Issue 35, Final Fringe

Our Family

by Joseph Scapellato Issue 18 03.01.2009

My mother’s made of plastic. All her parts. In her, one stores solids, fluids, leftovers, even garbage. She wraps herself around whatever’s going on, sees it off. It comes back. She is there, cooking—cooking any time and any thing, birds, schools of fish. What she cooks she comes to hate, so it works out sweetly when they swallow her and die. To the pan: anything’s a pan.

My father, he’s an engine. Pour it in and watch him go. Sometimes he sputters instead of speaking. His back is broad, we’re building seats and “Oh shit” handles and stashing bags of gold. The bags have names in many languages. He doesn’t, in any, but he hauls from coast to coast, carving stinking gullies. He doesn’t hate, he’s just indifferent—”What’s a coast?” he grunts, en route to meet himself, smelling awful.

“Honey,” says my mother, frying songbirds. No seasonings. But he’s gone, he’s never not.

My sisters? Cancer cells. They’re taken. The adopted one’s a continent of smoke. She swirls, is single.

Blinking lights for brothers. They’re pretty and they know it, and they’re my mother’s favorites.

I’m on the roof because I like to try to see it all at once. My best friend, a cockroach, says to me: “You guys’ll be around forever.”

Not my brothers, I think, staring into the city. But me? So long as we progress. I say so to my friend: Progress. My landlady, who snoops, has snooped. She puffs herself up and rumbles: “Breathe!”

Instead, I unwrap my mother and eat my fingers: each one a chewy pill, my cousins. Birds with wilted beaks are dropping in the city. All the fish are small and hard. I hold my breath. When it lets go I cough and shudder fiercely.

This makes my landlady angry, the kind that’s sad and righteous and slightly pleased. She blushes—she can’t help that I’m hers. She can’t help that she also eats herself.

I wink at my best friend, but he’s on his back and dead and drying out.

My sisters slink between my pretty brothers. My throat glows, soaked in pill. Coughing harder, I trace my father’s fearless stinking tracks.

Joseph Scapellato

Joseph Scapellato

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Joseph Scapellato was born in a suburb of Chicago. So were some of his family members and good friends. In 2008 he earned his MFA in Creative Writing from New Mexico State University where, over the span of three years, he met more good friends, was served life-changing quantities of green chile, and climbed cactus-studded mountains. At the moment he lives in Lewisburg, PA, where he has the good fortune to teach English and Creative Writing courses at Susquehanna University as an adjunct professor. Everybody there is really great. Joe is revising a novel, composing short story cycles, and waiting on his first batch of homemade sauerkraut.