her home.

Nothing else mattered to Diana Strand when she was singing one of her favorite arias. Lost in the other-worldliness of her own voice, she had not to think of her estranged husband, nor the responsibilities of being a dutiful mother, nor the quotidian activities of the world through which she moved.
Her voice was a gift she cherished beyond measure, though some said beyond reasonableness. She wanted to share its clarity and evocation with everyone, but those closest to her acted as if it were something to despise for its intrusiveness. As though it were a living thing they said, and inside her head she thanked them for the compliment.
She toured Europe for thirty-six weeks every year, and in every audience, smiling beatified faces proved she had made her own best choice.

Edward Strand’s head was throbbing with pain. There was a bump on his forehead the size of half a golf ball. He opened the small hotel refrigerator, at first to get a few more ice cubes to put into the pack he had been holding to his head, but then decided the cubes would better serve to re-chill his bourbon.
It was jealousy, pure and simple, that Diana had accused him of not being a good father, calling him a deserter, when she knew he loved his daughter more than he had ever loved his wife.
Janelle had no agenda, no obstructions to loving her in the way a parent would. Her talents were wholly different from her mother’s, and she never used them as a wedge for her affections. Perhaps it was because she was still a girl, but Edward believed she would never be her mother’s daughter.
His throbbing head reminded him of a disastrous night, and how far he had come from the home he had thought he would share forever, but in which he would have always played second fiddle to a melody.

The nanny observed through all the years she served, and though she was in their home to take care of their daughter, she watched the Strands’ relationship unwinding.
Amelia was a good nanny, who had cuddled and cooed the baby Janelle all through childhood, and now noticed her charge in going through puberty was growing distant from her mother. Diana Strand was a busy woman. Amelia understood that her career required she spend much time away. In her heart, she also knew that that career was what had convinced Edward Strand to separate himself from the family.
Over the last few years, Amelia noted whenever Edward came to visit, which was not often, Janelle was in a rapture for days afterward. Conversely, when Diana returned from a tour the child was in a funk that lasted until her mother left again.
Something was missing, that even the move to Campanella Point, to what had at first been called the enchanted cottage, had not been able to reinvent.

One night in December, as the occupants of the cottage lay sleeping in their beds, three wood sprites gathered at the window of the child’s room.
“See how she sleeps,” said the blue one, “So blissfully unaware of the forces surrounding her. I wouldn’t want to be a human, so ignorant of magic, for all the leaves in the woods.”
“It’s unfortunate that the big ones should be so much in control of the world just by virtue of their size and their so-called strength of will,” said the rose sprite.
With that, the smallest of the three, the golden one, caught a stray moonbeam and fashioned it into a ball, just as you or I might mold a small round snowball, and flinging it at the pane, said, “That you may see this world for what it is.” The three of them watched the tiny orb of light sail through the glass to land upon the child’s head and dissolve there leaving nary a spot.
When the sun rose, the three sprites, gleeful in their naughtiness, flew off into the woods to view the dew forming on petals as that was the only thing that really mattered to them.

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2010/05/01

Bad Magic

by mdjb

First up, you must know that Alicia was a witch, not a very good one, but a witch, nonetheless, and when she was working through a mean streak, her magic sometimes got out of hand. Trouble was, she was often working through mean streaks, and you would never know how to approach her, whether it was a good day, or a bad night. If she raised her hand quickly, it was best to duck the fireball coming your way. You might wind up with a winning lottery ticket in your pocket, or having your eyebrows singed. And that kind of magic took weeks to wear off.
Once, I was sleeping quite soundly, but woke to hear her stumbling around in the dark. “Oh, damn,” she said, “Damn, damn, damn,” and suddenly like the impossible moon from those ads for that Cher/Nicholas Cage movie, the room suddenly lit up, fluttered in bright light for a moment, and then returned to darkness, but a darkness blacker than black.
“What’s up, darlin’?” I asked, reaching for the bedside lamp. Only there wasn’t anything within reach to switch on. As I tried to focus and my surroundings shortly came into view, I realized I had been the victim once again of some of Alicia’s bad magic. I wasn’t in my bed. I wasn’t even in my room. I was sitting in my pajamas on a bench on a cobblestone street, and had no idea what place I was in.
“Oh, damn,” I said, “Damn, damn, damn,” but I didn’t have the same resources to hand that Alicia did, so I just sat there shivering on the cold bench

