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Drama Coming of Age Inspirational

An infant a little girl daddy holds her on bended knee her arms ‘round his neck he smiles to the Mother, to the Kodak she holds, from the black and white photograph in the antique frame in the upstairs bedroom on the nightstand where she sleeps, where she looks at his long-ago face before restless dreams of things that cannot be can no longer be and of strangers and lost where in her memory he holds her high over his head smiling up at her the sun crinkles his blue-grey eyes his happiness is hers he will not let her fall.

Mother likes to tease but spiteful tease amusing to yank on her daddy’s arm when he has her warm safe against him proclaiming in her raspy cigarette voice cigarette breath he is her daddy tugging persistent trying to pull him away trying to separate pushing now the child away roughly she hates the Mother for this who is not daddy who is loud and insistent and cruel and punishes with belts alone behind shades pulled down with string against sunlight and meddling eyes demanding shaking she confess digging sharp nails into pink flesh she loves daddy more than Mother and she does but she dares not tell Mother this denying unconvincing wispy childlike brown curls without tears Mother hates tears Mother has secrets don’t tell daddy.

Mother has put her to bed early the sun is still bright and Mother has gone out daddy stands in silhouette at the open door has come to get her she and daddy watch funny cartoons snuggled together in the big armchair that smells like daddy like wrapped peppermints and eat forbidden cookies oh how delicious to fool Mother to deceive her to break her rules one must listen with the volume low for her return headlights will slide against the heavy drapes along the wide front living room window.

Mother naps in the passenger-navigator Buick with strewn creased paper maps on her thighs through the growing dusk the setting sun on the long traveling many days trip to daddy’s childhood farm back east Mother calls it – daddy lets her she begs just once to drive she grips the smooth steering wheel on daddy’s lap slowly watching carefully the dotted lines exhilarated on the two-lane backwoods’ highway through rolling meadows daddy pushes the brakes and the accelerator her feet cannot reach glancing at Mother who would protest who would scold. Oh, Look Daddy! Deer on the grassy sloping hillside! In the fading light fawns and loving mothers grazing look up briefly so many enchanting so wonderful so magical so wild this moment! Mother is missing this let her sleep as if she would care.

Sunlight sparks on the lake like glass like a water mirror it startles the eyes a morning cold and dawning and early – just the two of them on daddy’s boat water lapping in gulps the bobbins float and nod the worms wriggle cold and slimy she holds them in her small hand there is silence in the rising sun broken by the call of nearby coots and breezes in the cattail reeds take my fishing pole the daddy says while I get a soda and she does and the bobbin dips under then pops back there is a tug on daddy’s line quick, jerky, urgent pulling I’ve got one she cries – and daddy laughs well reel her in easy slowly let out line just so how I showed you, now easy and opens the soda chuckling in his delight in his daughter’s joy in his surprise in his simple gift for he knew all along.

She calls out to him he is down the hall and in the darkness of the nightmare he turns on light and brings her milk and calms with his soft voice and tucks covers tight and another time she trembles violently inside the mountain cabin awakened when the big brown bears rummage through the cooler left on the porch watermelon and white bread and peanut butter by Mother he holds her close and calms with his soft voice morning is here see the rising sun and then tearful when her Siamese does not come home has gotten out and jumped the fence he staples up signs and walks the streets with her calling and looking under cars and bushes asking and calms and reassures and laughs with her when her cat comes mewling at the back door and especially she cries when the boy she has kissed has kissed another and daddy comes and holds her hand and a tissue and calms with his consoling voice and hugs his daughter’s first broken heart and she for a time is comforted.

He lifts her veil trembling fingers and brushes her cheek his own cheeks are wet daddy are you crying oh daddy do not cry but later holds his granddaughter daddy are you crying he buries the little dog that loved him and he loved though she was Mother’s dog in the backyard by the statue of Mother’s Virgin and Mother’s staked tomato plants digging deep on his knees where the sun will shine most of the day smudging dirt across cheeks wet She watches him from the window lay the little clever dog who made him laugh when she chased the farm chickens and slept next to him gently down into the ground wrapped in Mother’s good sheet her tears are for him how tender her daddy, how loving, how kind, how sad to see daddy’s heart breaking she loved that little dog too.

Mother’s slack silence at last at last at long last one cold December night she stands at the foot of the deathbed relieved without emotion Mother cannot torment anymore yet her daddy weeps and his forgiving loving heart is a wonder to her, for she cannot forgive. Oh, please daddy do not cry it hurts to see you hurting for no reason.

Perhaps he has three months but this was a lie it was only eleven days left for him to hold together her world with his smile his Old Spice stubble his hello in the sweet way he said her name still with a slight southern accent from those ten years she had him to herself a bed was moved into the downstairs bedroom for she refused to let him be where she cannot be in some antiseptic metal cold hospital no he will stay here with her in the room with lace curtains and old books where she will love and care and now he is the child and in her mind they are both children running through the dusty green field of tall Kentucky tobacco laughing holding hands in the sunshine tapping the stalks with a stick but his mind is sharp as is the pain that he never would express so she will not worry this has been and will ever be his way quiet smiling enduring. There is your uncle see him he stands just there pointing by the bedpost he wants you to play his favorite song do you see him Yes, of course, daddy. If you see him there I will see him too though it has been twenty years I do not doubt I believe he is here she places her slender, aging fingers on the piano keys – Fascination – remembering her uncle’s smile and turns – daddy says uncle liked it – she kisses his forehead time to sleep see you tomorrow what does it mean that uncle is here with us tonight is this not fascinating is this not bewildering.

From upstairs she treads down the staircase the morning has come time to open wide the downstairs window and let in the quail and the mourning dove coos and the October scent of sweet alyssum, inhale and listen! She turns slowly for the room is silent except for the cheerless echo music of angels she imagines have come in the night, thieves really, and in this moment life for her has ended. As through water as through fog she drowns takes his hand how strange he does not take hers too. There is nothing to do but to stay here to wait for something but she cannot remember what she is waiting for she should be weeping shouldn’t she but she cannot remember what there is to weep for yet tears drip onto the sheet onto her hands that hold her cold daddy’s tight resting her forehead why does she feel lost like a child abandoned and other words rush in alone, lonely, frightened, and circle around again alone, afraid, don’t leave me, take me with you, where are you, where have you gone, is there a way to follow did I ever tell you I love you are my hero my dearest heart perhaps you are still just sleeping why oh why did she not stay by his side standing with uncle through the unkind night if there must be goodbyes Soft sounds rise above the quail becoming louder like shivering sobs and erratic exhalations someone as from far away is making these sounds perhaps disturbing her daddy’s slumber She cannot see him all is hidden from her and morning stars do not shine like the sun would if it could in his closed crinkly blue-grey eyes.

February 23, 2023 06:28

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