Father Spoke in Code by Donal Mahoney

Father Spoke in Code

Father spoke in code
Mother understood.
She would cry
once he went to bed.
I never understood the code.
My sister didn’t either.
As we got older, we quit
asking Mother what he said.

A feral cat claimed our yard.
It would leap the fence
when anyone appeared.
Except, of course, Father.
When he came out to walk
around the garden after supper,
the cat would sit straight up,
then rub against his leg
and look at him as if it understood
what others never could.

My sister used to say
the two of us were proof
Father and Mother
got together twice.
I told her I wasn’t so certain.
I looked a lot like Mr. Brompton,
the next-door neighbor.
He used to buy us sugar cones
from the ice cream truck.

My sister, by the way, didn’t look
like anyone in the family either,
but that was 40 years ago
when I last saw her.
I went away to college
and she got married.
We were never close after that.
Not even Christmas cards.

Forty years is a long time.
Now, we plan to get together
for a weekend this summer
before one of us dies.
I suggested we wait
till one of us is terminal.
What’s the rush, I said.
But my wife told her
I was only kidding,
that we’ll be coming
and not to make a fuss.
Burgers and hot dogs
will do just fine.

I know what Sis and I
will talk about that weekend,
the two people we’ll always
have in common, no matter
how many years and miles
may lie between us.
Father and Mother have been
dead for decades now
but they’re still alive in us.
I talk in code, my wife says,
and my sister cries a lot,
now that her husband’s dead.
The one thing I want to know
is if my sister knows
what happened to the cat.
It knew the code,
may have had some answers.

Donal Mahoney

Donal Mahoney has had work published in a variety of print and electronic publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found here.

 

 

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