Home Again, Home Again
by Kris Saknussemm
ifty percent of the stores in town dealt in upholstery, one specialized in shovels,
and on one corner there was a boarded-up delicatessen with a large, rather
crude spraypainting of a giant shoe crushing an insect.
I found my mother inhabiting a series of ruined gardener's sheds with
clay-shingled roofs in the midst of what I supposed was some attempt at a
Mediterranean villa. Some eccentric rancher had probably started building
it, then died. My mother looked suspiciously young. The top parts of her
arms were soft and smooth, the way I remembered them as a child. The first
thing she did was to introduce me to Mrs. Nedd, who I only vaguely
Mrs. Nedd was paralyzed from the waist down. She was seated in a lawn
chair equipped with wheels, in a patch of shade on the brick cobblestones,
holding a miniature rake with a sharp metal point on the end to ward off the
crawling fish, which are a real problem in that part of the country. These
were the largest I'd ever seen, and although they don't move quickly, they
were playing havoc with the pot shards at the old woman's useless feet.
"Your father's in town," my mother said, and I flinched.
"Really?" I said, as casually as I could.
Then, speak of the devil, I'll be damned if he didn't pop his head in
through a barrelwood door in one of the walls.
"Greetings ladies, how's life in the convent?" he grinned.
I couldn't tell if he was being snide or offering a badly needed
explanation for the architecture.
"Hi Dad," I tried, as we both bungled the handshake-or-hug decision.
"You look just the same," he said.
I'm sure I didn't, but in any case, my father looked very different
indeed. He must've weighed close to 300 pounds the last time I saw him—and
his face had grown quite red from all the burst capillaries. Now he looked
like a lean cowboy-about-town, a little wind-chapped and damaged around the
eyes, but clean-shaven and neatly dressed. Bless his heart, he was off the
booze. He'd have to have been off the sauce to have looked so changed.
"I was running a fever at least once a day," he told me.
He still trembled a bit tying his shoes, but he looked thin and strong.
His shoes were terrific—soft blue leather with tiny holes in them. He was
so proud of them he refused to tell me where he'd gotten them.
"Don't take it personally," he said. "You'd never be able to find
another pair like these."
"No," I agreed. "Most likely not."
The ostensible purpose of his visit was to deliver a CD of Hank Snow's
Greatest Hits to my mother. Of course, my mother loathes Hank Snow, or at
least she used to. She looked so odd standing there in a sleeveless jersey
and Levi's, her hands covered with potting soil. Maybe she'd even asked him
to bring the CD over. I tried listening to the two of them chatting for a
while but I kept getting distracted by a man's face that seemed to be
peering at us through a space in between the gate and one of the pillars.
Every time I looked over at him, the face disappeared. I didn't know if it
was one of my mother's suitors, a friend of my father's, or someone else
Then it occurred to me that it wasn't entirely out of the question that
he had come to see Mrs. Nedd, who was doing a fine job with her little
spear-handled rake. I'd been out of touch for so long, I thought I better
just play it cool and get the lay of the land before I started asking too
Kris Saknussemm's first novel ZANESVILLE was published late last year by Villard Books.
His short fiction has won First Prize in the Boston Review and River Styx
Short Fiction contests, and has been published by The Antioch
Review, New Letters, The Hudson Review, ZYZZYVA and Prairie Schooner.
Online, stories appear or will appear in In Posse Review, Cherry Bleeds,
SoMa Literary Review, Underground Voices, Bewildering Stories and the Mad
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story copyright by author 2006 all rights reserved