The farmer’s daughter began her fifth period, more excavating, more mortal than the previous. The toilet under the stairs flushed half-heartedly, returning red-brown effluent. Go down, go away, be off to the underworld! She pumped a second time, jangled the handle to make her point. But there would be more. Dark clumps and entrails, another six days of the end of the world.
My father teaches ethics at a university. My mother teaches ethics at a university. They save. Their money. Buy a large bungalow in Connecticut. They continue. Saving. Enough to support the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and their baby. They read the news and wish kindness into our laws. One of them will say Sweden hasn’t been to war since 1812. The other says you can start a business in Sweden and get free healthcare. They’re excited. About my arrival. They remain. Calm. When midnight cries wake them. My father waits. For my mother to heal. Before asking for sex. She’s good. At saying no. She throws meditation and exercise and intense therapy at her trauma. Still goes to AA. When wrong. She promptly admits it. Every night she arrives home from the university. Her soft. Low voice. Builds a replica in my throat. She wears minimal. Makeup. Cuts her nails down because who needs the fuss. When I walk. Into a room. And see my father. I continue walking in. When my father and I leave. The house. Lots of women introduce themselves. When we get back he tears. Their numbers over the trash. On weekends my father and I dig in the dirt. I watch him plant lilac bulbs around the spruce. He lets my small hand pack the ground. Affirms it as help. When my father puts. me to bed with true stories of him sewing clothes for new mothers in Ukraine. I fall asleep fast.
The life-size and realistic bronze has stood on its parklet street corner for so long that no one remembers whom it represented or what it memorializes. The sculptor had done a good job. It looks pleased with itself, proud of its accomplishments in life. Someone’s hat, an ordinary tweed cap, green and brown, not even worth describing, has fallen off, blown away, and come to rest upside down on the pavement underneath the bronze. Slowly the cap is filling up with coins and bills from passers-by. Clearly, they think this is not public art, but a street-artist slathered in metallic paint from head to foot, holding a pose. And the cap must be his.
A man has stopped to look. He is underdressed for the weather and disturbingly unkempt, talking out loud with nobody to listen. In the old days, we would have taken him to be schizophrenic. Nowadays, surely he must be wearing earbuds and conversing with his girlfriend. We do not give him a second glance. He continues exchanging messages with his teeth.
The bronze figure looks pleased with itself.
We drop a quarter in the cap.