Goldfinch and Copper

March 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Goldfinch and Copper
By Jeff Barnes

Around thirty I began making up stories about the grandfather

I never had. Me & him sitting on the dock he’d built, pulling

slices of bread apart for the ducks and fish. The playfully

incredulous look in grandma’s eyes. Wasting Bread, she’d say,

then run her hands down the front of her blouse, dust

herself free from some layer that was not there. Or the time

we caravanned down to Nags Head and couldn’t go swimming

because a hurricane had set down with its, Undertow, and, Sand

Storms. Instead of swimming we tried to fly the kites we built

from old handkerchiefs and balsawood; and when yours was pulled

out past the sandbar you laughed and asked me if we had any more

‘kerchiefs. (We took linens from the guestroom closet.) And your

Lionel trains with their tunnels and lights and makeshift towns’

matchbox-traffic and hand painted shop fronts. How Grandma

would panic at the sight of squirrels and you’d take me by the hand,

BB gun with barrel facing floor, and say, I don’t like doing this. But it’s

your grandmother, you see? & I saw about as much as you saw—nodded

—and watched as you missed shot after shot till the squirrel was scared

off into Johnson’s yard. Or the time I held grandma’s hand, (because you

asked me to) dry, smooth and endlessly wrinkled, while Father

Berardy talked about being a good Catholic; and she cried, held a Kleenex

to the base of her nose the entire service. And now I have a thousand more

memories of you and me. It’s like they come in the mail daily, delivered, wrapped

in that same brown paper you kept in your deli behind the, the. Pretty soon

I won’t have room for more, will have to part with the memories that aren’t quite

real enough. The ones without color and feeling. The ones missing you.

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