By Marvin Shackelford
Ma wants to call it a Duck Dynasty beard but I stop her there. We’re talking ZZ Top or maybe Santa, if we’re talking at all. Even if I’ve got too much color. Even if whatever. You don’t grow a beard like this for TV comparisons. But Ma’s frowning. She just wants a point of comparison and that’s what she’s got.
Your father, she says, second time in three days, is dead.
I understand the coming together and getting along. I even understand cleaning up, matters of respect and what all, but I want to be gentle about it. I use some clippers and tiny silver scissors from Dad’s bathroom cabinet and take off the length, think that should be enough. He never wore a beard, so who knows why he has a trimmer. It looks untouched, tines sharp and clean. I drop the guard altogether and slice around my jawline. My neck’s gone pale, white as he’d been, years inside a government cubicle. I always feared his life. Guess that’s why I went, made a point of the beard. I’ve come to know trees and the sun and wind and a mountain even death’d have a time climbing.
Soon I’m down to sideburns, a goatee. I slow it to a mustache. I sneer into the mirror, see in my upturned lip a policeman, my high-school principal, the redneck father of every girl I dated growing up. Then I’m scraggly hairless and pissed enough to cry. I have his face.
They’ll be here in fifteen, Ma shouts through the door.
I have his face and a sink full of hair and not much else. Suit to put on and a tie to tie, his too. And we’ll be going.
Marvin Shackelford is author of the collections Endless Building (poems, Urban Farmhouse) and Tall Tales from the Ladies’ Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming from Alternating Current). His work has, or soon will have, appeared in Kenyon Review, Hobart, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. He resides in Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.