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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Father's Ice


My short story, "My Father's Ice," has been published in Johnny America  - a literary journal.  You can purchase the publication online at these stores.  Below is an excerpt from the story: 

My Father’s Ice


I have come to the Whitney Museum today to find Harry Giles. Not the wealthy investment banker with the beautiful socialite wife. Not the man who read “Goodnight Moon” to his daughter every night for a year. I want to know about the young man who dropped out of Cornell to follow his hero to an abandoned Brooklyn tenement in the pursuit of art. What happened to that boy? The boy who would become my father.


<>

Last week my mother, not the most sentimental of women, sent me a picture of her and my father taken at their senior high school prom. She was getting rid of clutter and this cheesy photograph didn’t make her cut. She’d attached one of her annoying yellow post-it notes, on which she’d scrawled, “Carly – Look at that hemline!!!” Mother loves her exclamations.


The photographer, naturally, focused on my mother, blonde and sunny in a red mini-dress, with her swimsuit-model perfect body. She’s held that beauty through the years, refusing to pass it on to her only child. My father, with a sweep of dark hair covering his forehead, stands off to the side and looks uncomfortable in his rented tux. His hands dangle. He can’t decide what to do with them. Of course it doesn’t matter. No one’s going to notice him.


I am my father’s daughter. Dark. My arms too long, my hands anxious when they have nothing to do. My smile always a heartbeat too late for the photographer’s flash.


My mother thinks I’m shy because I don’t share every opinion that pops into my head. But I’m not shy, just quiet, like my father. He kept his thoughts to himself. Although he once told me it was not a sin to leave a thought unexpressed, I’m sure he never shared that opinion with Mother.


There was a certain sadness about my father. I would notice it in unguarded moments – as he sat at the kitchen table not reading his newspaper or when he looked blankly at a traffic light that had turned green or when he stood in his den and stared at the walls that used to hold Gordon’s photographs.


<>

After months of careful deliberation, I’ve decided to attend the Whitney’s exhibition, “Gordon Matta-Clark: You are the Measure.” Mother will not be pleased.


“You are the Measure?” she’d say if she knew what I were doing. Her face would be crinkled up, her words splashing like sarcasm-filled water balloons. “That’s so typical of the Whitney and their pathetic championing of obscure losers. Gordon Matta-Clark has been dead thirty years. It’s a waste of time, Carly. What do you think you’re going to find?”


Sometimes, when I imagine what my mother might say, I become angry, even though she hasn’t actually said anything. And then, in my mind, I deliver a brilliant retort.


“You know the difference between you and me, Mom?” I would ask her. And in my imaginary world she realizes I am being rhetorical and waits for my answer. “You never understood why Dad ran off to New York,” and then as she gives me that look where she raises her eyebrows as though she’s not sure she likes what she has heard but has to hear more, I look into her eyes and I say, “I never understood why he came back.”  

The entrance to the Whitney is choked with middle-aged tourists. They’re not...


The picture posted above is of one of Gordon Matta-Clark's projects.  If you are unable to find a copy of Johnny America, please let me know and I will email you a copy of the story.