By Jeff Friedman
When he could no longer move or answer me, I put the old man down, but he got up, climbing out of the coffin in the living room with a tenacity I hadn’t seen in years. “Not so fast,” he said, “I’m still your father.” With his fingers, he brushed the few remaining strings of hair across his bald globe of a head, which seemed too heavy for his bony body. “So today you remember you’re my father, but yesterday, you thought I was the UPS man and the day before, you thought I was a lost duck, and the day before that, a hot air balloon, and before that, a talking robe.” He touched his toes and stretched toward the ceiling numerous times and then gave out a loud, satisfied, “ahhh.” How would I get him back in his bed now? While I began cleaning up his mess from the night before, the soiled sheets, the stained floor, the dishes scattered and broken, food crusted to their surfaces, he did jumping jacks, crunches, and push ups. “Very impressive,” I said, “but there’s no future in our relationship.” “You’re a peach of a son,” he responded, “a surly spawn if there ever was one.” He sat down at the table, demanding steak and potatoes. “You’ve got a hole in your gut,” I answered. “You can’t eat.” “Let me be the judge of that,” he said, and out of habit, I fixed him another meal.
Jeff Friedman’s sixth book, Pretenders—a collection of poems and prose pieces—will bepublished by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2014. His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in many literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, 5 AM, Agni Online, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Solstice, Antioch Review, Quick Fiction, New England Review, 100-Word Story, Per Contra, New England Review Digital, Sentence, North American Review, Boulevard, Missouri Review, Big Bridge, Storyscape, Anthem, and The New Republic.