written by Matthew Daddona | illustrated by Kali Gregan
The first thing you hear your father do after your mother leaves is laugh so uncontrollably it hurts your insides. He’s a large, large man, and you think of all his blood hitting fast food joints on its way through the capillaries. When the laughter comes out of his tight-lipped mouth, it sounds choked, and then, as if lifted by wind, hovers like thunderous thought clouds above the TV room.
The TV is off. First time it has been in a while, so if he’s not laughing at that, then he’s laughing at the dog performing dizzy tricks on the floor. But the dog is outside. You sent him out there after your baby sister had a crying fit because of the barking. Whose barking? Your dad’s started right after the dog’s, which sent the baby into further pandemonium, at which point you cursed the dog, and then your father, and then the baby (though you can’t fault the baby for her youth).
What to do with your father, you think. If he’s that round, he should roll out — maybe a considerable push through the door, maybe a pin that will deflate him a bit. Shouldn’t be too hard. But first to stop the laughing.
You walk into the TV room. Even though it’s off, the images stay permanently plastered across the wall. Bright flashes of Edith Bunker and Al Bundy and, wouldn’t you know it, Louie DePalma played by Danny DeVito, who so reminds your father of himself he’s never had trouble accepting his fate as a fat, nevertheless funny, dude. Except you’ve never heard your father make a joke, at least not in the last six months. Instead, he laughs, and when you finally realize the best thing to do to control this laugh is to tie down his unwieldy arms and then stuff cloth into his mouth, he stops.
He stops because he sees two lights approaching the house from outside. The perforated screen door makes them look infinite, but furtive. “Headlights,” you say and turn toward them, then back to him. You pause and watch the weight of his belly ride through time, and if it has only been a moment, it’s been a long, static moment.
A sharp ‘hello’ sails through the screen door. It sounds nothing and then everything like your mother’s voice. You find it funny that you give these spaces hope.
About the artists:
Kali Gregan is an illustrator from Richmond, Virginia. In her work, she likes taking things apart and finding new ways to put them back together. And making a mess.
Matthew Daddona is a writer, reviewer, and editor who resides in Brooklyn. His most recent writings have appeared in Tin House, Gigantic, The Southampton Review, and The Rumpus, among others. He is currently finishing his first novel.