Lineage

 

Brittany Cagle

Brittany Cagle

I.

It’s hard to separate Grandpa from the man you’ve heard about.

In the story it’s different.

His breath so hot it hung on the window glass, whiskey scented and unraveling the remains of last call. The car wheel greased between bar-fry fingers, a crumpled brown bag nudged in the brake pedal, and his head filled with after-midnight radio.

How often those parallel yellow lines crossed.

Late night, ignition droned. Him, powerful on jutting the wheel seconds before the crash. His eyes returned to the dashboard, to the rusted circle in hand.

 

II.

And Grandma, strained to the passenger seat with her two children crammed in back. Everything turned to dust inside of her. Traffic lights hooked onto her cheek.

It’s a shame to be afraid of trees and telephone lines, but scared she was. The branches peered through glass, ragged and twisted, a network of nerves.

 

III.

And Dad recalls his memory from a backseat window. What he saw: shadow houses flared with strangers safe in their homes. Out there, houses with birdbaths on the lawn, string curtains, wrapped porches, bricks and stone.

Aunt Barbara sat beside him, where the lights of cars burned into the darkness. What she heard: the hissing threats as the car pointed towards streetlight posts, those flickersmoving closer, and Grandpa’s mouth slur, It ends here.

 

IV.

And sitting in a restaurant now, you don’t know him, your Grandpa, across the table.

Because you only know one set of hands.

His hands, that guide yours as you first learn to draw the lines to a pointed star or recall how to flick a quarter. His fingers caress this coin and teach your hands how to spin.

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