A Substantially Delayed Consideration of Responsibilities


The boat is named after a famous saint and you are on it. The final preparations for leaving the dock have not begun yet, but no one responds when the loudspeaker sputters something about an illegally parked car. Your mother worries instead about her motor scooter parked in the neighbor’s garage. Your father has been gone for years, but he comes back, reliably, on your birthday, and you always take a trip to an island for a picnic when he does and your mother comes along, whistling as if she is as happy as they used to be. He often sings a drunken ballad about hard times and desperate women. The story doesn’t seem to have anything to do with your life, but your father’s new girl friend gives you a handmade valentine the one time he allows you to meet her and does a little dance step she calls “The Two Step Apology for Everything He’s Done and Doesn’t Understand But Did It Because He Loves You March of the Fairyplum Soldiers.” She gives you a chuck on the chin and a peck on the lips and slips her tongue in your mouth when your father turns away.
Finally, one day your mother and father announce their remarriage and the girlfriend cuts up your father’s luggage and hits him with a shovel, but he doesn’t press charges and on your birthday another famous saint nearly rams your famous saint when an odd weather disturbance throws off the navigation devices and someone named “Alfred” breaks in on your saint’s frequency wanting to know if the tuna are biting. They aren’t, which you only know because you’ve been listening to the electronic chatter from the deck chair you moved next to an open window. Your father is a liberal when it comes to dispensing his certainty about communications equipment and would be pleased by your interest. Your mother seems to admire this confidence.
Sadly, although you don’t know why, you begin singing. Your father attempts to accompany you on the fish whistle he carved from a whalebone. His range is insufficient and his style is full of artificial exaggeration. The tune is lively, taught to you by your mother, and sounds Irish, and you don’t. It makes you wonder what you’re all doing together like this, your Italian father, Irish mother, and you, uncertain what to claim. It makes you remember that dream about stowing away in your father’s luggage, next to the handmade valentine it’s too late to return.

Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.