brouwer-jones 550On the first Sunday of the month their mother would drive them to the father’s apartment where they would have dinner. The father was a tall, thin man with green eyes and rust-colored hair, and when he’d open the door the sweet smell of his cigar would make their noses sting. They’d go to the corner store and buy a jar of sauce, a box of spaghetti, and later, they would lick the butter from the bread to cool the spices that burned their tongues. One time, just as they were sitting down to eat, there was a knock on the kitchen door. It was winter and already dark. On the wall over the table the father had a string of colored lights in the shape of a Christmas tree. He opened the door, but before anyone spoke, he said he wasn’t interested. The man peeked his red face in and waved. He said, “I see you have kids. Do you know how far ahead of things these books will put them?”

“I’m not interested,” the father said.

“If you want them to go to college, you—”

The father tried to shut the door.

“Hold on,” the man said, “volume three is free,” he said. “Just three alone has twenty-one hundred articles.”

“I’m not interested,” the father said.

The man put his hand on the glass. “I’m not leaving here,” he said, “until you tell me that you don’t care about your kids.”

“I don’t care about my kids,” the father said. And he closed the door and ate the spaghetti, and a few years later, he died, and they did not see him on the first Sunday, or on any other day, any more.

Mary Jones‘s fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in The Hopkins ReviewThe Greensboro ReviewThe Chattahoochee ReviewIndiana ReviewSanta Monica ReviewEpiphany, and elsewhere. This is her first published essay. She holds an MFA from Bennington College, and lives in Los Angeles where she teaches creative writing at UCLA Extension.

 Photography by Joel Brouwer