Detroit, yeah, we lived there too for a while. My father wrote for the Free Press but he was restless and started freelancing, writing travel stories, which he despised. Break my neck so someone else can take a goddamn vacation? He’d take us with him. I remember thinking that Mount Rushmore looked carved out of soap. He’d stick Hertz in the story or the name of the hotel we’d stayed at and make a few extra dollars, and then write the whole thing oﬀ. After Detroit we went to New Hampshire and from there back to Michigan, Traverse City, and from there he got a job on a little paper in Cedar City, Utah. My father drank, he smoked, he took pills, injected whatever he could find. He was wild, so wild he even loved my mother. He loved us too. Also a lot of other people, women, men, whoever, and he’d be gone for days and come home dazed and happy and once, I remember, he came to the door alone and said, “I’d like to introduce you all to my very good friend, Knocko,” and he looked around and said, “Knocko, Knock? Where the hell’d you—” and I also remember, this was in Cedar City, I came home, I must have been sixteen or seventeen, I was already into the same stuﬀ he was into, I learned from a master, and I found him dead on the living room carpet. He wasn’t dead. He died twenty years later selling ads in San Bernardino but by then I’d lost track of him, we’d all lost track of him, and so when I think of him now I think of him in Utah on the carpet not in a hospital in California with nobody, nobody at all, and I remember kneeling to him and whispering things I would have been embarrassed to say if he could hear me and of course he didn’t because he was passed out, my father, my tall father, I’ve been lost without you, never had you in the first place. My father, who could type for hours with his eyes closed and who could lie like nobody before or since. Him sprawled there dead on the shag and me whispering love like I was the liar who invented it.
Peter Orner is the author of the collections Esther Stories (Mariner 2001, Little, Brown 2013), a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge (Little, Brown 2013), and the novels The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo (Little, Brown 2006), winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, and Love and Shame and Love (Little, Brown 2011). His stories have been anthologized in Best American Stories and he has twice been awarded a Pushcart Prize.