That man there used to be my father. I recognize those blue-veined arms
on that corpse
riding the train with me from Shimokitazawa to Chitose-Funabashi. That’s the corpse
of my father, I swear to God.

He begins to speak: “What’s missing?”

“Absolutely everything, dad, absolutely everything, including you.”

“Who? I have friends who don’t sleep at night.
Are you thinking of what’s happened or worried about tomorrow?”

I recognize his receding hairline and his pale skin. It even has curly hair and wears glasses.
That’s dad, all right, sitting there beneath the sign for special seating.
That’s exactly where he’d sit if he were alive.

“The ball came this close but missed my head.”

“It’s called a close call.”

“All of life is a close call,” he said.

Mother’s left breast is missing.
Does she miss it? Did he?

Humes Boulevard. Clover Drive. Des Moines. Coldspring.
There’s no tomorrow and yesterday’s forgotten.

Dad saw himself as disabled and in some ways he was. He was an emotional cripple,
that’s for sure. He flew into rages over nothing.

I once got up the courage to point out there were no other cars on the road
but he was cursing. He was ranting. He looked out the window and stopped.
When I was eleven, he’d have turned around and smacked me on the head.
He was always threatening to trounce me.

You will be missed means you’re still alive.
You’re not dead yet but you will be.
Welcome to your funeral.

There is something missing but I can’t put my finger on it.

My front tooth is missing. I missed the bus.
Where’s my sock?

No, I don’t miss the bus. I missed the boat.

“I’ll teach you to talk that way to your mother!”
“You missed.”
“I won’t miss next time.”

Dad was a bully. When I was little, mother asked me to get dad
an aspirin to go with his pickled herring and his dry martini. Years later,
dad once said, “After two martinis, I’m not afraid of anything.”
I like that.

Like a lot of monsters, he had a heart of gold. Like Frankenstein and all his monster
friends, he scared the neighborhood children but felt lonely. Like many
bullies before him, what he needed was a blind man to make him a cup of tea.
It was precisely because people were not blind that he hated them.

Oh, but how well Edward Albee understood him. What he wanted above all else
was love: L.O.V.E. Just like an alcoholic, but he didn’t drink.

No, his father drank enough for two generations.
He once said, “You think you’re a big shot, but you’re nothing but a big shit.”
I like that, too.
I used to pick cashews out from father’s dish of mixed nuts.
Amazingly, it didn’t make him mad. It amused him. I did that from his lap.

That old Japanese guy sitting across from me reminds me of my father
when he was alive. The old man there looks very thoughtful,
looks intelligent. My father, too, had that look. I wish I did.

“There won’t be a next time, father.”

That man’s flesh is as white as a frog’s belly, so pale I can see his blue
cheesy veins. I could see my father’s, too. It made him look frail.
He’d get cross but with no power.
He became pathetic, especially when he smelled of urine.

There never is a next time.

It’s hard to control other people when you stink. It’s impossible
to run the show when you’ve sprung a leak. It’s hard to frighten
your son when you have to wear pampers. Fear goes but love lasts.
Now there’s a line for Machiavelli’s Prince. I learned that from my father.

Image credit:James Garcia

David Lohrey is from Memphis. He graduated from UC Berkeley. His plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania.  His poetry can be found in Otoliths, Tuck Magazine, and the Cardiff Journal. His fiction can be read in Storgy Magazine, Terror House, and Literally Stories. David’s newest collection of poetry, MACHIAVELLI’S BACKYARD, was published last year by Sudden Denouement Publications.