Jesse Jarnow

the island, no. 5

(Short fiction in even shorter increments.)

The Island: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10, no. 11

He was ready at dawn, my father. Getting him to town was a chore, but he was as eager to do that as anything. The walking was slow, down the long hill that fed into Oak Street. Both Elizabeth and my brother were convinced it was dementia. That day, he spoke little, scratching at the stubble on his face. It was getting harder for him to shave.

“No,” he said again, when the island was not there. Even Arnold Laning’s entreaties were not enough to convince him. “You know who this man is making a fool of?” my father asked me, when his former poker companion was out of earshot.

“No,” I admitted.

“He is making a fool of you and me,” my father said. It was another clear day, and the sea looked as it always had, an unbroken gray-green extended on a flat plane to the horizon. David Mallis’s lobster boat was nowhere.

When Suzanne Camer drove us home, after breakfast, my father kept touching his chin and cheek, as if constantly rediscovering his need to shave. Elizabeth and my brother may have been right. But they might not have. To claim my father expected the island would be inaccurate, though it is possible he anticipated it in some way.