Friday, February 24, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

What can you do if your father was a big man? You can try to be a bigger man, or you can fail. I chose to fail. It was the easier of the two options. So, I thought. Back then. Now, I know that I would have done better having tried and missed the mark. 

You learn so much in hindsight. 

My old man had a loud voice, one of those loud, barking laughs that makes other people step their laughing up. He was physically big, too. Tall and wide. Broad forearms crossed with thick veins, like they were used to convey milkshake from his heart to his extremities. He had broad shoulders, too. He made every chair he sat in look small and apt to break. 

I disappeared into chairs, folding my body in on itself. Making myself small. My mother was so tiny you could hardly see her, sweater clutched at her neck against the chill of his all-encompassing shadow. We were gnats. We were grains of sand. 

We were invisible. 

Thing was, he seemed super visible. Overly visible. We didn't understand how much he kept hidden until it was too late. Until he had started a disappearing act that no one saw coming. 

Now, I wrestle at night. My brain versus my heart. I try to figure out where he stopped and my idea of him began. It's a battle I'll always fight. 

Maybe it's the birthright of every son, this tension. This heartbreak.

This love. 


  1. Powerful stuff. I like the idea of being invisible, becoming invisible and then fading away completely - 'Until he had started a disappearing act that no one saw coming'

    1. Powerful, gorgeous. I love this sentence: "My mother was so tiny you could hardly see her, sweater clutched at her neck against the chill of his all-encompassing shadow."

  2. Ashes

    Where the tallest of the Ash trees walk,
    they fill the translucent air with sighs,
    gesticulating branches ever-twisting,
    painting pictures in their wand’rings.

    Giants, their stuck-up hair peeks on high,
    emerald scraggly, shadowed by cloud.
    Words are invisible childlike scrawls,
    planted in the way seeds become ideas,
    full-leafed, moisture-licked, all green,
    sap sneaking from fine fissures.

    Cutter ants heft their sea of prizes,
    shimmer through on stick legs, troops
    marching over all these exposed roots
    until the tallest trees rise to take their walk
    back into their viridescent treasured past,
    all the ages covered, seen and unseen,
    the trials and endeavours they have witnessed.
    These rings within mark their truth.

    1. Vickie: Viridescent. Great word. I'm sick of Winter and can't wait for the viridescence.

    2. Absolutely "viridescent"! Such great images.

    3. This is super visual. Really pretty use of language. I love the alliteration in "sap sneaking from fine fissures."

  3. Superstition

    We walk in superstition,
    black cats criss-crossing our path,
    dodging ladders sliding from windows
    and leaping over pavement fissures,
    seeking to avoid any imaginary pitfall
    to press snooze on destiny.

    We lock the metal gate behind us,
    seal the windows, close the shades,
    turn the welcome mat the other way,
    and cross ourselves lest we see him
    lurking in the shadows of the scenes,
    dragging his scythe through the dirt.

    1. Great images and metaphors...lest we see him. Chilling.

    2. This one is darkly cool - I really like the idea of hitting snooze on destiny. :)

  4. Rainshine

    Seeds into flowers
    with just a little water.
    Distances erase in seconds,
    idle sketches
    on the telephone.

    In the wild rain
    we run our hands,
    drifting, prints collecting,
    imagining worlds in these pools
    of fragmented prisms.

    Colours only dreamed of
    streak the sky in speaking
    while words slide on pages,
    and we climb rung upon rung
    of our own making.

    Snuck into the leaves of trees
    we whisper our imaginations,
    the things we hold most dear,
    remembering crystal marbles
    bouncing in the gutters.

    Vickie Johnstone

    1. I love the last image - this one has a rolling feel to it that I really dig, too.

  5. JD, I had one of those larger than life fathers. We were locked in a life long battle of wills. Was relieved when he died. Years later, I miss him.

