By Jeff Ewing

June 8, 2020


My father’s face could accommodate almost any emotion but disappointment. There were times it was called for, certainly, but it just couldn’t get any purchase. It would pass like a stab of indigestion, visible for only an instant before his features rearranged themselves into understanding or forbearance again. On the afternoon he died, the bed was cranked up so he could look out through the patio doors at the trees he remembered as saplings. His throat was dry and raw. His chest, sunken to concavity, barely lifted as he struggled to pass his last message to me, a message I try daily now to reconstruct like Turing at Bletchley.

“What’s that dad?”

Sank back, a tired smile. It wasn’t important, he was trying to say. But I saw the disappointment creep back into hiding in the crease beside his nose.

After the ambulance left, I walked down the hall toward my old room, along the shelves crammed full of school art projects, brittled photos, old National Geographics—slowly, a tourist pausing here and there to study an artifact.  When we were kids we used to see how far we could climb along the shelves without touching down. At the end we’d hang by our fingertips outside the living room door where our parents would be talking or watching TV, voices no more than vibrations. We’d hold our breath and grip the wood until we couldn’t any longer. Then we’d close our eyes and hold on for one irretrievable moment more.


Jeff Ewing is the author of the short story collection "The Middle Ground", published by Into the Void Press and named a finalist for the Foreword Review Indie Awards.  His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Crazyhorse, Southwest Review, ZYZZYVA, Willow Springs, Subtropics, Utne Reader, and Saint Ann's Review. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.


Photo courtesy of Julio Arcadio Santamaría Reyes from Unsplash

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