There is a Possible Explanation for Everything
Your father was not a sad man. Some might even say that he was deeply content, though a simple man. You hated the way his brothers rapped their thick knuckles on his head, pointed to your mother when they thought she wasn't looking, as if that was an explanation for something. He'd sit and shake his newspaper, cigarette dangling from his lips, legs crossed, delicately. "Leave him alone," you'd yell, making your uncles feel bad or angry or both. "He's our brother," the one said, the one who narrowed his eyes when he saw you, infrequent though it was. "We love him, too," they said as if staking a claim. Your father would wink at you, smile, say, "It's okay sugar." You stood by his side breathing in his smoke, studying the cartography of his face. Your mother would watch from the crack in the door, smoking a cigarette, shaking her head in the half-hearted way that everyone who wanted to feel loved usually did.
Michelle Reale is an academic librarian on faculty at a university in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her work has been published in Eyeshot, Word Riot, elimae, SmokeLong Quarterly and others. She is the author of a fiction chapbook, Natural Habitat, and the forthcoming Like Lungfish Getting Through the Dry Season.