I've never been where my father died. His lungs plumped up, sponges drawing in salt water. "The sea's in my blood," he would say, running a warm hand through my hair. "It's dangerous." I would pout. I would check to make sure the alarm system was on. I would wear SPF 50 sunscreen. I would take daily walks and eat strictly organic. I would live wound tight with possibilities. He laughed at me all the time and I hated it. He didn't know what it was like being married to a risk analyst. He didn't know the effect it had on me. I'd already lived without him for a year when my father died. Rick was hit by a bike messenger three days before our fifth anniversary; so much for statistical safety.
Seventy-five people came to my father's funeral. My mother tapped a powder puff on her nose and muttered, "Not bad, honey." My brother stood at the podium and said, "My dad had heart." I wanted to punch him in the face. Who doesn't have heart? Who doesn't feel it screaming against their skin every moment of the day? Who doesn't know what it feels like to have it turned inside out and shaken?
My mother scattered his ashes in our backyard. She started making these low, mangy howls like an abused animal while pieces of him flew back in her face. I gave her a packet of Kleenex from my purse. My brother ran inside. He came back with three shot glasses, a salt shaker, and the bottle of tequila I'd put in the freezer. We clicked our glasses together. We licked salt off our wrists. We all stopped crying. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the waves.
Dawn West is a cheap date. She prefers dresses and lives in Ohio. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in lovely places like Necessary Fiction, Nanoism, and SmokeLong Quarterly.
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