Like a Handful Of Marbles Thrown Across the Floor

by Dan Sanders

It began in her leg, then moved up and out and across –  from leg, to abdomen, both lungs and lymph nodes – like it was in hurry. My father announced he wouldn’t spend another day in the house. He slept in a motel that night, and only came home to box everything up the morning after she died.  In a fit, he shattered her old figurines, one after the other on the hardwood floor. When he collected himself again, he swept them up into a dustpan, then threw the remnants out over the lawn and wept.

He moved into a motel that leaked drunks and refused to leave. My brothers and I were still in Boston, living with roommates or with bad relationships, and when she got sick we all moved home, lived in our old rooms and were more of a nuisance than a help. Dad threw us out with a phone call from the motel, we had until the end of the week to get out. He had a moving company pick over the house and toss what was left in storage. He never paid the bill, and the storage company sold everything off. Greedy strangers collected everything she owned and it went scatter shot into god knows where.

The three of us looked in Boston at first, to stay close to Dad, in case he came to his senses, and didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a Motel. While we fanned out into the city to look for apartments, he collected all his investments, sold everything back out into the system and lived in a small room at the Shady Side Motel for about a year, until it burned down and sent it’s inhabitants along I-95 to other motels.

We lost contact with him before the fire. For the first few months, we stopped by regularly, and he would turn us away or allow a few minutes of awkward chit chat, before he insisted that he was busy and needed to be somewhere. He’d usher us out into the parking lot, jump in his car, and drive off. I collected his friends brought them to him as a sort of intervention and it backfired horribly. He screamed at us through a slammed door until everyone gave up and left him alone. My brothers thought it was invasive and terrible, and were furious that I’d arranged it. Things got more and more difficult. We all drifted apart.

I kept at it. I sent him apartment listings, travel guides, there’s no indication he ever looked at any of it or talked to anyone when I wasn’t goading him into it. My brothers gave him space, stopped calling and accepted the silence.

I saw the smoke on the horizon and heard about the fire on the radio. I sped over and watched with the gawkers and saw it crumble to dust and smoke into the sky. Nobody died. That was our only indication that he was alive. His car was gone, his few things lost in the fire.

I got a job in Chicago. My brothers lingered in Boston for a while, but not long enough to settle. I’d heard that one went to St. Louis, and the other to Austin. I met my wife on a dating site online and I never tell anyone that. Our first date was in November, during the Leonids. I pretended to know a lot about astronomy while we sat in a park, half frozen and watched them shoot out and across across Chicago, one after the other, and quickly fell in love.

We pulled our families together to a small ceremony in Chicago. We exited in procession, spilled out onto the street, people threw rice, we lit sparklers and set off fireworks. My father was still gone, no one knew where, an empty space that presided over the whole event.  My brothers came and it was awkward until it was over, and we scattered back out over the country, trying not to look back.

He’d been living in a corner of Boston no one had thought to look in, a year after we were married, he’d written letters to each of us, begging forgiveness. We went, all together, quickly back home, arriving one after the other, broken and apart, to pull back together again.

Next week’s prompt: Moonshine.

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