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Father

Father

Zach VandeZande

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I know the knife is going to enter my child when I feel time slow. I know there will be an accident. The spatula slipping a little under the cutting board, the placing of the pan down on the pot holder, the levering of the spatula, the launching of the blade, Japanese-make, little dimples in the steel, loosed by the dumb circumstance of the world that got all of us to right here.

Time does not slow enough. Enough would be for time to end, for the knife to be unmade by the air it carves. The body I’m in reaches wildly for the knife, making contact with the handle, spinning the blade erratic. The child toddles, the child is looking up toward me, a look of thorough joy on his face. This is a child that doesn’t see the wound coming. My child, with a hand out to balance himself on my leg. 


This is a child that doesn’t see the wound coming.


There is nothing at all profound about any of this. In many ways a knifeslip is just being alive. In the moment and after I think of my father, and then of the separate man who raised me, and how one and then the other were not enough to keep me from this. My father the pastor in mid-collapse in front of us, the guttering lawnmower ending its noise just as my brother and I looked up from our place there playing in the dirt, the stroke revealing one way a father fails. I learned another from the man who raised me, a man my mother found endlessly forgivable who yet had a meanness that seemed to come from a different person entirely when it came. Wisdom to give, a belt to give it with. I am neither of those men. I am this one.

The knife opens my boy at the shoulder and clatters away. The boy’s face makes a new kind of face as I am reaching down for him and all his red. He screams. The scream is an ending. Nothing I do will close the wound. I press him to me. His warmth spreads down my shirt. We are both of us clinging, as if in the clinging we might be saved.


In many ways a knifeslip is just being alive.


I say, “There’s been an accident.” I am telling the child to make it in the past, to make the accident not what is present. The child understands time but the wound has its own kind of time and there is so much of the wound. It is all over both of us now. 

I press a kitchen towel hard against the open place. The child screams at me to stop. I press him closed again. I keep him as whole as I can. I walk him to the front door and with the hand that supports his weight I turn the knob and we are in the yard now. And I am pressing. And I won’t fail. And he is screaming into the early autumn night. And we are waiting for what comes next, father and child. We are waiting for what will save us, the sun behind the trees burning across everything. One last moment, gold and pink.

 
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Zach VandeZande is the author of Apathy and Paying Rent (Loose Teeth, 2008). His work has appeared in Portland Review, Atlas Review, decomP, Bop Dead City, Necessary Fiction, Hot Street, Crack the Spine, and Punchnel’s. He holds a PhD of fiction from the University of North Texas. He likes baking bread, hammocks, and people who bring their dogs.

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