Gargoyle 50Cover by Colin WinterbottomPublished 6/1/2005
Dad is a rubber band; when he gets mad the air turns purple. Bundled stars of potential energy twinkle around his head, the sound of milk curdling underneath molded plastic. The counter below a meadow of drawn rat traps. Trembling springs held taut only by the laws of physics.
This is my Tuesday early afternoon. Mister Rogers is telling me to run away. The dogs are skulking upstairs; if they could close the door they would. Laundry spinning in its familiar blur underneath rattling metal. He’ll wash that towel four times today. My toes are frozen numb. I will stand here until
This is my Saturday morning. I am eating microwaved hot dogs from a warm metal fork fresh from the dishwasher. I see my reflection in the kitchen window, see Dad’s reflection hovering above me, see the thin sick grass between us. For the thirty-sixth time today I wish I was outside, hunkered into a hole the dog had dug under the foundation of the house to hide in when Dad comes after him with his fingers wadded into his palms
Mister Rogers isn’t on today. I don’t know who to
This is the bathtub, where I live. Shit smears the full length of me, thin trails of mud underneath me when I scoot out of the way. Hot water laps around me, kissing and burning my legs. Dad pulls the thin hair circling his chin before he digs into my scalp dripping shampoo. Dad’s beard is patchy because he constantly picks at it like a scab, wrenching three and four hairs between his thumb and forefinger. Gripping like a plug of chewing tobacco or a secret pinch on the back of my leg when we’re in line at Wal-Mart and I’m upset over something really childish. Acting like a child. Quit It You Big Baby.
This is Dad’s TV set, in Mom’s bedroom. Dad loses track of me here most of the day, slouched into a chair. The TV is always on the channel he left it.
When I grow up, I’ll be disappointed to find out that most TV shows stopped being filmed in front of actual living, breathing, laughing people sometime in the early 1990s, replaced by laugh tracks or theme music.
When I grow up, I’ll find out Dad’s choice to stay home with me is completely voluntary, that he deliberately chooses to spend his time this way.
Much later, just before I die, I’ll find my brothers and sisters and they’ll be hugging me for reasons I don’t understand.