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"Is it Cold Where You Are?" by Francine Witte

After all this time, my father shows up. Only thing is, he’s dead.

“Good to see you,” I tell him.

“Don’t get smart,” he says. So, it’s like that.

We both know it’s not good to see him.

That’s because he was always broke, gambling or something like that, and he’d yell at my

mother all the time. A couple of snarly dogs, they were. And then him selling my stereo when Iwa s in school and calling me a baby for being upset. It was for the family, he insisted. Put those tears back in your head.

Now he shows up, all ghost and out of excuses.

“Why are you here?” I ask. “I don’t have a stereo for you to steal.” He’s grayer, more prune than I remember. He looks old. He looks dead. Dead is older than old.

“You should forget about that.” He sits down. He doesn’t even need a chair.

“Tell me,” he says. “Is it cold where you are?”

“You mean here?” I say. “You mean five feet away from you?”

“I’m not really here,” he says. “It only seems that way.”

I was always making that mistake. Like the time I was little and I sat on his lap. He was a cradle. A home. Who’s my best little girl? he said. I said me? Is it me? He booped my nose. He was right. there.

“It’s warm here,” I tell him. “It’s the temperature of your hand when someone has squeezed it and the heat of it is still on yours.”

“I have to go now,” he says. That’s the father I know. Always one foot into tomorrow and me

never invited. “It’s burning where I am,” he says. I think yeah, I think about the devil licks

toasting his feet.

And then, just as he disappears for forever, I hope, I remember the other nights like that one. Me, a shiver in my bedroom. My parents downstairs. Thud of furniture, breaking of plates and me turning up the volume to full blast on the stereo, that one album, The Who, the one I played so often, even when the needle skipped and played that one part over and over and over.

Francine Witte stories are forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2022, and Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton.) Her recent books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (ELJ Editions,) and Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press.) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.

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