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

clogged blow-hole.

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