Such a Thing as Permanence
“I thought you were going to the doctor?” I said, looking at the mass of paper towels, sticky and clinging to his skin dampened to a wine-purple pallor that gave no indication of just how thin his blood truly was. The bleeding wouldn’t stop and the self-infliction had been jagged and intentional.
He shook his head, “Can’t afford it.”
“What about insurance?”
“We still have to pay. Too much,” he said. His words were getting stuck in his nostrils as he tried to speak and would sputter them out. His steps were slow and the linoleum had the evening’s story spattered all over it. The punctuation was smears of the same blood that refused to clot. His appointment with the surgeon would obviously need to be canceled.
I didn’t know how he would go to work on Monday, but I knew would. I’ve seen him put on his work boots and leave every morning this summer, knowing it wasn’t the only day he was in pain from unseen pockmarks in every part of him.
My voice is high pitched enough the doctor’s office will think it is my mother calling to cancel. I staked a reminder to do it Monday morning when she went to the post office, if she doesn’t find out first. I know he doesn’t want her to. She’s asleep. He didn’t come to me because I was the only one awake. He came to me to keep quiet.
“The doctor said they had to go. He said it was unusual for people to have moles or lesions on the bottom of their feet.”
“I know he said that, but why?”
“Ashley, we can’t afford our share. I don’t want to go under anesthesia.”
“But you’re drunk,” I said. “That’s why it won’t stop bleeding. How did you clean it?”
“It’s fine, Ashley. It just needs to heal up.”
“I thought they needed to test them for cancer?”
He didn’t answer, and I went back to work – folding the paper towels and packing them to his feet. I took the duct tape and wrapped around the entire wounds. He had three that I knew of and I think he took another slice of the skin that was innocent in the realm of sole lesions and abnormalities. All of them had been surrounded by a dusting of cigarette ashes, I assume in some sort of attempt to cauterize the wounds and stop the bleeding.
“Don’t drink, Ashley.”
“Dad, I’m twelve.”
“There has to be such a thing as permanence, but drinking makes you think it is all okay and everything that bothers you will be over soon.”
“This is hard to do, Dad.”
“I know, Ashley. I want it to be over, too. I shouldn’t put you through this. It won’t be forever.”
“This is summer break, Dad. Why did you do this to yourself?”
“I don’t know.”
I found a pair of tube socks that didn’t have holes in them from his steel toe work boots and put them on his feet. They must be new or ones that he tucked into the back of the drawer to keep like new.
“Try to sleep,” I said, but he was already snoring.
I washed my hands, but could still smell the work on my fingertips, so I washed them again. Then, I wet some more paper towels and began working on the floor in the kitchen and the mud room. There was a light rain that would cover the evidence he left outside. I walked to the detached garage and found his pocket knife and whetstone stained from their work and continued erasing his evening.
Ernest Gordon Taulbee’s work has appeared in such journals as Sediments Literary-Arts Journal, Nixes Mate Review, Tuck Magazine, Live Nude Poems, and Fried Chicken and Coffee. It is scheduled to appear in Door is a Jar and Vending Machine Press. He holds an MA in English from Eastern Kentucky University. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife and daughters.