He once threatened to cut off his finger to prove his love for me. Can you believe that? Your father, your flesh and blood, the man who brought you into this universe and to your Little League games and to the DMV to get your driving license and to Niagara Falls and to the Ice Cream Oasis on the day your grandpa Warren passed on to heaven, once stood before yours truly and with a paring knife from a sink of dirty dishes said that if I wouldn’t marry him, then he’d have no choice but to take off his ring finger, because to see it was to be reminded of how I didn’t love him.

It’s crazy, I know, but that’s the sort of man he was in those days: dizzier than anyone and full of what I initially saw as brainsickness but would come eventually to see as passion. Years later, when time had tamed him, I’d almost get to miss his wildness. Maybe that makes me sound crazy, too, but you spend enough time with someone, their imperfections stop being imperfections anymore. They start being the very things you love about the person.

I don’t know.

I tell you, I’m getting tired.

Last week, one of the horses cut loose from the stable. Your sister Jenny Lee was up to something in town, and it was just me there — just me and the horses. The one cut loose, his name was Bartleby. Your father’d named him. A rough horse, but how he’d got loose who knows — it was someone’s oversight, I’d suppose. But anyway, there he was: loose out the pasture, and looking back with this look about him that maybe, I don’t know — maybe he wasn’t going to run off.

Of course, he did. He ran off.

I had to call that fella Hernandez at the farm two spots down to help me rally him back. He had a way with him, Mr. Hernandez did. Talked that bastard horse to him like he was talking a lover to him, and got a halter on him and led him back to stable.

Afterwards, I invited Mr. Hernandez in for some coffee — all he’d done.

He came here into the kitchen. The kitchen seemed smaller with him in it. He seemed bigger than he had outside. He sat down at the table. I set down the coffee in front of him. He said, Thank you, ma’am, and took it in his huge hand.

That’s something else about your father:

He had big hands, knob-knuckled and sun-splotched and looking worn and weathered as tree bark. Even as a young man they had the gnarled, work-weary look of an old man’s. And that’s how Mr. Hernandez’s hands were, as he gripped the small little handle of these coffee cups of mine. They looked like hands that’d seen their share of labor. They looked like hands that had seen some love.



Eric Lutz’s work has appeared in Salon, Paste, and The Boiler, among other publications, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in Chicago, where he is an adjunct instructor in the English Department at Elmhurst College.

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