My first stepfather had a ZZ Top beard and frequently dressed in yellow t-shirts and denim overalls, like a minion from Despicable Me. He went by Bud—I never learned his real name—and had an affinity for homing pigeons and hunting bears. The only gift he ever gave me was a bear claw on a string for my sweet sixteen.
When Bud was in his twenties, he was walking barefoot in a stream in Oregon and cut his foot, a wound that eventually became septic and led to the amputation of his right leg right below the knee. He had an old school prosthetic with a cup meant to cradle the bottom part of the leg. After a long, hard day of training his pigeons, he liked to take off his leg, fill it with Jack Daniels, smoke, and whittle.
My mother divorced him after seven years for a man she met after converting to Hinduism. She never spoke to Bud again, but I always stayed in touch since he never had any children of his own. The last time I saw him, I painted the cup on his leg with an American traditional rose and a planchette, as per his request. He was very subtle about supporting my art. My mother wanted me to go to nursing school and didn’t talk to me for a week when she found out I’d changed my major to painting.
Bud said, “Raina, do whatever you want, just don’t charge me commission.”
I was the one who made the call to 911 when I found his cold body in the kitchen. I was later told that he died of a large pulmonary embolism and that there was nothing anyone could have done. I used the refund money from my financial aid to have him cremated and put into the cheapest urn I could find. I brought him home in a gun-metal gray canister and put him on my desk, moving my paints out of the way. I braided my hair back and stared at my distorted reflection until it dimmed with the natural light of the window behind him, waiting for his request.
about The Dead Bird
The Dead Bird
"As kids we loved bird-watching at the lake. Every fluttery movement was full of joy: a delight to behold. But there was neither joy nor delight in the dead bird we found by the side of the road. Suddenly, no one could stomach bird-watching."Ends in: 23 days
about Meeting Mrs. Dalloway
Meeting Mrs. Dalloway
"It was the woman by the window who made her stay - the woman who, by chance, or perhaps something else entirely, was sitting perfectly still, and perfectly framed between the ever disappearing ribbons of steam."Ends in: 3 days