I always knew I would kill my father. My grandmother predicted it, over and over again. In eighth grade I traced dark shadows of eyeliner beneath my lashes then applied cobalt blue mascara.
“You look like a puttana,” Nonna accused. “Jewel, you are a little girl, not a puttana; you will kill your father.”
Multiple piercings came next. I punctured the cartilage to the top of my left ear with six shiny gold studs. I turned them gently each day and swabbed them with alcohol, then hid them beneath my long blond hair. When the swelling and redness disappeared, I replaced the gold studs with safety pins, hanging skulls and crucifixes hung upside down. I shaved the left side of my head.
“Diavolo!” Nonna crossed herself. “You look like a lopsided gypsy. This will kill your poor father and make God very, very sad.”
I figured she was right. It would make God sad if I killed my father. Then God would have to deal with him in line at the pearly gates. My father would be smoking, making all the new spirits wave their hands and cough. Oblivious to their steely looks, he’d blow smoke rings and lean forward towards a young woman spirit. “Come here often?” He’d laugh at his own joke and elbow the guy next to him until he remembered what was really important. “Hey buddy,” he’d ask the guy arriving at the end of the line, “what’s the score of the Pat’s game? I’m dying to know.”
That’s my father, a self-centered pain in the ass, even in line at the pearly gates. He never noticed my makeup, and the piercings and shaved head didn’t kill him. He just climbed into the blue Ford pickup and headed for a golf tournament.
Nonna stood in the door shouting after him. “I think you need a new pair of glasses!”
Dad didn’t notice my 3.98 grade point average either, or the cigarettes missing from his pack of Marlboros.
In eleventh grade when my GPA dropped to a D-minus, my father seemed more interested in my English teacher, Mrs. Salter, than my grades. He asked her out and Nonna blamed me.
“Your father is a handsome man. He will dry up, going with that thin-haired prune who lets moths eat her sweaters. Why can’t you be a good girl and stop killing your father?”
Dad dated Mrs. Salter until the beginning of the summer; I got a B in the class.
In July, Joey Paxton and I got arrested. Joey ‘borrowed’ his father’s car without permission and Mr. Paxton called the police. The police released us under our fathers’ supervision.
“Go wait by the truck,” my father directed.
Joey and I walked across the parking lot and leaned on the blue Ford.
“My son wouldn’t steal from his own father,” Mr. Paxton hollered.
“C’mon now Bill, keep your voice down or they’ll take us back inside,” my father soothed.
I watched my father stumble and catch himself. “Shit Joey, my father must be drunk.”
“This is your daughter’s bad influence; I can still press charges,” Mr. Paxton said.
My father led him away from us. We couldn’t hear the conversation, but when my father waved us over, we both had to apologize. Dad wrapped his arm around me and we watched Joey and his father drive away.
“Help me to the car, Jewel.” Dad leaned into me. “You better drive me to the hospital.”
I woke in a hospital bed, Nonna standing above me crying. “Ungrateful, selfish girl; he never should have let you drive. I wash my hands of you.”
“Nonna,” I pleaded, “is Daddy okay?”
“Diavolo,” she spit, and left.
I sat up, trying to remember what happened. Everything was so confusing.
The emergency room doors slid open and I walked Dad into the room screaming, “My father needs help!”
Three nurses ran to us as Dad slid to the floor.
“Is he taking any medication?” one of the nurses asked.
“I don’t know.”
I ran to the car and found a plastic box in his jacket pocket. It held pills for each day of the week. I pulled open the glove compartment, spilling prescription bottles onto the floor. How could I not know Daddy was sick?
Panicking, I started the car, pulled the gear shift and hit the accelerator. The car lunged forward instead of backwards, crashing into the light pole in front of me. The airbag exploded, knocking me unconscious.
Daddy wasn’t in the car when I had the accident, he must be okay.
I knelt by my father’s bed, holding his hand, crying.
“Your father is brain dead,” the doctor’s voice echoed through my memory. “Heart condition…several strokes…vegetative state. No chance for recovery. Your grandmother has decided to keep him on life support.”
I sat with my father through the night, shadows painting memories on the wall. Thinking about charges dropped by Mr. Paxton and the B from Mrs. Salter; now I could hear his words clearly; words I couldn’t hear when they were spoken.
“Mama, she’s a creative girl, let her express herself. Life is short, and she is beautiful, no matter what.”
I eased the pillow from beneath his head. Standing, I held the pillow with straight arms, and covered his face.
Nonna always said, “You will kill your father.”
J. M. Sirrico earned a Masters’ Degree in Library Science. She works several part-time jobs outside of this field to support her writing habit. Cape Cod Massachusetts is the beautiful place she calls home. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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