daddy’s been mighty sad these days. he’s been on his knees at my feet, pressing the backs of my hands against his cheek. he’s been smoking way too much. he cleans my glasses and combs my hair, picks my clothes out for me and lays them across the seat that’s too broken to sit in. when there’s gunfire at night, he comes into my room to make sure i’m okay. he crawls on his hands and knees, so in case the bullets come in through the windows, they won’t hit him.
books go out through the windows when he’s mad. he apologizes, tapes the glass back together, goes out and picks the books up from where they’ve landed in the grass below the dying honeysuckle. he says there’s nothing he can do, the honeysuckle isn’t native to these parts. he showed me how to get the nectar out, how to pull the blossoms off the vine, pull the little bottom parts off to suck the sweetness out. he said if i sucked too many, i would get sick, but this year the honeysuckle didn’t bloom.
the floor gets the knees of his pants dirty. he could clean the house more often and it wouldn’t break my heart. i chased a spider out of my bed. i didn’t tell him about it. he says i’m a good boy. he says he’s sorry, he has a lot on his mind. he says, don’t give me no shit, boy — you’re a good boy. he fixed my night light from where he smashed it into the wall. glued it back together with super glue and put a new light bulb in it. you have to look close to see where it was broke. he says it wasn’t me.
last night he came in standing up. he was smoking a cigarette. the tip of it glowed, red and bright when he sucked on the fire — a little night light saying, here i am, here i am.
(Originally published in Denver Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 4, 2006. Copyright by Tetman Callis.)