The call came at midnight. She had fallen asleep before I finally did, and I thought we would just let the cell phone buzz around on the night table for a bit and let her message fill in for a response, but wearily she rose to answer the call, and then walked off into the bathroom, for privacy I guess. I must have drifted off again because the next thing I knew I woke to her invective, and suddenly found myself shivering on a bench in some godforsaken old town. A decrepit version of Vienna was what came to mind, though I had never been to Austria, and had always found pictures of Vienna charming.
I  looked around for some shelter from the brisk night air, some place to wait until Alicia’s radar found where she had thrown me. It was not the first time this had occurred. Once I had had to find a job in the Yukon after a week of waiting to be called home. I waited tables in a slop house, and suddenly dematerialized under an armload of plates one afternoon. When I was standing once again in front of my ladylove and said I felt bad about the mess Jürgen would have to clean up, she waved a dismissal to let me know that kind of thing was not to worry about, but said if I really felt bad, she could send me back to help him.
I told her that was all right, and soon learned to take the bad with the good.
While I shivered in decrepit Vienna, I wondered who had had the temerity to call at midnight, and what they had said to upset her so.

Rising from the bench, I was almost resigned to have to wait in this place for quite some time, not knowing who or what had triggered Alicia’s send off. Then the oddest thing happened, which momentarily brought relief, and quickly faded as I was stabbed by disappointment.
Alicia, herself, came walking toward me. Then, passed by oblivious to my presence. I mean it was like she was there, but not all there. She was wearing the nightgown she had on when I last saw her, and from the front she looked as lovely as ever, but when she walked, or floated, on, I noted what appeared to be bits of trash stuck to her back. She passed in this way twice then flickered and vanished completely.
I had no idea where she actually was, but I felt as if I had watched a hologram. I couldn’t imagine what was up with the bits of trash, but figured that had something to do with the midnight call.
The one thing I was certain of, if she was in trouble herself, I wouldn’t be going home anytime soon. I sat back down, cold be damned, and tried to come up with my next move. Overriding those thoughts was the idea that I should not still be sitting out on a bench in my pajamas when daylight arrived.
I had been sleeping soundly when this misadventure began, and that fact became apparent when I started to doze, in spite of having to plan an escape, and trying to come up with some way to help Alicia, who as a walking trash pile must surely be in trouble. I was so tired, however, I soon fell asleep.
I woke to the sound of a cell phone buzzing, in the dark. I was in my bed at home.
Alicia reached out for the phone to answer it, and in the space of maybe two seconds, two thoughts crossed my groggy mind. I just had one hell of a nightmare and perhaps we were being given a second chance.
“Don’t answer it!” I shouted, “It’s bound to be bad news.”
“Oh, I’m sure it is,” she said, “I’m also sure it’s my boss, and I have to answer.” She picked up the phone, and stumbled off to the bathroom.
Alicia worked as a freelance artist. “My boss,” was what she called the one who had invested her with her powers.
I rolled over, off my side of the bed, and underneath it, as I heard her first, “Damn!” Then before she uttered another, I pulled the blanket off too, thinking I might need something to keep warm, depending on where I was going.
The call came at midnight. The next thing I knew, I was freezing in my pajamas on a bench on a cobblestone street, and had no idea what place I was in, though a ruined Vienna in winter crossed my mind.
Alicia, my girlfriend the witch, came towards me, but when she floated past, I noted what appeared to be trash on her back. She passed twice, flickered and vanished completely.
Then, I woke to the sound of a phone buzzing. Alicia reached to take the call, and I realized I had just had a nightmare and perhaps we were being given a second chance.
“Don’t answer it!” I shouted,” but she did.
I rolled off the bed, and underneath it, as I heard her first maldición. Before she uttered another, I pulled the blanket off also.
However, instead of sending me to visit another cold spot on the planet, she was immolated in a flash. The call must have been from The Devil, himself, and now it was obvious the point of my dream was not visiting some decrepit Viennese fantasy. Rather, it was discovering Alicia had lost favor with her mentor.
Under the bed, I began sweating within the blanket. I would no longer be visiting anywhere. But judging by the red aura and the heat filling the room, someone else had come to visit. Whether to make certain of his handiwork, or to check for witnesses, I knew not, but tried to remain still as a statue with increasing difficulty as the temperature rose.

