Tucking Dad In

Being out of bed at Dad’s could get you killed. The light blinding my eyes was no gentle reminder, but there I was, in the bathroom, trying to pee. I didn’t really have to go. I just needed a reason to be up. I pushed hard and finally it came: a thin yellow stream making the all too familiar sound crashing against the toilet. The sound that made it okay to be up; the sound of freedom.

The noise that woke me up was familiar: like a tree falling on clover; moss. I heard it once, twice, tried to wake my brother. He was useless. It shook our room. I had to know.

I was quiet: sneaking my toes across brown carpet that was no longer fluffy. Not daring to look into Dad’s room, to see, my eyes alone could wake him. The source of light that was blasting through the sides of my bedroom door was the living room. Lights were on. Dad could be up. My mouth tastes bad. I’m thirsty, shouldn’t drink milk before bed.


In the living room, brown wood paneling gives way to open space. To the right: the wood stove, a pile of wood, the axe, a hatchet, our coats, our boots, the front door. To the left: an old brown sofa, Dad’s chair, a lamp, bookshelves, The Hobbit, The Tao-Te-Ching, Nietzsche , The Bible. In the middle: flat brown carpet goes forward until it’s cut off by the presence of tile, a breakfast bar and the kitchen. On that carpet lay a rug, soft and squishy for your feet after a long day, many colors with black interrupting. On the rug lay my dad, face up, needle stuck in his arm, a piece of yellow rubber tube tying off above.

I whisper, “Dad?”, louder, louder still. I go towards him, kneel down. The smell of mothballs and old spice, the smell of Dad. Touch his shoulder, squeeze; harder. He won’t wake up. He won’t wake up.

Breathing: slow deep breaths, accentuating his massive structure in his green t-shirt with suspenders rising at each breath. Red strands of elastic breaking against the cloth beneath them. I don’t know what to do. Kneeling on the floor next to my father my eyes swell, tears begin to trace pathways down my nose, filling with snot, they fall. I don’t know what to do.

I pull the needle from his arm, it’s like the one we gave the dog shots with, slowly, carefully. Fight with the rubber until it snaps free of his pale white skin, where the sun doesn’t reach. Dad doesn’t move. Hose off: a stream of crimson shoots from his arm, on the brown carpet, the brown couch, the black of the rug. Stuck: I can’t move. Heart breaks my chest with each beat. Upset stomach, I think I’m going to puke. The blood stops. I can move again. I know: if I can get him to bed, he’ll be okay.


I rise up: different, re-born, new. Claiming my inheritance from my father, a descendant from The Race of Men, and I am: grabbing his shoulders, pulling for all I have and straining for more; I am: fighting for every inch, breaking every meter moved with my back to my enemies;  power cursing, as it screams through my veins at my command. Nothing stopping me, I pull: with everything, for everything, lacking nothing; I pull: becoming The Descendant of Men that I was born to be; I pull: nostrils wide, air burning my lungs; I pull: into the dark of my father’s room; unafraid: for I was my father, the very best of him, pulling the worst of myself behind me- twitching; thrusting; limp- I pulled. My father. From the living room. Through the hallway. Into his room. Onto his bed.

Cover him with blankets. My arms around his shaking neck, his beard rubs my wet cheek rough. On my knees beside his bed I hold dad and wait. Stillness comes. “Goodnight Dad, I love you.” Turned to leave, back into the boy: afraid, tired, tear-filled eyes; back to bed, to sleep, to dream, to boy.


In the morning there was no trace of last night to be found. No needle. No rubber hose. No crimson on carpet. Dad asked if we heard anything last night. My brother answered first, and I agreed: lying to my father, dad smiled.

© Michael Barry 2013