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  • Maxine Scates
  • Red Wave

And when I lie awake in the middle of the nightthe door opens again because it can—his truckis in the driveway mid-afternoon, and so I flee the babysitterwhose son asks if I'd like to play dodgeball then drills mewith one tennis ball after another. I don't stop to askwhy my father is home. I open the door and he'sriding the crest of the wave, his big hands all over Rose,my mother's best friend, opening or maybe closingthe bedroom door because Bob, our next door neighbor,washes up and has me cornered on the back porch, backedagainst the washing machine, where he's mumblingThat's not so bad is it? before I burst, though surelyit's because he's let me go, out the back door into the heat,the light of day where I sit with my dog,her bloody ears a home for flies. I wait out thereuntil they all depart to whatever else it is they do duringthe hours of the day when all of them should be at workor at the very least taking care of children. Years later

when something asks me to make sense of the red wavethat crashed through our small house again and again,a house which having swum to the shore of this lifeis by then a sinking ship I've told myself I leapt from,I'll ask my mother a question, meant, no doubt,to make her feel guilty for actually having been at workthat day and every day. I'll wedge my foot in the doorwayof her own memory where she has no answer for whatI've asked but the flaming sea, the piece of deck he clung to, [End Page 70] the nine blasted bodies beside my father always gone. Andstill, I will not let her close that door until she offers to feed meand my desire for what I'm not exactly sure until, as if she'donly just recalled it, my mother tells me that Rose's first son,

whose name was Michael and who was born before Rose'sfather, Tommy, who worked at the Natural History Museumand hauled giraffes and elephants from the taxidermistto their final resting places in their green dioramas andwho was, my mother said, a gentle man, shot Rose's secondhusband to death for beating her, his only child, and then,long after Tommy had gotten out of prisonand fallen asleep with a cigarette between his fingersand died weeks later from the burns, everyone sayingit was for the best because his wife had died andhe had nothing left, then, before that door in my mother'smemory slammed shut forever, my mother told me

that Michael was my father's son. She told melong after I'd last seen him with his brothers and sisterone Saturday late in the fifties when I did not seeour father look his way. And, by then, evenif someone had looked for him, there was no findingMichael because after Vietnam he'd gone to prisonfor robbery and when he got out, a drunk, who,his brother said, had so many things he needed to forget,he disappeared into his life on the streets. Yet sometimesI've thought, because any story wants an ending, that ifhe'd found his way to the Vets Home where my father livedhis last years, if he'd found his way for treatment of his ownflashbacks or maybe the effects of Agent Orange which made usall think our neighbor Jerry was a drunk for the few stepshe'd take then totter and fall beneath the firs, if he had foundhis way, he might have found his father, just as anylost prince finds his king, and, finally, the two of themmight have had something to talk about, those long yearsof their journey no one knew but them. [End Page 71]



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