I am sitting in the attic closet with the cobwebs and mothballs, holding my baby, her hiccups ceaseless as the paint can smashes through the window below and the diaper rash is getting worse and cradling the freshly coated doorframe, they climb the pull-down ladder. They are dressed as clowns but they are my ex-wife’s attorneys. They do their own dirty work. Do not care that nasal cavity cancer traps me in a cell every minute. I can smell them through the paint raising the dust with their humongous shoes. They reek of whisky, cigarettes, and bar pussy.
I am seeing shadows shaped like wrinkled and bloated imaginary friends who have not shown up in decades; pull me from the moment. What the hell happened to them? How did they get so damn old and ugly? One is too chubby to fit snugly between the shelves and the shoeboxes filled with baseball cards.
I stick my eyelashes into the wet slants. Her attorneys are young and strong, they feast off the papers and ink which forbid me from seeing our treasure. Her nails are on my prison tattoo. I am a poor man and bad drunk, reckless driver, couple counts of involuntary manslaughter…but a decent father.
Pleading with the hiccups, all reason is the weight within my arms. I can see their knees through the slants. Hear them breathing as they crouch beneath the ratty furniture, the sofa where the boxes of baby toys lie unopened. The packages are still wrapped in reindeers, Santa, and elves. Cobwebs and rat feces have collected upon the ribbons and bows and my cards in their colorful envelopes ignored by the bottles and extra nipples and dragon toys neglected.
Four chubby fingers on the paint, the shutters spreading and a litigator with soiled makeup smiles down at my daughter lying in the shadows of her great-grandfather’s sweaters. Drips of perspiration trickle from stale armpits as they lift the gift of God, prying the imaginary degenerates from my shoulders.
I am cooking the cancer beneath the heater of their clown car as we pull away from the house. The baby is crying and we are driving so fast that their briefcases are bouncing in the backseat. Her hiccups more frequent and louder as the steering wheel blisters my palms and for one glorious embrace in the ether, eye-to-eye, diaper rash the least of our problems. Falling asleep has never been so easy.
Matthew Dexter lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Like nomadic Pericú, he survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet.