EXCERPT: The Fathers of Dead Children

Here’s the opening to the story I’ll be reading, in its entirety, at Emerson’s Bill Bordy Theater on Thursday:

Images of the dead are a form of gravity. We were pulled inexorably into orbit, spiraling down along the curves of space, clicking “next” and then “next” and then “next.” T-minus six months and the boy slaps one hand into a cake shaped like a rocket. Our orbit degrades, the well of gravitation drags us down. T-minus two weeks and the boy dances naked through a sprinkler. We burn in his atmosphere. T-minus twelve hours and the boy is in his father’s arms, each grinning like he’s won the world. The longer we looked, the more the boy collapsed in on himself, the more inescapable he became. He was a black hole; we never knew him, never would know him, would only ever know his crushing force.

And because we couldn’t resist the photographs, inevitably the fathers of dead children came. They didn’t come for the dead boy’s father, of course. He was now one among a plurality of solitude, a fraternity of nuclear shadows. In joining them he had been cut free to sink wholly into the singularity of his son. No, the fathers of dead children came for us, the ones still in orbit, still clinging desperately to our own tiny satellites. We heard them before we saw them; the fathers’ molecules emitted a deep gut tumbling thrum that hovered on the brink of nausea, vibrating at the frequency of unspoken recrimination. For themselves. For their wives and lovers, the mothers of their dead children. For the children themselves. For you. Resonance was achieved: our bellies turned over as our bodies hummed in response.

If you want to hear the rest, come to the reading!