Good Evening from Moscow
I am delighted to say I am backlogged with stories entered into The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest. But I am trying to give each story a little time on our carousel before they get bumped off by a newer entry. Fortunate am I also to have two interns, Bronwyn and Candace, to help keep it all organized.
Everyone is permitted up to three entries, and each entry must contain the words “I swear, it’s not too late.” Our first contestant, Kristy Webster, set the bar so very high, and yet there have been so many entries, so diverse, that to use a metaphor that somehow indicates that one story is “higher” than another seems to do everyone a dis-service.
Kristy’s second entry is every bit as haunting as her first, and my apologies if I publish her second entry before some of you have even seen your first one posted. Neither Bronwyn nor Candace are in the office at the moment to reign me in and remind me to follow the sequence they gave me. Don’t tellum! I couldn’t help myself when I read this. I just have to post it…Oh! Wait! Someone’s coming!
by Kristy Webster
I place a novel in my father’s hands, even though his eyes are weak and he only reads the Bible. He nods: he takes my offering quietly. Will you read it? I ask, a vague yes dwells in his eyes but I get no other proof. My father’s eyes are Beautiful Blue, but the heavy folds of skin act like a fleshy curtain; they don’t want him inside these pages.
I ask my father, Have you ever read a work of fiction? Mark Twain? Hemingway? My father rubs the tattered cover of To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t remember, he says. His Bible sits on the tray beside him, next to a can of Ensure, the margins tattooed in his red ink notes.
My father wants me to read it one more time. He thinks I just didn’t try hard enough. His eyes are wet, they are only going to get wetter. I say, I’ve read it front to back, twice. I tell him, I like the Psalms. Revelation scares me.
But my father is talking about Paradise, about Heaven. How I won’t get there. It breaks his heart. He’s breaking mine because I can’t undo what I have learned in this promising but brutal world.
I swear it’s not too late, my father tells me. You can be forgiven. He touches his palm to my head, pats my skull, a gesture I’ve known since childhood. A gesture that says more than I love you, more than I cherish you, it says, I want you to live forever, I want you to seize your immortality.
I tell my father he will outlive us all. He is already ninety-three and I tell him he will live to one-hundred and twenty, at least. He says, I’ll live past a thousand and you can too. If only–
But I cut him off, I tell him about The Great Gatsby, I ask, Were the twenties really like that? Did you ever know anyone like Jay Gatsby? So larger than life, so naive? He shakes his head, but I swear all the pomp, the grandiosity of Gatsby’s story makes him smile. He quotes Matthew, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
I meant to make him see that Paradise is his Daisy. That I don’t fault him for loving The Prize so feverishly, that he would devote his entire existence to becoming a man worthy of the gift of life everlasting. I want him to understand that if he believes he will live forever, there’s a part of me that believes he will, too.
I swear it’s not too late, he tells me again. I smile, I pat the top of his head, I say, You shouldn’t swear. And we each glance at the books before us, like foreign tablets, as if they belonged to separate worlds, as if I am not my father, as if he is not me, his daughter.
He slowly nods off even as the nurses bustle around him, even as the monitor beeps and hums beside him. I take my father’s hand in mine, I say, I am your cannon.
(Portrait below by Kristy Webster titled “Back when she was beautiful”)
My name is Kristy Webster. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from the Evergreen State College where I studied visual art, sculpture, bookmaking, altered book art, print-making and creative writing. Painting and writing have been passions of mine from an early age. This coming summer I will be graduating from Pacific Lutheran University with an MFA in Creative Writing.
I’ve had two artshows in the past year and am working on a new collection. I mostly work in acrylics and pastels.