19. March 2013 · Comments Off on Slivers of Light · Categories: I. 11 to 12 years

My sister says that our father is not the same man.  She thinks that Linda drugs him.  But I think that the last thing Linda will put up with is another slave to a drug demon.

Whatever is happening with our father started before he met Linda.  I saw it the day our mother put my brother and me in a rickshaw to visit him, and he sent us right back without even a hello.

Our father is walled up in a dark shell, but there are slivers of light.

We have no birthday celebrations, but he remembers my birthday and quietly gives me money “to buy paper dolls.”

Just once, Linda packs us all off to the beach.  The hot sand is like an overturned anthill swarming with people as far as I can see.

My father realizes that I never learned to float.  He makes me lie on the water while he supports my back.   Just as I think I can do this he takes his arms away.  I swallow a bucket of salt water, but before I drown I actually learn to float and even to dog paddle.

Chilled orange soda will never taste as good as it does today.

For no reason, my father gives me an old anthology of English poems, a narrow book made to fit the breast pocket of a man’s coat.  It has a worn navy linen cover.  It is something he has carried around for a long time.

I wake in the night.  It is raining sheets outside, blowing sideways against the walls of the house.  Bright lights shine into our windows.  My father answers the knocks on the door.

Two men in uniform come in.  The light comes from their flashlights but also from the headlights of their jeep parked on the street.   They are MP’s.  They ask questions.  My father says Linda is his common law wife and shows them a document.  They say sorry to bother you sir and they leave.

This must have happened before because although my father goes to the door, everyone else pretends to be sleeping.   I know that the houses behind ours are part of a large brothel, and I guess the MP’s think this a good night to catch the women inside.

As soon as the headlights move away, there is another knock on the door.  My father opens it.  A distant flash of lightning shows a very young woman standing in the rain wearing nothing, not even slippers.  She is dripping wet.

I recognize her as the shy woman who lives alone in a tiny house tucked into a corner of our street.   They say that the others in the brothel threw her out.  She is beautiful and delicate as an alabaster doll.

Without a word, my father gets his raincoat and drapes it around the woman’s shoulders.   She huddles by the door, watching.  After the MP’s have driven away, she turns to give the raincoat back, but my father says keep it.  She runs off into the night.

Inside his wall the dad I knew is still there.


September Morn by Paul Emile Chabas 1910-1911

Comments closed.