By Leah Christianson

January 13, 2020


He’s outside, singing. On the record player, Sinatra spins. Next, it will be Pavarotti. Maybe a big-band soundtrack. Whatever the treasure, he will make a big show of dusting off and placing a needle upon before heading back to his garden.

Salvatore, Sal, or Sam is my grandpa. He is barrel-chested and thick-haired, even past eighty. I am small, with a new brother. I alternate between peering into his crib and running outside to ask Sam if he wants any lemonade. When Jack starts wailing—likely bothered by my stares—Sam lumbers inside, smooths his hair. Says, “you’ll make a singer yet.”

As a young man, Sam wanted to sing opera. He went to Mexico City to conquer its burgeoning scene. He was going to become famous.

“But something happened,” my mom says. “He wouldn’t talk about it. He’d never been nervous before. But one day, he couldn’t sing onstage anymore.”

Incomprehensible. He tamed wild horses, built ships for the war, fought off men who wanted to marry my grandmother. Years later, at her funeral, my uncle says, “My dad was larger than life. My mother kept him grounded.” Now, Sam lets his fingers trail through the white jasmine plant at his hip. Behind him, a cinderblock wall. Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away drifts through the screen door. Inside, salty tomatoes crackle and pop. This is his stage. He tilts his head towards the pulsing sun. He opens his mouth, begins to sing.


Leah F. Christianson’s work has appeared in TriQuarterly, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from Miami University, recently completed a novel, and is working on a book of nonfiction.

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