“Murmurs” by Doug Koziol

Son, can you hear me? Is this at all audible to you? Can you at least make out a murmur? I’ll speak slowly for your sake, though it pains me; I have a lot of things I need to communicate in who knows how little time. Son, are you sleeping well? You used to wake up so early. Earlier than me or your mom, even on days when we had to work. The sun wouldn’t even be up and you’d be doing somersaults in the living room, catching a vicious case of rug burn. Son, are you eating well? Are you eating at all? I know you’re a picky eater, always have been. I remember you forever-tethered to your seat at the kitchen table, a full plate in front of you, refusing to eat, like you were on a hunger strike or something. Maybe you were, who knows? Maybe it wasn’t pickiness at all. Maybe it was something nobler than any of us suspected. Son, were you fasting to end apartheid? I won’t be mad if that was the case. Son, do you get lonely? I could never tell. I would pick you up from school and you’d be sitting on the curb by yourself. You didn’t look neglected, more like you had made a decision of your own volition and were sticking to it. I admire that kind of resolve; lord knows I wish it were in me. Son, have you found someone to be lonely with? Someone who hovers around the periphery of your solace, dipping a hand or a foot in when he/she dare. Son, are you still staging those plays, with the dolls and whatnot? I’m sorry, I mean “artificial actors.” I think we still have one buried away somewhere in a dusty corner of the attic or something. I remember they were made of clay, with buttons for eyes and pipe cleaners for hair. Really deranged looking things, thinking back on it. I’m not gonna try to uncover one; I don’t wanna come across it in the dimly lit attic. It’ll give me nightmares for weeks. Son, I’m really tired. It’s painful to be awake. I ache in my feet of all places, like their bones are being sawed at. I don’t know what time it is. My head constantly throbs. I need a little bit of rest, just a couple minutes. Son, can you hear me?
Dad, I hope you’re awake. You’re always sleeping. It seemed like every time I needed you, you were unconscious on the couch with the TV on mute and that purple blanket draped over your feet, never on your body, always on the feet. Dad, wake up. I can’t stop reading. I read for 20 hours a day, anything I can get my hands on: newspapers, cereal boxes, warning labels, comic books, instruction manuals. I read Ulysses in one sitting last week. Or was it last month? It might have been a couple years ago. I honestly can’t remember. The only time I ever saw you holding a book was when you would read to me before bed, every night. Sometimes you would fall asleep halfway through, but that was all right. I never saw you reading anything else, just children’s books. Did you get sick of them? Did you long for something adult, something gripping, something with sex, with violence, something with words longer than seven letters? Did children’s books kill your desire to read? Am I responsible for your disinterest in learning? I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to call you stupid, dad. You’re very capable. You were a hell of a cook. Dad, are you there? I’m hungry. I can’t cook worth a damn. Everything I make tastes like nothing; it’s beyond bland. You used to say that that should make it easier to swallow, but it’s not true. It’s so much harder. It’s like chewing on paper. I can’t get it down. I’m starving. Dad, do you miss anyone right now? I miss everyone. I can’t keep people near me because I miss them too much when they’re around. Their presence is fleeting, and their absence is unfulfilling. Does that make sense to you? Can you grasp that? There I go again, calling you dumb. You’re actually quite bright. You built that stage so I could put on plays with my dolls. What was your favorite of my plays, dad? Mine was The After-Dinner Party. A couple invites two friends over immediately after dinner. They leave all of their plates and cups and utensils and leftovers on the table but don’t offer their guests anything to eat or drink. The friends sit there, staring longingly at the couple’s scraps, while they’re forced to engage in the dullest conversation imaginable. I liked that one. Dad, did you laugh at any of the jokes? I don’t remember. Dad, please stay awake. I feel like you’re dozing off on me. I can see your eyelids fluttering. Dad, this is important. Why won’t you listen to me? Dad, don’t leave me now . . .


2 responses to ““Murmurs” by Doug Koziol

  1. Now that’s what I call writing.
    Thank you. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen writing that makes my eyes wide and my heart revolt.

    But how do I follow your blog? I’m a little confused. Unless of course you don’t have one, which would make for a lot of sense. (I don’t have a twitter.)

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