One Year by Julia Ruth Smith

The first time I see my dead father, he’s sitting on a chair outside our house, circling his feet in grey sludge, slouching like he used to. I tell mum while she’s making lunch.  “It irritates the shit out of me, he’s just sulking,” she says. I don’t tell her about the empty chair next to him, as still as snowfall.

The second time I see my dead father, he’s at the park swinging up and down, looking straight ahead like he did on damp evenings, the TV humming over our lack of forbearing. I tell Joey who’s sucking my neck. He swirls an insult, spits into hard earth. I don’t tell him about the empty swing which twists like tornadoes.

I see him on a Greyhound passing through town, cheek pressed to a gritty window, nowhere-staring like when I saw him cradling a beer, midday in a backstreet bar.

The guy at the market looks at me with something like pity, “If you see him again tell him he owes me,” he says as he wraps things up in dull bags. The bus wheels slap slap on asphalt.

Once I see him lying on the bed in my parents’ room, staring straight up at the ceiling, not sleeping, eyes squeezing. I tell Lorraine as she’s catching a lift, flicking her hair, pulling a pout. “Geez kid, give it a break. Get yourself a real man,” she crackles like static. I see him smoothing the sheets on my mum’s side.

The last time I see my dead father he’s standing by my window, palm touching cold glass.  I see the signs on his skin, the crying like Christmas. It’s snowing again; I say nothing at all as I slip to his side.  He turns to leave: sighing heavy like bad luck.

JULIA RUTH SMITH — Julia is a mother, teacher and writer. She lives by the sea in Italy. Her work has recently been chosen for publication in the NFFD Anthology, Reflex Fiction, Chaotic Merge Magazine and Anamorphoseis Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @JuliaRuthSmith1 or at the beach.

Art by DÉSIRÉE JUNG — Désirée is an artist born in Brazil and adopted by Vancouver, Canada. She has published translations, poetry, and fiction in several magazines around the world. She has also participated in several artist residencies. She has a film degree from Vancouver Film School, a BFA and MFA in Creative Writing, and a PhD in Comparative Literature, all from the University of British Columbia. Her most recent work, a series of video poems about memory, landscape and what is not-all out there, has been screened in several film festivals around the world, and can be found in her website: