by Wells Oliver
I ask my father what he is doing and he tells me I will understand when I become a man. There is tinsel everywhere. One of the bottles he had been using has broken and lies in shards on the thick carpet. I don't know how mom will clean out all of the little shards from the carpet because the carpet is shag and we all know my father never cleans up after himself anyway. There must be a million shards, if you were to count them individually, but let's be honest: who can? My father reaches up to the ceiling and counts to seven and then reaches down to his toes and exhales for what seems to be fifteen minutes. In between his repeated heavy breaths there hangs in the air a tangible, weighty silence. My mother then comes into the room with a powerful stride and sees the glass and the tinsel and my father stretching this way and that and her faces goes blank. "David?" she questions my father. He does not respond. My mother seems unable to make sense out of the situation in front of her and has a wild look in her eyes, as though she's stumbled on something illegal. I am sitting on the carpet and pulling at the thick strands and trying to count the shards. I get to thirty-seven before my mother asks me what in the hell is going on. My mother usually doesn't employ frank language in her dealings with me so I try my best to explain the situation and tell her that I am counting all of the shards so that she can be sure she's picked them all up when the time comes. I'm trying to play peacemaker. My mother, though, she doesn't buy the explanation. She calls my father a 'goddamned freak' under her breath--I am not sure if he could hear--and stalks off. I try to resume counting the shards of glass but I can't remember which I have counted and which I have not. There are so many. They glitter like little stars. I run my hand through them and let them filter through my fingers. My father lifts his right leg in the air to the side so that it forms a right angle with his left. He hums. He tells me to leave the glass but pick up the tinsel and go somewhere else. It's a big house, he says.
I pick up all of the tinsel and try to stuff it in the drawer. It doesn't fit. I push and heave and shove for five minutes before my father explodes at me and tells me to leave it alone. He says get out. He points at the door and waggles a thin finger. The man is standing with one leg twisted around the other and his back bent at a ninety-degree angle and he's becoming increasingly furious. I try to keep from laughing at him. He yells some more. I leave the room and go downstairs into our finished basement. It serves as a playroom and has a pool table, a large television, and several video game consoles. I put Blades of Steel into the Nintendo and start yelling for my brother to come downstairs and challenge me. I yell for ten minutes but can hear nothing except for my mother yelling at my father, who does not respond. I sit, video game controller in hand, waiting for my brother to come down and play the game with me. The room is drafty and you can feel the December air seep through. It is at least fifteen degrees colder here than anywhere else in this house. I look out of the bay window that sits behind the television and I stare out at the thousand of twinkling lights that signify life in the suburbs down in the valley below us. There must be a million of those lights. I start to count--one, two, three--but eventually lose my way, all of the lights blending into a soft amber glow, the hillside gazing back at me with a watchful eye. I sit for ten minutes and watch twilight slowly surrender to night, the lights below growing brighter, more distinct, and then turn on the television to see what's on.
About the author:
Wells Oliver is hard at work on a novel about adventures among men and short shorts. His work has appeared on various internet publications. He admittedly still fantasizes about playing third base for the Boston Red Sox.