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2010/05/01

Talking to Dad

by mdjb

— Dad, It’s me, Peter.

Why’d you double lock the door?

Never mind,

— I’ve got my key.

— Dad? Susan’s going to be a little late today. She called me and told me. So I came over to see if you need anything. Dad?

Oh, still in bed.

— Listen, I’ll make some tea and we can sit and talk for a while. Don’t try to get up. I’ll help you after I get the water on.

Kitchen’s spotless. I guess Susan is earning her money. She doesn’t really have to do all this, what with taking care of his other needs.

— I spoke to Aunt Anne yesterday. She sends her regards. I told her you were doing all right.

Now, where’re the teabags? Don’t seem to be any here in the fridge. Oh, there behind his insulin. God, looks like he’s got enough to last a couple months.

–Dad, are you taking your insulin everyday? I’m going to ask Susan when she gets here, ’cause I know you’ll just tell me what I want to hear.

It’s so warm in here. Okay, let it steep three minutes. A little bit of milk. I bet he misses his sugar. He doesn’t have to know I take a spoonful, but I bet he hears me rattling the sugar bowl.

Okay, a couple of these plain biscuits and we’re all set.

— Here we go, Dad, a nice cup of tea and some biscuits. Susan’ll be here in an hour or so. You don’t have to use the toilet or anything, do you?

— It’s so dark in here and it’s a beautiful day outside. Let me put this down over here and I’ll open the blinds a bit.

There, that’s better.

— I have a lot of things to tell you Dad, so I’m glad we have this time together before Susan gets here. I guess with her here twelve hours a day, you sometimes don’t get enough time to think. She keeps you busy, right?

— We’re going to miss her when she goes for her RN license, but the agency will send over someone just as efficient. I hope it’s another woman and she’s as nice as Susan. I’ll specify that’s what we want.

— Don’t try to drink that tea just yet. It’s too hot. Have a biscuit.

— What’d you do, knock your pill bottle over? Here, let me get that.

Almost empty. So low on the pills and so much insulin left. Going to have to straighten this out with Susan.

— Aunt Anne gave me a letter from Uncle Jack. Let me get it out of my case and I’ll read it to you.

Let me see. Here. This is it.

— Aunt Anne said Uncle Jack was going to send it to you, but since I was coming over, she wanted me to bring it so I could read it to you instead of Susan, well, she said instead of the home care attendant. Here’s what it says.

— Dear Pete. I’m sorry for my part in the events that have caused us not to be close for the last fifteen years. I would like more than anything to let bygones be and come over and see you. We are brothers after all. It’s just, I need to know you forgive me for being a fool, but I don’t want to give you further cause to think me foolish by coming to visit without your invite. I’m truly sorry we haven’t spoken to each other in so many years. We’ve lost a lot of time, but don’t let’s lose it all. What do you say? Jack.

— How about that Dad? It took him long enough, didn’t it? You know Aunt Anne has been after him for so long to make amends. She misses you. And Mom. I miss Mom too, Dad.

— Here, I’m going to leave this on your night table and you speak to Uncle Jack when you’re ready.

— That tea is all right now. It’s cooled a bit.

— Remember how Mom used to make it with the loose tea. She would never have teabags in the house. We always had to wait three minutes, no more, no less. It should be a little darker than amber before you put the milk in, she always said.

