The Island, II.
Iguanas are languid things. These, baking in the palm-filtered sun, lie still as fallen statues in the sand, except for the occasional swish of muscled tail. They lie there, a parched green, and one might think they wait. Some, nearby, surround the boulder she claimed as hers the last visit, when she came, alone, on her first trip abroad since Dad died, an early morning heart attack having brought him to the floor, right after shoveling in a blizzard. He woke early, and must have lain there for hours—a little blood trickling from his head where he clipped the counter on the way down— before my sister found him. I was off at college, and for a while, at least, their ruse to get me home before telling me worked—they told my roommates, and one, like inviting a dog to its final walk, challenged me to a game of Super Smash Bros., which he’d all but sworn off from the losses—but Mom broke, her voice broke on the phone, and she had to tell me then. It felt embarrassing, or indecent, somehow, to be in the company of others, so I laced up and ran into that same blizzard, down the road to the wide running path buried in snowfall, which despite the wind was more silent even than the swish of a tail in sand, half a world away, where I sit now, listening in vain. Last night, with the sun inexorably setting over the sea, we took a canoe and made our way out to an island not far from shore, an island so tame, it seemed, we could walk its circumference. We never made it, though—Mom stopped paddling a dozen yards off and, closing her eyes and breathing deeply, made me promise to tell her of this, later, if when on her deathbed she needs reminding of what happened here, of worn but brilliant skies. Once, when I couldn’t sleep, and she assured me God always wins, I asked where God was when the towers fell, and with all her AA wisdom she had nothing to say. I don’t blame her, but I can see where this fear comes from, and why she drew crosses in chalk on the window, as a girl, before bed. Who are we now, on this side of things? And who am I to speak of the blood, when I wasn’t there to witness it? Anyway, I promise to try.
In the Hot Tub
Perhaps the best part about skiing is finishing skiing, grabbing robes from the hotel closet, and taking glasses of Grand Marnier out to the hot tub, where we sit long beyond the recommended limit as the booze rushes to our heads and we make ourselves bubble beards, giddy with contentment. But you stayed in today, so it’s just me and your father out here, pruning in silence. Before long, though, we’ve drunk enough to loosen up— two quiet men, he nearly half a century older— and soon he grows garrulous, telling me about his tenth and fiftieth reunions, how after all that time his old Milwaukee neighborhood was completely unchanged, except for the size of the trees. He tells me, too, about seeing his best man for the first time in many, many years, but when I ask if the reunion helped them reconnect, he doesn’t quite say yes. Our drinks finished, I see that his large sagging eyes— a misty cataract blue, but naturally so— are glassy, and they shine through the steam he’s wreathed in, which rises from his body, I can’t help but think, like the past burning off.
Breakfast at the Lake House
It's not that we're terminally ill, or that we have some morbid death wish, but when our friends begin to discuss their investment portfolios, two of us grow quiet, focusing instead on breakfast, which we have been tasked with cooking this morning. It's a foreign concept to those who, like us, struggle to believe we'll live long enough to cash in on the returns. Maybe it’s just a failure of imagination, though I once shared this half-joking half-belief with a therapist, and he said it's not uncommon for sons who've lost their fathers at a young age to believe that they, too, are destined to be swept away before their time has come. That would account for me— note the faint and infernal rash on my chest, a blooming, surely, of some underlying condition— but not for my friend, my co-chef, for whom a long line of SSRIs have failed in their duty pretty much absolutely. And so, standing at the stove while conversation unfolds, we narrow our attention on the labor at hand, me stirring eggs into golden shapes while he tends to hash browns he shredded himself, checking their undersides now and again to mark the level of burn.
EVAN VANDERMEER lives in South Bend, Indiana, where he completed his MA in English at Indiana University South Bend. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Jersey Devil Press, Grand Little Things, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and elsewhere. His haiku and haibun have appeared or are forthcoming in Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Presence, contemporary haibun online, and elsewhere.
Cover image by Linds Sanders.
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