BY KATE NESHEIM
I ask Dad if he knows where we are. He hears and says are, and looks proud he raised a girl to ask smart questions. I talk at him and he becomes a myna in his black chair: he scoops my last word, a shelled nut to twitter with his tongue. Then he drops it. I say the cockatoos love the new aviary. I tell him it’s going just fine in his pretty shop. Shop. The word’s too hard to sort out, but he likes holding it awhile.
He doesn’t mind being an old man in a small room, but I take it all less well. I want to hand him my day’s news like unwrapped candies. I show him a catalog. I say help me choose a new cage heater. He says heater. I hold out little stories about our new broods, but he takes them like chokecherries, like raw potatoes. Still I hope for something. Like yesterday, when we watched the game, he looked ready to heckle Canseco. His mouth sucked tight on its drawstring and his jaw bobbled. He swallowed and didn’t let out, but just there was a ruckus I might have heard.
The question he can’t answer is when. He expects to leave soon, and the new orders are not to try and stop it. I think about this when his shoulders shrug as he sits down, like a parakeet after preening. I keep looking for a change, for some signal. In the meantime we have our two chairs and the Red Sox. I glance over, anxious that it could happen any day, something as inevitable as tall new feathers on a clipped wing.
Kate Nesheim is a doctoral student in English (Creative Writing) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her work is featured or forthcoming in The National Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Smokelong Quarterly. She is a Creative Nonfiction editor for The Cream City Review, and a two-time recipient of the Ellen Hunnicut Fiction Prize.