The Family I Never Had
by J. Alan Nelson

The mother I never had says the same thing each day since memory began. Hickory Dickory Dock, she says, and slides out her knife.

The father I never had drinks warm beer, wears his pants over his belly button, and confronts adolescents that stare at the way he wears his pants. When the oaks lose their leaves, my dad finds them. He rakes and rakes and rakes, stuffing the leaves into overloaded plastic bags stacked at the bottom of the hill.

The brother I never had walks property lines, and yells territorial warnings to the neighbors. Stop, he screams. Why are you so close to our fence? He sticks his thumb in my mother’s deserts, attempting to pull out a plumb. He has burn scars when he tries this too soon from the baking. He grabs a bag of leaves, takes it to the top of the hill and dumps it into the wind, watching the leaves scatter. Leaves of oaks, he screams Not leaves of grass. Leaves of oaks.

Why does mother chop tails off blind mice? Are they blind from poison or some genetically spliced indigestible grain some multinational sold her husband? Why a carving knife instead of a scalpel? Is she mentally defective? Why can’t the cat catch those blind mice? Or does the cat sense they were tainted, giving wide berth as the mice scamper with their bleeding stumps, running into feet and table legs, squeaking in terror? My brother and father avoid the subject, and step carefully. I step quick as I could, leap over the flaming candlestick, and out the front door wailing wee wee wee away from home, away from this family I deny.

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