The hardest part about losing your dad is when your mom just can’t be a grown up about it. It’s even worse when she tries to replace him.
I look at the glass-dad with the transparent head sitting on the kitchen table and I daren’t even come in so I can get my cereal. My belly’s rumbling as I look at the waffles going cold on the table, but I won’t touch them, because I know that its microscopic camera-lens eyes are looking at them.
My dad used to tell me (before the chemo started going all wrong and he got all spindly, like a scarecrow) how I shouldn’t be a baby anymore. How I shouldn’t cry when I scraped my knee or when I got into a fight with my little sister. He’d told me that men don’t cry and that if anything, anything, happened to him, I’d be the man of the house.
He’d mumble that when he was in the hospital bed, with tubes stuck in his nostrils and into his arm. “You look like a cyborg, dad” I told him and he laughed so hard he spat blood. Mom never tried to make him laugh. She only stood there, looming above him at the head of the bed, praying to God he’d make it through because, as it turned out, she wasn’t much good without him.
The glass-dad sitting in the living room couch, across the TV, with a plexiglass limb stretched out across our mom’s shoulders, the chug and whirr of its mechanisms lost under the blare of late-night TV is nothing like my dad, not even when he was wasting away in that hospital bed.
I don’t think I and my sister cried too hard when dad died, six months later. He was just a bag of bones by then. A bag of bones that cried and vomited and sometimes grasped my mom’s hands as she brought them together in prayer and wheezed out a short “Shut up for a second Margie, will you? Please?” I hate to admit it, but I was kind of relieved when the EKG stopped thumping and replaced its metronome call with a steady, shrill beeeep.
We wept for him when he went into the ground, but it was my mom who held on to the coffin, who cried and almost kicked the lid open, screaming “Please, no! No, no no!” to the undertakers, as if dad’s death had been a clerical error, some mistake that could have just been fixed if someone in authority just popped open the lid and took a long look. It broke my sister’s heart and mine to see her like that.
The grown-ups didn’t say a word, of course.
I hear the creaking of the floorboards in the bedroom and my sister’s crying in the bed next to me. I think of birds and bees with see-through wings, buzzing around tinfoil flowers and I won’t stop crying.
Mom couldn’t even get out of the house when she finally realized that dad was gone. She couldn’t pay the bills, barely made it out of bed or even across the street. She’d only mumble ‘Thank you’s and ‘I miss him too’s on the phone that never stopped ringing. A ton of people missed dad, apparently. We didn’t see any of them up close after the funeral.
Mom just brought the glass-dad home away and looked at us with a look that said “I just couldn’t make it on my own”.
Mom didn’t warn us about the glass-dad. She didn’t sit us across the table or shut off the TV on Saturday morning to tell us “Kids, I loved your father so, so much and I can’t live without him, so I’m getting a replacement.”
The glass-dad didn’t even flinch, when I took a hammer from dad’s shed and smashed it at the back of its head. There was only a moment of silence, as the thing’s mechanism’s stopped, assessed the damage and decided to ignore the hairline fracture in the back of its skull.
“I can’t stay here anymore. Not with that thing around” my sister whispered to me as we lay in our beds in the middle of the night, crying our eyes out while the upstairs floorboards kept their rhythmic creaking. It was the last thing she ever said to me.
I poured lighter fluid all over it, the day they found my sister three blocks down, run over by some drunk driver. I set the glass-dad on fire but it just hissed and cooled down until it frosted over, quenching the flames. It didn’t even acknowledge me.
Mom didn’t cry as hard at my sister’s funeral. The grown-ups didn’t say a single word about the transparent thing that held my mother as they buried the tiny little oak box with the glass lid.
I left the house that night, ran as far as my legs would take me. When I woke up, I was in my bed. Mom and the glass-dad had found me and brought me back, without a word. I ran away again, then again, every day for an entire month. When I woke up one day and I wasn’t in my bed, I knew that no-one was coming to get me.
I tried to sneak back into the house a week later, almost starving. I saw the glass-dad looking out at me from the living-room window, with Mom watching TV on the couch. I turned then and ran, its camera-lens eyes following me all the way down the street.
I ran untilk my legs could no longer carry me, until I collapsed on the street and I could still feel its eyes on my back, watching me.
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