A Child Is Not Furniture

A Child Is Not Furniture

One time when I lived in Chicago I spent an hour talking to a woman who was wearing a dress of the brightest red I have ever seen in all my born days and I have lived fifty years. This was on the Cicero Avenue bus at three in the morning. She said she was...

At the Nursing Home, My Mother Is Served Traif

The attendant places a plate of sweet potato and ham in front of my mother, who all her life has kept kosher, who has separated the dairy from the meat, the dishes in separate cupboards, the silverware in opposite drawers, all of her life she followed the letter of the law as far as she...

Three Graces

In the Sunflower Café the waitresses sat down in booths with elderly customers and watched them shuffle photos of grandkids like decks of cards, as if looking for a good hand. Some early retirees—robust, tanned, and laughing — described the waitresses to me as “booze hags.” The women’s hands shook as they poured coffee. They...

Accident

Not really looking as I crank the engine and start downhill for town, I tilt my head out my window in a rush of wind to take in winter stars and sweep away the fumes from a petty argument at home.  My escape velocity: not fast enough, but faster than I should be going. Right...

Waiting to Hit

For my twenty-seventh birthday my dad takes me golfing, and on each tee-box we catch the next group, three frat guys wearing baggy shorts and backwards caps, swinging from their heels, slicing shots deep into the woods. On the back nine my dad starts to simmer, makes growling noises, but then says he can’t get...

Advance. Retreat. Lunge. Recover

Joe steps forward and back, holding his imaginary foil as the instructor barks commands. Joe’s face is a mask of concentration and anxiety, his body tense. For Joe, it is important his moves are just right, important the teacher say to him, “Good job,” at the close of class. Joe is eleven. We have moved...

Blind

A sun lamp, a sleeping pill, my mother dozing without the UV peepers over her eyes.  Dark, troubled, shake-of-the-head talk from my father on the phone with the doctor. Mother in her bright blue terry-cloth robe, her face burned blood red and blistered, her eyes blistered too, the wreckage hidden beneath the cotton bandaged to...

Catch

As I threw casually, with that lazy effort of a volleyballer warming up, as the football bounced off my son’s hands repeatedly, the thought came to me: Let it be. Only it wasn’t the words themselves, it was the idea to remain silent, to keep my mouth shut, to enjoy the day; it was what...

Music Lessons

1. PRELUDE, an introductory movement You always had music in your house. Your father had hundreds of classical and jazz record albums–this was long before anyone had heard of cassette tapes, let alone CDs–and subscribed to High Fidelity magazine. Your parents also had season tickets for the symphony, which was pretty good, considering you lived...

Virus

C:\>run oliu.exe I’m not perfect.  I was created under the guise that I was perfect at some point.  That there was a fusion of sperm and egg in my mother’s body, and that moment was perfection.  I grew inside of my mother’s womb, presumably with my back curved and my limbs bent up, pulled close...

How Catholic

You’ve seen the movie: white convertible, uncle with slicked black hair, woman with Cleopatra eye shadow and a neckline, poodle instead of child in back. Okay, two poodles, big ones. Peach-colored, smelling of money. Not sprayed peach but given some pill the way pet doctors, even real doctors, dispensed them so freely then, some pill...

Why

What good are you? What do you do? – Dr. Seuss Because language is all we have. Because today my son is eight years old. Because songs run over, over, over and spiral out on their own axis. Because I cannot sing. Because almost nearly half through last century and however much is left to...

Three Bites

1. Peepop’s Bite In the space between his dwindling mind and his lost body, my Peepop Marcus nurtured one of the few remaining original items in his mouth: his sweet tooth.  He had a gentle way of eating—like a well-mannered aristocrat—which belied the ferocity with which he loved cake.  He had an endless fix, too,...