Brevity Twelve

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The Fist

by David Bosnick

My mother was leaning against the stove,  my father at the table looking through the classifieds.  I never saw him buy anything that wasn't a tool.

"My father is welcome in this house, forever! If he wants to come for the weekend, get out of the city and sit in the backyard, he's coming!"

My father looked up. "I'm not missing work to get him and I ain't driving at night in all that traffic."

My mother tossed the spatula in the sink. "He's 80 years old. You want him to take the subway to Jamaica and get on a train?"

"He said he would."

My mother crossed the floor and ripped the paper off the table.

"He said that because he knew you didn't want to get him!" she shouted.

"He won't ask and I have to work. I want to see my father this weekend."

My father stood  to get something to drink from the refrigerator. "He can come next weekend with my old man when he drives out.  It's on the way ..."

My mother slammed the refrigerator door shut and my father looked startled.

"He doesn't want to always come out when they're here. He wants to see the  kids and visit his friend Willie and go the cemetery..."  she paused, "to see my mother."

My father did manual labor his whole life. Standing, he took up almost the whole kitchen. My mother was a small woman with thin auburn hair plastered to her head from the heat of the stove.  My father said in a low voice, "I ain't doing it."  Then he turned and started to walk out of the room.

With a wild swing of her arm her fist thumped into the middle of my father's back. He stopped and turned around slow.

"Did you hear something?" he said, as if  waving off an insect.

My mother reared back her little fist like a tomahawk and thumped my father  in the chest.

He looked at her and cupped his ear as if listening to something. "Was that a mosquito?"

My mother looked around. If she had had a gun, my father would be dead. Instead, she swung at his face, leering down at her, and hit him in the lip.

She hit him even after his lip was cut and the blood came, each time him saying "Thas nuthing, I doan evun feel," his speech blurred by his swollen lips.

Panting, she swung her arm  and hit my father on the shoulder bone. She cried out and pulled her hand to her stomach.

My father grabbed her.

"Whaddya du?" he slurred, and the next minute they were at the sink running  cold water over her hand, a wet paper towel half stuffed in his mouth.

Then I thought I heard my mother laugh and she leaned against my father, the sound of the water splashing in the sink.

He went to get my mother's father. They never got along.

But sometimes when my parents were arguing my father would weave and bob, and my mom would make a fist and holding it the air, touch it to her lip.

David Bosnick teaches eighth grade English in Binghamton, NY, where he lives with his wife and son.  He has published fiction and poetry in MSS, The Rebel, Outlook, Mothering, The North Carolina Review and numerous anthologies, including Roots and Flowers (Henry Holt).

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