Friday, October 1, 2010


This is a non fiction piece about my father, about what he means to me and how I came to understand the man he is. The story celebrates one isolated experience in a lifetime of them, some good some bad, all worth telling.

            My Father was black.  His eyes were beads of thought and discipline but when he laughed they were gone altogether.  His hands alone could kill a tree and his machete never slipped. I would watch him, thick as night air, lead armies of tired boys through tangles of thorns.  They ripped at his flesh,  the thorns. “Catch and keep” is what he called them, and yet never, not once, did he slow his steps.
            I told my mother instead, whispered it to her, soft and quick.  He was slaving, hand to shovel, and I had turned back early. 
           “Mommy,” I told her, “Look what happened.”  She put her hands to my heel, lifted my foot into the window’s light.  Distracted, my mother inhaled, took in the scent of her chicken and rice, lonely and simmering.  “It’s in too deep.  You’re gonna have to ask your father.”
            I was a child.  My eyes were opened too wide, swallowing heat and tall words, until they were too full.  I learned to close them, my big eyes, to rest my hopes and let them all fall away.  In my mother’s reflection, I saw my own, drank it in.  There was only skin and a little fear. 
            “I’ll ask him for you, then,” she dropped my foot back onto the sofa, scurried away to tend the house.
            “No, I’ll be fine.”  I sat up, eyes again wide. 
            But he had already heard my mother as he was huffing through the front door. He tossed his machete aside and lifted my foot, slid himself under my leg.  He was covered in bits of grass and dirt, and that is how I loved to see him. Finished and ready for his chicken.  He lifted my foot, looked deep into it. 
           My mother resurfaced, “Need tweezers?” 
           He almost laughed at her. At her American way of thinking, at her technology and her smarts. He knew how to do things. Before anything at all was invented, he knew.  He took my foot and sunk his teeth into that tender spot, red and throbbing. He found the needle that thought it belonged there and he tugged it out. He spit it right onto the floor.
            And I knew, then, who my father was.

1 comment:

  1. I just love reading this piece... It's the third time I've stumbled across it and I have yet to get a comment down. An amazing portrayal of an amazing man in simple circumstances. I love your writing, Teshelle.