Fiction

Sweet, Sweet Daddy

Julia Mellen

I’m going to tell you a story. Come on down. Gather around. How about it? This is tale of a girl gone wild and a lover gone lovin’. Of a cat on the prowl and a kitten on the loose. Of a man in the gutter soakin’ in the stink of his own despair. And of a child, a blessed-blue-eyed-angel-gift-from-God of a child. What do you think? How about it?

Call me a liar. Call me a cheat. What of it?

Remember the man with his beard gone cracked stringy with the penance for his great big sins, wrapped in a yellow blanket stained with the last of his dignity oozing from his open sores. He rules his 55th Street realm with his crooked paper crown balanced upon his weary head. The rain bangs down around his windy kingdom yet he remains stoic atop his throne. Only to pass his secret messages does the man with his beard gone cracked descend into the streets, posting his letters to the sewer at dusk each day, letters to a lost love or a call to arms, it’s tough to know, Blessed be this King, most high, or high enough.

Remember the boy with eyes burned dark from the tears of heartbreak, buried in the pain of his body, watching his muscles grow larger and his heart get smaller. He pours himself out into cups on the table, surrounded by lovers and loves and people who knew him, only so well as to know they couldn’t ever, really. Gone to the confessional at an early age, a demon haunts him, the one that love becomes when we find the holes it leaves in its wake. Oh, was this boy full of holes. This boy with his eyes burned dark strikes through flesh like matches on an electric night, for every match, another hole. At his feet full of holes lies a pile of ash. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, this confession has been a long time comin’.

Remember the girl with cheeks flushed pink, then red, blue, purple, with love and pain, her halo hanging on only by a thread, kneeling in prayer to a God whose name she’ll never know. There she does her penance for the wickedness of her vile youth, for there’s nothing like a bottle to soften the sting of too much glass. Oh that sweet, that damned sweet elixir. The taste lingers long after the midnight hours have gone, in the oil of her hair and the grime on her teeth. The girl with cheeks flushed pink can’t remember how the liturgy goes, just the up and down and on her knees rhythm of ridding her body of her mother’s gift of guilt and shame. Where is Mary’s grace now, we wonder?

Remember the three-legged dog lying dead in the road, shot down, kicked down, put down by the polite young man who keeps his fly unzipped. Here’s an honest man, keeps his money in a coffee can and his Bible on the kitchen table. Prays Hail Marys in the bed at night with his head under the covers, he screws away his sorrow for the women he loved because he couldn’t, can’t, remember what there was to love in himself. The three-legged dog, a grinning reminder of man’s broken creed with God, won’t be put down by any man’s carelessness or any other’s cruelty. But the polite young man will make a ghost of him yet. Thy kingdom comes whether we like it or not, so why not now?

Remember now the sweet Daddy with the worn out knees and the watch that no longer ticks, smiling from some place where he’s never known failure. Always in his ears the quiet echo of the ghosts of sins said and done. But it’s the undone ones that haunt him deepest. He hears the rattle of the fragile bones of his daughters come and gone in the damp morning air sticky with the promise of God-knows-what. Such a sweet daddy with his smile tied on tight prays for mercy, but the poor box is small—no room for such sick hopeless prayers.

So goes our blue-eyed, three-legged, cheeks-flushed-pink, eyes-burned-dark, beard-gone-cracked sweet, sweet Daddy. O.

Where he’s gone, nobody knows.

Now I’ve told my tales, and I’ve got some penance to do for all these laughing lies I’ve spun.

Do you renounce Satan? I do. And all his works? Most of them.

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