A young father returns from the yard. He has planted two new pepper bushes, to replace the ones wasted by floodwaters. His spade unearthed a bone, a dirty thing that resembled a knuckle. With his living bones, he handles the tiny exhumation, inspects it, wonders briefly about it, throws it in the trash. He muses, privately, about his own jawbone—where will it be after he can no longer say, this is mine; where was it, from what collision of astral materials was it portioned, prior to his birth, prior to the advent of his species, of his planet? You should be helping me in the yard, says the young father, without seriousness. He looks at his son, who watches his video game on the flatscreen. The son looks nothing like him. The difference pleases him. Have I made this, he wonders to himself. The son’s very young face, his large eyes that reincarnate the eyes from gray photographs of a grandmother he had never known. The making was a collaboration, of course, he corrects himself—he is no longer accustomed to acknowledging the son’s mother, who pursued alternate preferences straight to her premature grave. Old atoms, as old and older than the earth, recycled through your body to release this, him. A new bubble in space to catch and harness the ephemeralities of love, fear, joy, despair. This, him, did not previously exist. This, him: a new vulnerability to attract the stuff of pain and decay. The joy of fatherhood, the same as the sadness of mortality. These old realizations, new in my brain, he thinks to himself. A watercolor fire of orange, yellow, and red decorates the cover of a children’s book on the rug. The wet-looking flames drip upward into a blotchy, dark blue stain of a sky. A stray thought catches his attention, and he imagines the great orange conflagrations that have consumed capitals and villages, some with names his mouth cannot utter, throughout the long, unreal centuries. Blazes, from celerity their womb—once moss-rabid sparks, toward mansions their fame, advance—once cadaver-fed (billowing, and like lungs) hypnosis. Intuition reminds him that he is but one spark within one flash of a cosmic luminosity about which he is fated to be almost entirely ignorant. Here we are, he says to himself, inside an ongoing and ancestral reinvention that permits no memory, but that to itself is ever now.
Billy Petersen works as a copywriter for a website developer in Jacksonville, Florida. His stories and essays have appeared in Ellipsis Zine, Litro.co.uk, The New Engagement, Hobart, symplokē, Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, and Literary Imagination. @BillyPeterzen