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Jamey Gallagher

In Front of the Pond

Bob, the ex-biker, danced with Mom, the fastidious housekeeper and dilettante. There was some 50's rock booming out of stereo speakers that were mounted in the cabin's open windows. We had driven up to the New Hampshire pond expressly for this night.

"What is it about these two?" I said, watching them.

My wife Kay shrugged. "They're happy," she said.

I nodded, thinking: Happy? Are they really?

I wondered why it had to be this guy. This guy was nothing like my father. He was just Bob, the ex-biker. He was kind of a rough, dumb guy. He was all right, I guessed. I might have liked him a lot if he'd never touched my mother.

"What is it, though?" I said.

All of their friends were dancing with them in a dirt side yard. It was an anniversary party. No matter who I asked, nobody could tell me what it was.

 

Olive, my oldest daughter, stepped on my feet, giggling as she held my hands and we danced. I wanted to cry, because she looked so old in her "party shoes" and "party dress," and I also wanted to laugh because she was so happy. I settled on smiling wistfully.

 

Jake, my brother, danced with a fat girl from Barnes & Noble. I'd set them up. He stole a kiss from her fleshy neck.

"Good job," Kay whispered in my ear. I wasn't feeling up for it, but I grabbed her by the waist and carried her down to the dock anyway. She screamed in a good way. I threatened to throw her in. Then, because she seemed heavy and I'm not strong, I stumbled and we both fell into the murky water.

She splashed me and we had a real nice time.

 

Bob had only one good leg. The other one had been ripped off of him during a motorcycle accident. He danced funny, but also with a kind of eloquence. You could tell he didn't give a shit about the other leg.

 

My brother Jake is also fat. Really fat. He's got other problems, too, that he wouldn't want me to talk about.

Kay danced with him to a Marvin Gaye song. She was wet from the pond and he was fat, but I was still jealous. It was Marvin Gaye, after all. I was pretty happy all in all, I guessed.

"Great family," the girl from Barnes and Noble said. "Great party."

I nodded.

 

My mother didn't talk to me, which seemed strange at first, but then became alright. She had other things to do and I wasn't going anywhere right away.

 

I found Emily, my youngest, walking away from the party, up a long winding dark mercifully empty street.

"Where are you going, honey?" I asked, not wanting to show her how upset I was, how jolting the search for her had been, adrenaline all of a sudden lapping like a large dog at my brain stem.

"Going home," she said.

"What? New Jersey?"

"Home," she said. She had a stoned look in her eyes that made her seem a little psychotic, but I realized that she was just exhausted.

She fell asleep on my shoulder as we walked back-- a heavy, sleeping thing.

There were bats in the sky that flittered around. They looked like they were attached to strings and someone was jerking them this way and that. They looked like they had no idea what they were doing.


Jamey Gallagher lives in South Jersey.

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