Body and Mind
I’m at my father’s bedside, his hand resting in mine. His skin feels thin, but his nails grow thick and long, creeping a half inch beyond the rounded flesh. They’re the only part of him that seems healthy. How can the nails keep growing like this when his heart pumps barely enough blood to keep him alive?
I was never able to answer my mother when she asked how her Holocaust experience had affected me. And she deserves my good-faith attempt, albeit these many years late.
Then ahead I saw a small, dark shape perched on the sand, well back from the water. As I drew closer, the shape revealed itself to be a bird, sitting back on its tail feathers. It was vaguely penguin-like, about eighteen inches tall, with black back and head, white breast and cheeks.
When my father died, he left two letters in separate envelopes, both marked “To be opened at my death.” One is addressed to my brother and me. The other is to his wife.
I imagine Warren and Adrianne as little archaeologists, trying to unearth the bones of their father’s life, holding up shoes and hats they’ve disinterred, old letters, a college ring inside a carved wooden box from Afghanistan.
Once there were two hogs and a sow who lived in a sturdy pen outside an old man’s hut. Then the old man died. That morning, no one brought food to the pen; the next morning, no one brought food to the pen. By evening the animals were panicked and ravenous, the bottom of the trough licked smooth as tile.
After I stoppped having concerns over a Row Five assignment, there was only one thing I actively feared: the tap. Once every week or so the Narc would tap an attendant on the shoulder and send him or her to the backroom to thin out the population.