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"Reunion Week," short story excerpt

Tuesday 8/24/21

My father communicates in maybe’s, what if’s, I don’t know’s, and burble-burbles. The pier slopes. It’s a filed, burnished tongue depressor slanting downwards, with what appears to be purple silica in the otherwise gray wood, though that must just be the color the sun has aged it.

I hang against the tip practically touching the sea at that point of near-contact where someone ought to state, “say ah,” with my father in the water below. He comes in a couple of forms. Sometimes he’s a shadow of a dog rippling beneath the surface, the egg case of a skate at the edge of my vision. Other times he’s a diver in a mask with a snorkel, his arms limp at his sides, feet kicking noiselessly two-yards down, stopping face first against what remains of the ladder leading up to the pier, legs still churning. I call him the butter churn man in a corner of my thoughts where whimsy does a knock-kneed dance and a mistral wind says, “hey, you, knock it off, I’m gonna drown you out.”

I’ve scrambled away because it’s reunion week and rounds are made. My ex and I are on a school bus and we are—I am—trying for some privacy. I want to keep her breasts below the top of the seat so that no one else can see. And her feet, too, because otherwise it will be easy to deduce what is happening. Such is a bobbing foot.

But it’s not possible with the angles and though we only have this one time, I’m attempting to tell myself, as I ask her, that maybe it will be enough for our parts to be next to each other, and up against each other, even if nothing is inside of anything. It’s the only option in the circumstances.

We’ll go to the junior high later in the day because I want her to see that classroom where something meant something to me. In all honesty I don’t remember exactly what it was. I learned something there, I think. About life, not about school. There may have been a poor kid my friends made fun of and the teacher put an end to it in some kind of dignified way that didn’t embarrass the person who was their victim. I liked that teacher. Mr. McHenry or something of the ilk.

You know, my ex never believed me that my mother hated me. The entire time of our marriage. As far as I can tell, she believed me with everything else. I sort of looked at it as what I was known for in her view. I wouldn’t say I had two pickles late at night watching the ballgame alone if I had three. I’d be precise even about pickles.

We were in my mother’s house needing to kill some time before we could go to the school, because the kids were still there and I thought it’d be best and less intrusive to wait until after, though I couldn’t be certain they’d just let us walk around, two adults on the premises. But it was reunion week, after all. My mother was out and we ate toast. She had this top of the line toaster. A miracle toaster, so far as toasters went. You put in the bread and I shit you not, the toast was done in less than three seconds. You made additional toast not because you wanted more necessarily but to confirm what you thought you had witnessed.

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