Anchor and Knife

The first time I met you I fought your father in the driveway. He fisted a tire iron, but he’d been drinking and he only clipped my forearm with his looping swing. That’s really where my scar comes from. The afternoon had been nice, your mother made kabobs, but you wouldn’t touch the green peppers, and you wouldn’t speak to me, so your mom brought the soccer ball out and we kicked at it in the small backyard and I pretended to know something about Pelé, and she made you hug me before I left out the front door, running into your dad, who had spied our embrace.

You’re ten. You stood in front of our autumn oak, your white-casted right arm at your side above the rocky ground that shattered your elbow on your fall from the old tree. I warned you about climbing the dead branches, and still I ran to you when I heard your animal groan, your dangling lower arm, inverted, twisting, and I waited to take you to the hospital and belted you first because you never listened to me, a stepfather, and it felt good to whip that leather at your lower back, to hear sharpness in the air, and see your body quiet and stiffen.

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