Although I searched my mind, I found no memory of having a father. I had grown up living with my mother, my sister, and my brother. The man laying in the hospital bed—skin fitting too tight over his bones, eyes sunk in and gazing nowhere, one skeletal arm reaching up— looked both unfamiliar and already dead.
“He wants a hug,”my mother said.
I backed away until I bumped into a wall. The members of my family loomed tall and distant. I realized no one else saw that directly behind my father stood Death, giant, naked, a beast, a monster so grossly huge that it had to lower its deformed head to keep it from hitting the ceiling. Welted scars tattooed the beast’s face, torso, arms, and legs. I heard Death angrily sucking at our air.
“Calvin, give your father a hug.”
The room shrunk and the garble of people talking lacked any sense, a river flowing, dropping and rising, but never ending. I fixed my eyes on one square of tile in front of me.
“It’s OK that you fear him,” Mary’s voice interrupted.
I looked up to see her standing in front of me. I had not seen her since the day I called her my imaginary friend, nearly two weeks ago.
“I don’t understand any of it. There’s a monster and some old man everyone says is my dad.”I shrugged. “I think maybe I’ve lost my mind altogether.”
“The monster is not a monster but my brother, Samuel Tate.”
Mary added. ”He doesn’t make a very good first impression.”
I almost smiled at that.
“Sorry about your dad,”she said. “My brother and I have different dads.”
“I don’t want to hug him.”
Although the dying man now looked more sad than threatening, my feet still refused to move.