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Root Beer Float

The stool wobbled beneath his heavy frame,
Straining to hold him above the checkerboard tiles.
Elvis was singing the blues from a corner of the room,
I wondered if he could possibly be speaking to me.
A glass was held firmly between my shaky hands,
A chill against the fever that raged through me.
Facial whiskers clung to nearly every inch of his chin,
Upper lip and cheeks.
A balding head was turning grey,
Making him appear older than the actual
Span of his years;
I had lost count.
A belly bloated with fermented starches
Avalanched over his faded blue jeans,
The button could pop at any minute now.
I remembered running about the backyard
At what used to be called our family home.
I felt like a mouse trying to escape the fox’s clutches,
Only to clamber back in for a bear-of-a-hug.
He’d lift me high above his head,
Telling me to reach for the sky, and never look down.
A young woman would watch from the doorframe,
Smiling with pride, even with exhaustion in her eyes.
She held her hand to her chest,
As if trying to catch her breath
After just a few steps.
He’d stay positive and wave,
Attempting to keep a brave face, for my sake.
Those were the good ol’ days
Before he locked her away
And sought refuge at the bottom of a bottle.
No more bear hugs or expressions of love,
Always on my own, but never really alone.
Going out into the world without even a goodbye.
All I could remember were bloodshot eyes.
A college degree and one “I Do” later,
I meet them again for the first time.
Would he lie?
Would someone break down enough to cry?
Why now, after all these years.
His lips begin to mumble
As Martha pours him another mug
Of pure, black Joe.
He says it helps him kick the habit.
With few words so much is said,
I find myself trying to forgive again.
A tingling bubble mixed with slush in my stomach,
I slide off my perch and head for the door.



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