by Belinda Roddie
The chime of a text message, muffled
by denim as I lean back against the bench. Train's
late, again, but that doesn't matter; the destination
is, as always, no man's land, and I'm not itching
to get there on time. I've smoked four cigarettes
before realizing that my brother has been trying
to contact me. Tells me my father's dead - again.
He's been clinically dead twice before, for about
two to three hours both times. The ash from my
stogies leaves mosaics on my fingers, and I call
the hospital to check if they've revived him. No
dice. He's dead for real this time. Fifty-six years
old, and as dead as Lincoln and Roosevelt. As in
brain hemorrhage, fountain of internal bleeding,
cerebral supernova and gray matter explosion dead.
The howl of a train whistle, unhindered by the
fog that's thicker than the carcinogens I've pumped
into my lungs, curdling my breath like sour milk.
I take a window seat and think about calling my
mother. We haven't spoken since the divorce. My
father took to drugs and anal sex and brought at
least five boyfriends home before I went to college.
Maybe I'll send her a postcard. She's in Gatlinburg,
where the fires are still going strong. Dolly Parton
weeps over her theme park. Seven people got burned
alongside Bible pages. My brother once wiped his ass
on the New Testament, and my father thought that
was funny as Hell. Left my mother speechless. Made
my grandmother faint at the dinner table.
The chime of a text message. This time, I hear it
because I'm focused on my stomach, and how much
I hate train rides because of the nausea. This text's
from my girlfriend. Are you on the train, where can
I meet you, how long can you stay. She leaves a little
kissy emoji, and somehow, it's like the lipstick is
already imprinted on the nape of my neck. When
I disembark, I'll have a drink and a night of sex
while my brother buries our father and the priest
recites a prayer - hopefully not from the same book
that made religion more of a rectal examination than
any of us already thought possible.