DAY OF INFAMY
Early one Sunday morning
my brother and I saw hoodooed
shadows flickering through the
latticework of our Concord grape arbor,
filigreed white curtains fluttered in the
December wind like tremulous Kabuki
dancers as we cuddled in dad's bed
waiting for him to catch a few more winks.
We tried to be patient listening to his
rasping breath before tickling him
awake at an agreed upon time.
His breathing was rattled and deep,
reminding us of a whale with a
We couldn't wait to get to the city and see
a live show at the Paramount or Roxy.
We'd lunch at the Automat, on baked beans,
hot chocolate and lemon meringue pie.
Minutes dragged on like the rudderless raft
drifting slowly down the Rio-Grande we'd seen
in a Tom Mix cowboy movie. Bored, squirming
around we'd amuse ourselves doing hand puppets
with shadows on the wall, poking and teasing
each other, drowning out our giggles by
smothering each other with pillows.
When dad finally got up to shave we
turned on the Philco in the living room,
moments later running to him asking:
"What's a day in infamy?"
With war declared, we were too young
and dad too old to serve, but he
volunteered to be an air-raid warden
and we earned merit badges in the boy scouts
collecting tin and scrap paper for the war effort.
Years later when dad told us he had cancer,
("like a vine growing wild inside me"),
his emaciated body looked like a homeless
hound, all skin and bones, a shrunken version
of his former robust self. At the hospital, we
sat by his side listening
once again to his breathing ,
wondering which breath would be the last.
Milton P. Ehrlich