By J. Edward Kruft
The way I sit upsets him. It makes him wonder if I might be a faggot. I watch my favorite shows and when I see it amongst my heroes – Jim Rockford, Gage and DeSoto on Emergency! – sitting that way – I can’t help but wonder, why am I singled out? We watch these shows together, my father and I, and I can’t help but wonder, does he not notice these manly men, also sitting with their legs crossed? Nevertheless, I try very hard never to sit that way anymore. And never, never in front of my father. It is always pressing on my mind. Remember, remember, remember.
He takes me fishing. We troll up and down the river in our little boat, searching for sturgeon. I am not allowed to move or make a sound. It scares away the fish, he says. After long hours of silence and stillness, we catch nothing. Not even a bite. And though he doesn’t say it, I know it’s my fault. On the drive home, he asks if I have a girlfriend yet. I am eight years old. I answer honestly, though I should know better: “No.” He says quickly, as though his tongue is prepared for it: “You best get a little stinkfinger soon, before it’s too late.” I have no earthly idea what that means. Why would I want my fingers to stink? Too late for what?
Is it too late for us, my father and me? I lie in bed and wonder. He told me once: “I am your father. Thereby, by definition, not your friend.” In a strange way, I am comforted by these words. They give me a foundation on which to orient myself.
Still, there are times when we laugh together, like at the sissyman working in the shoe department at JC Penney. “What sssthize can I get you?” My father tells him he wants someone else to help us, because men like him makes his skin crawl. As the sissyman walks away he says: “Methinkthss the lady doth protessth too much” which makes my father very angry and the manager threatens to call security if we don’t leave. Oddly, I feel proud for getting kicked out of the mall. In the car, my father mocks the sissyman’s lisp, and we both gut-laugh each time he says: “What ssthize? What ssthize?” His impression is spot on.
Later, my father is in the living room watching a Star Trek re-run. He doesn’t understand why I don’t share his passion for the program. “I like Spock,” I’ve told him as consolation. He doesn’t know I am watching him. He doesn’t know – and I will never tell him – that I stare for minutes on end at his crossed legs.
J. Edward Kruft received his MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in several online and print journals, including Crack the Spine and XRAY Literary Magazine. When he was around ten years old, he walked into a mid-century modern house for the first time. It was love at first sight. He lives in Astoria, NY and Livingston Manor, NY with his husband, Mike, and their adopted Siberian Husky, Sasha. His recent fiction can be found on his Web site:and he tweets (badly) @jedwardkruft.