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Sal’s parents, especially her father, loved things that were beautiful and expensive. Sal accused him of having lousy values. She scorned their overly large house, the custom-made furniture and fixtures. “This place looks like a theatre lobby,” she would grumble. Her father didn’t mind. The walls around his dreams were powerful. Words – even flung in anger – couldn’t crack them.

“Your dad’s afraid of death,” said her mother, in a rare moment of candor. “All this…” she spread her arms “…it makes him feel like a big shot. It distracts him.” But Sal was too young to understand. “Bullshit,” she said.

Sal had wished for a trailer when she was small, imagined family trips in their cozy shell, her dad driving them smoothly through the night. They’d bathe in lakes, cook over open fires. Instead there was summer camp for her and her sister while her parents cruised to Rio or Majorca. Instead their homes grew larger, more grandiose.

And then her father’s illness overwhelmed him. He lost his successful business, he lost his friends. He lost his wife, who salvaged a little money from the disaster and bought a pretty condo in Florida.

Too late, her dad acquired what Sal had longed for, a Winnebago, at a bargain price. He shared the open road with a half-wild cat he’d found pilfering food from garbage bins. He lived in trailer parks and wore cast offs.

To Sal’s surprise, for he’d been a gentle man, he developed hatreds. He railed against Blacks, Asians, Latinos. “Be careful,” he warned her during awkward visits, his eyes darting around the tiny space, “they’re thieves,” he hissed in her ear, “they’re murderers.”

Sal wanted to protest, but she just nodded. There was no point provoking one of his tantrums. It did no good at all. And she couldn’t bear the screams, the sprays of saliva. So she tried to keep him calm, then slipped away.

She wasn’t in the country when he died. She and Gary and the kids had gone on holiday to Mexico. When they got back, everything was over. There wasn’t even a grave. After years of researching cryogenics, her dad had written clearly in his will that his final choice was fire and not frost.

The funeral home made sure she received his ashes, not in a fancy urn but in a box. It was made of metal and looked like a Winnebago.

A few weeks after her dad’s death, one of his neighbours from the trailer park delivered a small parcel he’d left for her. When Sal tore it apart, a heap of fur slid onto her lap. She recognized the stole, genuine mink, lush, glossy and smelling of Sortilege, her mother’s favourite perfume during the good times. Though Sal had become a vegan, she kept the fur, protected and preserved in tissue paper, beneath a pile of outgrown children’s clothes.

“Longings” was published in Fictive Dream.


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