  6. (JD, totally hadn't read your piece before I wrote this)

    He was small, maybe four or five. On one of Pop’s construction sites, playing in a pile of sand, dragging up handful after handful and letting it sift through his fingers, which made him laugh every time, the way it tickled, the way it disappeared. Occasionally trucks rattled in and out of the big lot, and Harold watched each one with unwavering fascination. Load. Unload. Load. Unload. Bags of sand, the stuff Pop said they use to mix cement that poured from the big rolling machine. Then Pop yelled for him. But Harold didn’t want to go. He wanted to play with the sand. He wanted to watch the pouring cement. He wanted to feel it in his fingers, paint his initials into a freshly poured mold like he’d seen Pop and his men do.

    Pop yelled again, then came over and made to grab him under the armpits. Harold flinched back. Pop yelled again, called him a name, said they had to go now. So he went. Harold stayed quiet for a while, tucked into the far end of the front seat of the big black car, almost against the door, not wanting to make Pop mad.

    After a long time, Pop said around his cigar, “Listen here, boy. I got three more stops to make. When I say go we go. You got that? I don’t want no backtalk, and goddamnit, no tears.”

    Harold couldn’t help it. He began to cry. Silent streams ran down his cheeks. He tried to hide his face from Pop but Pop knew everything.

    “Oh, for the love of…you stop that right now. You’re not a baby anymore. You keep up that crying and I’ll smack the shit out of you and you can just wait in the car.”

    Harold froze. Remembering the last time. His cheek had stung and it was hot in the car and he’d cried some more and wet himself.

    “Good,” Pop said after a while, then more quietly, “Good boy.”

    It took some time, all the way until Pop pulled into the next lot, when Harold could gather his courage. “Can I—I wanna… put my initials in the cement? Like you do?”

    This made his father laugh. “You got a lotta years to be doing that, kid. Long as you don’t act like a little crybaby anymore. Sure. Yeah, okay. I’ll get Herman to set something up here and you can write whatever you want.”

    “And it’ll be there forever?”

    “Well, I don’t know about forever, but—”

    Harold willed himself not to cry again, so hard he bit down on his tongue until it hurt.

    “Yeah, why not,” Pop said. “Forever it is.”

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Part 2

      Now Harold thinks about “forever” as he stands at his father’s grave in his best suit, hands shoved in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. Lola offered to come with, but he wanted to do this alone. Nothing against Lola, she was a great girl, but sometimes he didn’t want the drama, all that high-heels-in-the-grass-can-you-carry-my-compact kind of drama. And this was one of those times.

      “Hi, Pop. So. Uh. Yeah. I’m doin’ it. With the business. Like you wanted. Only…”—he watched a squirrel scrabble across a branch then dart out of sight— “I guess I never thought it would be so hard. You made it look so easy. You always knew the right thing to do. I don’t…” He rubbed his nose. “I mean, there’s so many decisions. And figurin’ out who you can trust, and who’s gonna stab you in the back first chance they get. Like those guys from Trenton, I mean, who knew…never mind them.” He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Took in the rolling green hills of the cemetery, only the best for Pop, a double plot with a view under a shady tree. A little stone bench covered in birdshit and cigarette butts. Next time he’d bring something to clean that up with. Maybe some flowers.

      That word “forever” came back at him. Perpetual care. Lola told him that meant forever. That they’d always keep the place nice. He wondered if the initials he’d dabbed into the wet concrete on that construction site still stood. It’d be nice to think so, but Pop had probably told him a nice little lie to keep him quiet. Stuff’s always getting torn down, rebuilt. Concrete crumbles, gets patched, repoured. Always new. “Job security,” Pop and his guys would snicker. Harold was the one laughing now.

      Not so funny lately, though. The Trenton guys – he should have seen that coming. That they’d want a piece of the action, think he was vulnerable, new on the job. “But I took care of them, Pop. Just like you would have. Nice and easy and into the East River, ha. Saw to it myself. Nobody gets the best of a Weissman, no fucking body.”

      He sweeps at the bench with his handkerchief, sits a while, watches the grass grow. Wonders if Pop really hangs around here waiting for visitors. He finds that kind of funny, and chuckles. Wonders if they have visiting hours like in the slammer. Wonder if the people on the outside are really the ones locked up and the bodies in the ground are really free.

    3. Weird synchronicity! I am so impressed with this piece. The switch is so smooth, and you can feel the little boy's fear and determination so much it hurts.


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