Still have her things on the dresser. Her brush and combs. Never let Susan move them, only dust them. Her wedding band still on your little finger. I know a couple of her housedresses are hanging in the corner closet.

— Oh, I know you took care of all the financial arrangements, but remember at first I didn’t know whether to call an ambulance or the police. We’re both a bit self-centered. We’re lucky to have Aunt Anne. She took care of all those early details. You know, I thought at the time, I really couldn’t depend on you, but you’ve been like a rock since then. I don’t know what I would have done if I lost you both together. I don’t know why I’m bringing all this up. It’s just we’ve never discussed it and it bothers me a little we’ve never been able to communicate our grief to each other.

Or our happiness, for that matter.

— So many times I wanted you to be there and you couldn’t be.

I wanted you to be there for my graduation from grammar school. For my graduation from high school. For…

— It’s all right, I’m working now. I’ve got a good job. I’m up for a raise in a couple weeks.

— Dad, I still think about Mom all the time. Sometimes, I get like a zombie where I’m blindly reliving those days after her funeral. I wish you and I had been closer. I don’t remember too much of those days, but when I think about them, I imagine I handled everything just the way you would’ve wanted me to.

— I did, right?

— Sometimes, I wake from a dream and it feels so real. In the dream, Mom says, Everything was fine, Peter. You did me proud.

I know she really wanted you there. I was just the chip. The chip off your old block.

— Did you hear about Mr. Abbott and his wife? They’ve made up with each other. He still calls me every so often and asks how you are. I thank him every time for being there and calling the medics.

I haven’t spoken to him in months. Not since before their divorce. But you were lucky to have him for a neighbor.

— After the diabetes, who could have foreseen the renal failure? The day I called and there was no answer and then Mr. Abbott called and said you were taken to the hospital, all the way over in Staten Island, Dad, I never understood why they took you all the way over there.

Supposed to be the best dialysis set-up in the city, but I think it was because we didn’t have the money. Leave it to Mom to take care of things. You were even luckier to have her for a wife. Or to be her widower. I thought for a while I hated you. Hated you’re being my father. But Mom wouldn’t let me stay angry.

— I know I don’t say it often enough, but I love you, Dad.

You don’t have to say anything.

— Let me bring these teacups out to the kitchen.

And I’ll put this away. You won’t need this letter. I think it’s the one I got from the magazine.

Why was Uncle Jack so angry? With you? He was always nice to Mom.

I’m sorry about the letter, but I was sure that’s what he would have wanted to say. He just didn’t get around to it.

— Susan should be here shortly. I’m going to have some things to ask her, let me tell you.

Like why she isn’t here already.

Can’t complain really, though, she’s been very good about so many things. What would I do without her? How could I work?

Mom would have been jealous of the way Susan takes care of you.

Mom would have said, Get your young girlfriend to do it.

Get her to clean up after you.

Why have Peter come all the way in from the city, when your insurance covers a home care attendant. Got a job to maintain.

There are reasons for everything, but why’d you lock the door.

Mom was the planner.

Mom would have said, Mom would have said, You did me proud, Peter.

Dad, don’t leave. Please. Everything is fine. Mom would have said…


Scratch. Scratching. Tapping. Someone knocking.

Must have dozed off.

— Well, Dad, that sounds like Susan. I’d better go let her in.

— Good-bye, Dad.


“Susan, I’m so glad you’re here. I have to ask for your help with Dad.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Donsie, that’s what I’m…Mr. Donsie, what is it? Oh, no, Mr. Donsie, don’t tell me…”

“I, don’t…”

“No.”

“Yes, I’m afraid he’s passed away.”

“Oh Mr. Donsie. Peter, I’m so sorry.”

“It must have happened sometime this morning. I think he was expecting it. He double locked the door after you left him last night. He’s still warm. Oh, Susan, my dad’s gone, and I miss him already.”

“Don’t. Don’t be upset Peter. Please, for him. It’s been so hard for him. He’s at peace now. He’s with your mum.”

“I…Will you help me? I don’t know what to do.”