Like Father, Like Son

By Beth Boylan

Each Sunday they come at noon,
all four of them in a sharp line
marching up the stairs to my front door like soldiers —
clock hands, wound up and forced forward.

In the kitchen, she unearths the sandwiches from their containers
and sighs, digs out pickles from the fridge,
while the two little ones float to the corner, attached to their books and whispers.
Over lunch, they sneak each other smiles as I bend back the foil lid that seals the cake.

He and I resume position in matching worn-down chairs
and speak as though we are familiar,
circling the weather, the Church, the Times,
as though we have new things to say since last week.

I drift
on a bus to the city
a merry-go-round by the sea
the cracked volume of Arnold Bennett waiting upstairs.

My son rises, the same time as each Sunday before,
announcing their need to depart. And so I place the jar of candies
and two Ziplocs in front of his daughters, who exude feigned surprise
once more. They are well-rehearsed, these two little cadets.

I’m curious over their sad eyes and perfect little waves
back at this old stranger in the doorway. Is this what little girls do?
Or should it be a birthday party, a movie, hopscotch or dolls?
Something to ask him perhaps — tomorrow night during my 9:18 call.

 

Beth Boylan holds a B.A. in English from Elizabethtown College and an M.A. in literature from Hunter College. She teaches high school English and is also an adjunct professor at Brookdale Community College. She has published in journals including “Wilde” and “Sassafras.”

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