Ed drove a cream coloured Mercury Monarch – the carriage of kings! – and when it pulled into his driveway every day at 5:30 the curtains in the living room window shook. Ah, he’d smile, they are waiting for me.
But Marvin was in his driveway with that stupid little dog. “Hello Ed,” Marvin stuttered.
“Marvin.” Ed didn’t understand that name, so undignified. It called out for a flexing of muscle.
“How’s your love life,” Ed winked. Marvin must know that his wife was the unsightliest woman on the block, with her shortened leg and thick neck and one side of her mouth frozen on the letter B. Ed moved his head back and forth in a little conspiratorial dance. Marvin looked away. One day he’s going to kill that Ed, he vowed again.
“Let me know if you need any pointers,” Ed laughed. Then he affected a stage whisper, “or girlfriends.” But by then he was opening his front door and didn’t see Marvin give him the finger.
The two youngest were playing in the living room, blocks and puzzle pieces spread out over the thin carpet. The two older ones were at the table, books open. “Hi daddy,” they said, soft reed-like voices hanging in the air like flat notes. His wife, where was she? “Where’s mommy?” he asked. No one answered. “Where’s mommy,” he asked again. The kids looked at each other. He raised his voice and slapped the table hard. The kids jumped. The youngest one’s face rippled like a pond, and he started to cry. “Where’s your mother,” Ed boomed like a broken log jam, trees exploding out of their chains and crashing into the river bank. The eyes of his children, wide, innocent, in awe of his power, like deer about to be shot. It made his heart bloat with pride.
She held a basket full of laundry that needed folding. Her hair fell around her face and she was wearing those slacks, the ones that pulled up way too high and made her look fat. “You been eating all day,” he asked, smiling so wide she could see all his teeth. She looked away and managed a smile. The eyes of her children on her every move. She sat down on the couch and pulled out the clothes one by one, folded them, lay them in neat piles. He went in the bedroom to change. A drawer slammed loudly in the otherwise now silent house.
When he came out he strutted down the hallway and sang a familiar song. “Who’s the biggest man today, who’s the biggest man today? Who’s the biggest man today, who’s the biggest man today?”
He flexed his arms and caressed his biceps. Lucky kids! to have such a strong and impressive father. “Feel this,” he said. “Feel this!” They didn’t want to touch his arm, they kept their eyes on the blocks and on their books. “Come on!,” he yelled at them. He danced around the table, round and round. “Who’s the biggest man today, who’s the biggest man today! Who’s the biggest man today, who’s the biggest man today.” His wife stood up and he grabbed her rear end. She made sure to be seated next time he went around the living room.
Finally the youngest one succumbed. He reached up and grabbed his father’s arm and swung off it like a monkey. Ed hoisted his little boy up as high as he could. “Ah ha!” he said. “Ah ha!” He grabbed the child’s waist and held him aloft. “Now you can climb the ceiling!” And the little boy crawled like an upside down monkey. He giggled and laughed. “Look at me!” he said to his sisters.
“Now let me fly,” the boy said. “Now I want to be an eagle.”
“Fly! Fly!” said Ed, and he turned the boy around and whooshed him through the air. He held him like a rocket and zoomed him around the girls and his mother, almost crashing into them each time. “Ed, you’re being a little rough,” his wife said quietly, removing the boy’s hands from her hair. “Shut up,” Ed smiled.
“Fly some more,” the boy said. “Let go and let me fly. Like a bird! Like a rocket!” Ed stopped whooshing the boy and looked at him, his eyes squinting darkly. “Are you sure? Are you sure you want me to let go of you?” The boy threw back his head and giggled. “I want to fly like a bird! Tweet tweet!”
“Ed…” his wife stopped folding laundry. The oldest girl pushed back her chair and stood up. “Daddy,” she said, her voice tremulous, her body bracing for a smack, only the slight quivering in her chin betraying the bravery.
“What?” he turned around angrily. “What? We’re playing. I’m playing with my son.”
“Daddy! Daddy! I want to fly” The boy stretched out his tiny thin limbs and clouds parted for him, the sky was open and vast and warm. His father rocked and pumped him back and forth. “Are you ready bird? One!” Back and forth again. “Are you ready rocket? Two!”
“Ed, don’t you dare!”
“Three!” The boy closed his eyes and stretched his arms out as far as he could. He was an eagle high in the sky, circling over the forest, the most majestic of birds. In the second that his body soared through the air he heard the cawcaw calling of his mother eagle. Then his face crashed into the wall.
“No!” The boy’s mother screamed. She was over him in a second and folded his wrinkled body into her arms. A streak of blood had followed him down the wall. It took him one second to fill his lungs again and when he did he arched his back against his mother and wailed. He kicked and grabbed at her, willing that his broken eagle spirit might transfer into her soft body, that she in turn might kick and grab and kill for him. Might kill the man. But she only held the boy and cried also, each of them cowering in the hunter’s shadow. Blood poured out of the boy’s mouth from where his tooth had been. He cried and coughed, cried and choked, cried.
“Stupid boy,” Ed said, pacing, “stupid boy.” He poked at him with his foot. “Come on, I just did what you asked, you wanted to fly.”
He turned around to see his three girls staring at him, the smallest one crying, the two oldest unable to conceal the anger in their eyes. “What?” he shouted. “What!” He leaned over his wife and son. “Shut up you two! And stop crying like a little girl. Who cares about that tooth, it was going to come out anyways.”
He pulled the boy up to his feet, but the fury in the child was still alive and he flailed at his father, all windmilling arms and legs, growled like a dog, screeched like an eagle. Ed just laughed. “Go then, go to your mother,” he said, tossing him onto his mother’s lap. “You take care of your little girl,” he said with disgust, and walked away. The boy had nothing left now and buried his face in his mother’s breast and cried.
Ed went downstairs to the basement. He had done it up with wood paneling the year before so it looked like the kind of rec room he’d seen on television. He picked up a Time magazine from the stack on the table.
“Peasants,” he muttered to himself. “Peasants.” He read the magazine and slowly started to feel better. He was smart. He could read such smart things as Time magazine. The magazine for intellectuals like him. World events at his fingertips! Who else from the old country was sitting in a suburban rec room reading Time magazine? Eh? Who else? By the time he got to the last page he could smell supper cooking. Perfect timing, he thought to himself, and went upstairs famished and ready to eat.
This story was originally published in The Danforth Review.