Daddy was a man I knew in Twisp, Washington. We lived in a small yurt
together. When I first arrived, Daddy stood on one side cuddling an
industrial-size Elmer's glue bottle. I immediately detected half the
yurt was empty and acquainted myself with my portion's dark dust. I
didn't like to ask questions about situations—I had been
slapped in my youth when inquiring why one woman's chest was bigger
than another's. Shirtless with the Elmer's, Daddy wore pea green pants
and a shrunken, faded red cap. All he said was, Don't ask me what day
it is. I go by a different calendar.
Daddy spent mornings just outside the yurt. There was a small pile of
2x4s but this wasn't his concern. He sat zazen counting blades of grass
and making notations in a thin notebook.
I kept inside, feeling for the mustache I had lopped off before the bus
brought me to Twisp. In memos to senior officials, I described myself
as uninhibited, with a twenty-eight inch waist.
Once a week an old man on a rusty bicycle would bring us food and I had
to be ready to receive it. I did my nails and sometimes popped open a
carmine lipstick I stole from a drug store. I thought I was getting
high because I didn't get an erection. No one knows what happiness is.
Don't trust men.
Daddy had some old fishing magazines and when I asked to see one he
said to hold on and in about two hours he had drawn up an official
looking paper. A receipt of borrowhood. There were instructions about
the fate of the magazine should Daddy die before I returned it to his
The pages of this magazine were scissored up. All the photography of
bass and sturgeon had been removed, leaving the fisherman holding
oval-shaped blocks of text and unfathomable close-ups from the previous
At sunset Daddy liked to whistle. High-pitched revival songs. We were
two weeks together when Daddy opened up about his time in hell. He
showed me the pitchfork marks on his thighs and back and murmured how
any visit there built up your antioxidants.
I sat up from my chair. Do you smell that?
Daddy removed his trick nose and held it up, squeezing his face to make
a slight honking sound. Then he put it back on and said, It's the
I thought filberts smelled more… nutty.
No those are the Filberts, the family Filbert. They walk around
sometimes. The mother coats the kids in Vaseline. They think it keeps
the killer bees away but I know better. The bees have asked me many
questions over the years. I don't ever know what the fuck they are
talking about. But I once had a father, an expert in petroleum jellies.
So I told the bees all about the Vaseline. They weren't impressed.
The rain in Twisp sometimes hit me sideways like it originated about
six feet above the earth, shot from a garden house. I often remembered
my childhood on these off-kilter rainy days. The neighbor girl was my
love. She had that brown hair I liked to chew. In the park by our house
was a tree I named Jack. Nobody understood what Jack meant to me. I
could die, that was no problem. But if something screwy happened to
Jack… if he went before me....
When the neighbors and their girl moved I hid in the trunk of their
car. They found me at the first gassing up and gave me graham crackers.
My love pawed my face and I thought all would be well. My aversion to
police started then. I've broken four of their noses since. I promised
I would never love again. Daddy knew nothing of hell.
At the end of summer Daddy told me of his other father, the bigger one,
or the one with the Swedish accent. There were so many you see. I often
used the fishing magazine as a facial shield when he launched into
these accounts. I thought if he saw me laughing he'd make a report.
Evidently the bigger father showed Daddy how to breastfeed.
One day the old man on the rusty bicycle came up the trail with a
basket of kohlrabi and a cantaloupe. His face was blistered, his hands
ravaged to the bone. This is all, he said. They are coming. Maybe
tonight. I'm going east. You should think similar. Wait. No. I am going
west. You should think dissimilar.
Daddy didn't believe the old man. He never believed me either. He said
I reminded him of tampons and that was bad.
We stuffed the cache of fishing magazines into the edges around the
door and waited out the night. Soon, we heard what I thought were
sheep. Daddy said it was the Filberts. They beat on the windows and as
I went to let them in Daddy tackled me and poured some goopy fluid in
my eyes. He told me mountains were rising all around us and fires had
started but we would be saved. I'd heard that sweet music before.
I threatened Daddy with the cantaloupe but he wasn't having it. The sky
turned green and the Filberts shrieked for mercy. Something was
marching in—I could have called it madness but that would
have been too kind.
I took to destroying Daddy but the cantaloupe was well ripe and on
impact with Daddy's stony face it burst into hot-colored mush. He
licked himself up and held a quivering thumb to my forehead. That's
when I left Daddy.
I told the Filberts not to go in but they did.
At the edge of a high forest rain showers soaked me. I saw in
triplet—I would not see right again. I threw off my sweater
and rubbed Daddy away. They found me in the crook of a boulder. They
said I was so innocent looking they didn't want to disturb me.
Greg Gerke is the author of There's Something Wrong with Sven.
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201001daddy.htm
Detail of illustration on main page courtesy
of Max Estes.
Read other GG work from the archive.
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