issue thirty-one

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(777 words)
WJ Rosser
Crippled Countenance

If I think about it (and I would have had to be forced to think about it to think about it) I believe I would think about it in an obsessive kind of way that demanded I talk to my mother and ask her opinion although without question I would dismiss her opinion out of hand if I ever took the time to think about it and talk about it; and I won't do that, of course, unless I have no choice but since I have the choice and nothing forces me I don't think about it and don't ask about it and am without question happy to walk on without considering the stranger's words even though there is no way at all to continue the mundane and quotidian walk to the coffee shop without considering her eyes and I suppose it takes as much effort to distance her eyes from her words as it takes to give up thinking about them altogether.

He's gone, though.

Damn it, the words make their way through my mind despite my best efforts and I desperately attempt to keep them from marrying the eyes and forming an unholy couplet of despair that will permanently abide because accumulating more of that ungodliness would certainly finish the job of crushing me that began with my father and amplified with my grandfather and continued with my dad and seems constantly more imminent as my sister fills timelines with constant plaintive attempts at sympathy for her merciful suffering to accept the onset of or progression of or threat of or maturity of dementia I never hear in my mother's voice whether I call her before or after sundowner's curse.

I don't know the stranger, but I know her story. There is no combination of those words and those eyes and that expression that don't unite to mean memories remain but stop generating and women weep and men hold back tears and friends apologize for not arriving and the youngest brother doesn't even show up because he's spent the last nine years making sure everyone understands just how horrible it was that Dad didn't accept him and his lifestyle and ignoring that the constant theft of money and Mom's attention might have had something to do with my dad's disdain and Mom enjoys the attention as she weeps though she cursed him and his post-split girlfriend and scolded the rest of us for not abandoning him after the way he hurt her and I stand and do all I can not to simply scream at the woman who gave me life but not out of loyalty or even love but simply because I wanted to ensure the most important of my father's mementos ended up in my car before I headed back to the city and away from the desert.

He's gone, though.

Gone and so, then, am I as I turn the corner and fight every ounce of desire within me to turn around and see where she walks but I can't do that even if I want to do that and I won't do that even if somehow I forced myself to think about doing it and my hand moves involuntarily to my pocket for one of the indulgences that killed my father and I light it and inhale and see ahead a place already open, a place that sells the indulgence that Mom believes killed my dad and I make my way there and make my way in and make my way back out because I forgot the restriction on smoke in public places and I crush out what killed my father and make my way back to indulge in the indulgence that Mom says killed my dad (though he always drank a softer indulgence and I wanted it hard) and think about indulgences in general and as I inhale the peat and the caramel pear overtones before I sip, I wonder if the stranger formed decisions about the indulgences that belonged to him, the one who'd gone. The one who'd taken the light from her eyes and the curve from her lips and the hope from her countenance, the one who'd reminded me of the father whose funeral my mother wouldn't allow me to attend or the attendance that made her resent me thirty years later or the thoughts of dementia and brown-label beer, which I probably should have drank instead of the scotch but in the mirror they were my damn eyes I had to see so the memories could live with the damned single malt whether or not the tumbler held a double betrayal, chilled and strained and served neat.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, WJ Rosser. All rights reserved.

Artwork by
Nils-Erik Larson