Bad Timing

My Late Mother
Again, I huffed over to Long and Pine, slapping up at noon on the dot. Again, she was nowhere to be found. I scanned sidewalks. Studied traffic. Leaned against a post with a poster that cried "Missing!" A beep turned me around. The horn, however, was no greeting but a "go!" to the hatchback dawdling under green.

Later, Lucky stopped by to say, "Come home with me."

There, I marveled at his family pictures: portraits jammed on mantel and end tables; school shots smattering walls; candids swirling under magnets on the fridge. Then these very people entered, back-slappingly alive. For dinner, turkey and all the fixings, stories smothered in a sauce of candied laughter.

At home, I wept to Guardian about my daily failures.

"No surprise," he said, ogling futures on a screen. "Chick'll be late for her own funeral."

A week after graduation came a miracle—I package from Mom wrapped in want ads and obituaries. Inside, an engraved pocket watch. Was this a sign she'd return when she saw fit? Maybe by Christmas. New Year's. Birth of my first or second. What if she were planning a big surprise? That, I granted, would have to take some time.

My Early Father
Like clockwork, he was always there—but always long before. Therefore, I only knew him by the presence of what he left. "Sorry I missed you,"" was the gist of those first notes, tacked to signposts or trees. Soon, though, the messages carried a sting: "No wonder they passed you over" was one. Another: "You know she’s going to leave!"

I tried like mad to beat him there. Left at the crack of dawn and stayed until the sun died. Once, I spent the night. The next morning, a note teased: "Close, but no cigar."

Finally, I stuffed a pack with clothes. Raised a tent. By Friday, I was fired. By the end of the month, my wife was gone. Hair spiraled. Bones quaked. An incisor gave out. Sometimes, Lucky would stop by with a sandwich in a bag.

The last note—"You Sorry-ass Shit"—I placed with others in my pillow's damp sleeve. If all else failed, I'd read them backwards toward better days.

That Easter, Guardian showed to shake his head at me.

I yawned and crumbled crud from my eyes. "What time is it?"

"Early, late," he laughed. "Tell me why you think it makes a difference."

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