I think of the father and I go to the father and ask, what happens when you die. The father tells me that everyone I know will cry and be sad. That my body will break into simpler forms of matter and that worms will assist my remains into dirt. I say, no what happens when you die. Will mom marry someone else.
The father can glare and incinerate skin on my cheek, so he does. I bark and the father tells me to get the fuck out of his face, so I bolt.
I used to laugh when the father or the mother would spank me. I hear yelling that he will never die as I run down the hall. I cannot outrace his voice, even when I am far away and my eyes are closed.
The father commands me to gather siblings for dinner or he will burn the house down. I do not hold him as avatar of fatherhood. I do think he would burn the house down.
Think of how the father is supposed to make dinner when the kitchen is barren and empty shelves and the father feels malice towards the children. The father says, how has it come to this. He thinks, has shit just got real? He thinks about punching the wall, there is no pita bread. Rage is an organ in the father. He shelves it inside his ribs and lets it out when no one is in the room, but we feel it in other rooms through the walls. Some children are sensitive to the blasting from within his ribs and guts.
The father imagines the world burning and feels higher registers of rage and hunger. I can sense it. I think the father feels vaguely resentful towards the mother. He focuses and realizes he is just afraid of his home. He lets the resentment resurface and knocks the bobbing feeling away, thinking to himself that the children would not survive without him. Then he resents his home again. I think these things in my bones.
The father tries to wish french fries into existence. The father thinks of when his father’s body was cremated—pulverized by heat—the eyes and mouth being burned open first, the expression a heat’s scream. The expression belongs to heat and not feeling.
The father feels the hangover of responsibility and wants to wring blood from a thing. He thinks, fuck the neighbor cat. The father thinks, I would throw a snake in their yard. I hate the neighbors. I would kill a thing for food to appear, the father thinks.
The father looks outside and sees a squirrel. The father sees a cat. He says out loud, gross. He says out loud, why would I even consider eating that, but I do hate the cat. The father says out loud, this is fucking disgusting. He is so angry a tooth falls out and he spits it anywhere. Cement grows back in its place.
The father looks at a free range cow. The cow is free range and up for grabs and looks at the father. Hunger warbles in the distance between them. The air ripples into distortion, then the air is still. The father thinks, what the fuck was that. But I know it was hunger. The cow sees the blood lust in the father’s eyes. The cow runs. And now they are in in the dance of predator and prey. Shit just got real.
The father grabs his free range axe and kicks the front door open, knocking the daughters away, brushing them firmly with the axe handle. Move aside, love.
The father hurls the axe and it sinks into the flesh of the beast. The beast is down, chin skidding down the asphalt and tongue all stupid out of its mouth.
The father goes to the cow with reverence and respect. But the cow is still alive and he kicks the father, a splat sound to the face. The children watch him rage the beast’s head in with the axe handle, focusing rage in every blow, grading the tension in fatherly arms and neck.
The father speaks the fatherly oath, I will do whatever it takes to provide for my children and to keep them safe even if it means terrifying, alienating and threatening my children until they come to full maturation, etc.
We children gather around the payload while the father stands on the beast, face covered in mixed blood. The children applaud and the father raises his arms. The father takes a bite out of the blood muddied axe handle.
The father makes gentle gashes in the carcass, points us children at the gashes and says it is okay to eat raw meat if it is fresh.
I remember the time the father tells me, I never want to be cremated. He tells me, if I die in a fiery car crash and all that is left of me is a smoldered trunk, lay me to rest in a child’s coffin (unused, hopefully).
One of the siblings tells the father, I googled ‘dead cow’ before so this is not gross to me. One of the siblings says, I want to be vegetarian. The father says, so did this beast. The father kind of regrets saying it.
The father has a Master’s in Strength. He once tried to demonstrate the law of gravity to us by tossing his keys in the air. The keys never came down and the father said, fuck I needed those keys. The father kind of regrets throwing his keys in the air.
The father plays some music, which means the guitar and two double stack amps, which the father drags out and points at the children, which reminds the father to plug ears so tender little eardrums do not explode. The father remembers he has to keep his children’s organs from exploding.
The father shreds and the children say, louder.
The father turns up the modified amps. These amps go to I FUCKING HATE MY NEIGHBORS and the father shreds louder.
We say, faster. We are in unison. We are pumping our fists up and down. The youngest starts to smash his fists down on the carcass and the father shreds faster. And the youngest is pounding the carcass, kneeling in expanding pools of blood—totally spazzing—and the father shreds faster, the youngest providing a wet percussive beat.
Flecks of skin start to fly off the fatherly fingers.
The father starts shaving the skin off of his knuckles. I am shredding so fast, he says. I wish there were more girls to see me play this fast, he says.
The father’s kinetic energy is distorting his mass, he begins to have a gravitational pull. The fatherly pull creates a small weather system capable of producing small thunderstorms. There is little thunder, tiny lighting all around. All these little bangs make me happy.
But then the father is alone as ambient heat sears his eyebrows, curling his mustache bristles—weirdly expanding beard hairs, denaturation of follicle protein.
The mother comes and sees the father’s singed and bloodied face. They fist bump like criminals. They fist bump like a president and first lady. They fist bump lovingly. The mother kisses the father and the father feels strong.
I run past the father, he clotheslines me and puts me in a major headlock. I have my little brother in a headlock. The father calls out to the daughters, they come running. The father grabs the daughters by their scruff. The father lifts and lowers all of his strain into the washing machine on the porch.
The father slams the lid. The father says to the closed lid, I do not want to tell them I love them because I do not want them to be weak. I want to tell them I love them because I want to protect their innocence.
I am with my siblings, thrashing around in the washing machine. The water feels like a roller coaster, scary and fun. And we are not angry about being washed. I know I will feel the roller coaster as I fall asleep tonight. I will feel the water over my muscles as I fall asleep tonight.