We stopped at a Tastee Freeze and Dad
ordered a chili dog, which was so at odds
with his usual palate that to this day, I can’t
reconcile it. We stopped outside of St. Louis
at a motel that was decent mostly because Dad
wasn’t savvy enough to find one cheaper.
It had a Godzilla movie on TV and all the ice
you could eat. When we got to Grandmother’s
house, it was us vs. them, and I was squarely
in the Daddy camp with my sister, my brother,
seemingly the whole world. Grandmother wouldn’t
let me sit, so I stood. Mom was broken.
She’d lost her family and was staring
down the barrel of a future whose ending
she’d seen. Soon, she would lose herself
to the disease that took her father, his mother.
She stood there, the saddest thing you ever
saw, knew my sister, no one was going to hug
her or even pretend to be happy, poisoned
as we’d been against her. She just smiled at us.
My brother, behind me, shoved me, hard.
My arms flew out and found her.
We clung to each other for life.
CL Bledsoe is the assistant editor for The Dead Mule and author of fourteen books, most recently the poetry collection Trashcans in Love and the flash fiction collection Ray's Sea World. He's been nominated for the Pushcart Prize thirteen times, Best of the Net three times, and has had two stories selected as Notable Stories of the Year by Story South's Million Writers Award. Originally from rural Arkansas, Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.