My brothers have met her. She is apparently a likeable person that my father sees when he doesn’t see us. He tells us he is going to the homeless shelter or the zoo. Sometimes he travels in his station wagon.
My mother is dying of cancer. This is not a good time but she thinks we ought to realize that our daddy has eclipsed, over the years, with this other woman who likes my father because he is an intellectual man who is full of good ideas about writing.
My mother, I think, is implying that some women, particularly this woman, are attracted to men like my father who wear collegiate suits and discuss Hemingway excitedly.
My father’s words are different than Jersey conversation, which divulges a dog’s bladder has been diagnosed with cancer, or Richard Nixon’s former housekeeper lives in Saddle River.
This woman took my father. She dispelled all theories about me and my mom and brothers and we are frightened of her.
My father died thirteen years ago and there was never any mention of this woman, and now that my mother has cancer, and will likely die, there are varying degrees of hints that float through our minds.
The girl in the next room. The woman who intrigues him. The daddy taken out of his station wagon while viewing The Poseidon Adventure with his kids—he is charmed by sinews and styles and comfortable awes of this woman.
“Would you like to meet her?” my father asks me. He is burning tobacco in his pipe, the kind, his colleagues tell me, in their pock-marked faces, which killed him.
He is under the earth. In a warm-lined brown dirt area, sometimes where the trees line up, not far from Aunt Lillie’s grave, where the weeds and stones meet for coffee.
Yes, Daddy persists, through the air, tepid and bitter, to have this woman in his time. The time he is not with us. The boxed windows where we look through and they are together.
“I don’t want to meet your girlfriend,” I reply.
“Your brother met her. He liked her. You will get used to it—I have left Mom.” They met while he was dead.
My mother has gone to join them, and it will be remarkably cold. It is not the maggots that will leave her pale.
My father and this woman drink coffee.
“Daddy,” I ask, “why?”
“Well,” he says, looking at our bathroom tiles, “we discuss writing. She makes me smile. I am happier in her arms. We kiss well. Your mother and I have not spoken in thirteen years.”
My mother was the superior lover in bed, yet she and Daddy are no longer here.
We are in a new house near a highway. I live with my brothers and stay in the bedroom and don’t worry about God or fixtures on the wall or Daddy.
You thought he’d rescue you or put you to sleep in the back of your car or that someone would tell you how much he loved you. You didn’t think there’d be empty boxes instead of his calming hands.
But the cemetery is quieter now. Mother has joined them for tea, and divorce proceedings are in the sand.
Eleanor Levine’s work has appeared in Fiction, The Evergreen Review, BLAZEvox,The Denver Quarterly, Midway Journal, The Toronto Quarterly, Northwind Magazine, The California State Quarterly, Prime Mincer, Happy, Penumbra, The Coachella Review, OVS Magazine, Gertrude, Atticus Review, fortyouncebachelors.com, Fanzine, Lunch Ticket Magazine, The Red Booth Review, Educe Journal, Milk and Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry, Downtown Poets (anthology), New York Sex (anthology), The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Blade and other publications. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. Eleanor is currently a copy editor and lives in Philadelphia, PA.