My father was attacked by an unidentified animal. It concentrated on his eyes and neck. He is horrible to look at.
He has become an angry threat because of his deformity. When people look, he looks back. When people ask, he follows them into the store and harasses them until they leave. Our graduation rate plummets because children are terrified and refuse to go to school. Our mortality rate among the old skyrockets because of the safety in death.
We begin to worry he’s become too aggressive, myself, my brother, and our two sisters and mother.
We buy him a mask and bring him to a mirror to try it on. We massage his shoulders and pat his arms and encourage him with every sound we know. He stands as indifferent as a pile of rocks and pulls the mask on.
‘What is it?’ he says.
‘It is a magical mask,’ I say. ‘It will instantly make you OK.’
He turns side to side, feeling the mask, looking close in the mirror as if shaving. Even under a magical mask, my father is as hideous as ever.
He pulls it off and walks past us and leaves his mask on the counter.
I cannot say for sure where he goes, but I can guess as to his usual haunts: the pet adoption center, any daycare within radius, and, he has done it before, live television via the broadcasting tower.
The mask remains on the counter for weeks. Our father has become more and more, since the animal attack, a lump of putty, a pitiable man with always a handful of pebbles, and a heart full of hate. Whenever he stands up to leave, he stares us down until we recoil from his face. And then he slams the door and runs.
‘But what will we do? Our mother has become a wreck and our father a plague.’
We sit on our couches and drink. I fumble the instructions, which I have taped back together, for the magical mask in my hands and read for my brother and sisters: ‘Welcome to the magical mask. If indeed the mask is no good, try encouraging words. Again, if this is to no effect, believe in the magic of gloves and a belt, among other accessories of choice. With love, from magic, the magical mask.’
‘This helps nothing,’ says my sister, who is tickling our sister to share the Kahlua.
I’ll show you, I think silently, clenching my hands and crumbling the paper. I realize then that I am just like my father. I go to my bed in a cold sweat of terror.
The next morning, the magical mask is cockeyed on the counter. A pair of gloves, red and black, almost sinister, yet powerful, tucked beneath the magical mask.
At lunch our father returns to his chair, his knuckles tattooed and holding a bag full of money. I skip out of lunch and buy a red and black cape from the costume store. As the Kahlua comes out and I go to tuck the cape under the magical mask with the gloves, I see already there is a pair of red boots with black laces and streaks that light up.
Under cover of night, when we siblings are not enough drunk and considering more, we go to the phone and see it has all disappeared: the cape, the boots, the gloves, the magical mask and our rotten father.
We turn on the television and flip to the news.
Our father hovers above a burning building, his red and black cape fluttering handsomely in the wind. He stares into the camera.
We have healed him, our father. And now he is the world’s concern.
Captain by trade, Cpt. Eric Thralby works wood in his long off-days. He time-to-time pilots the Bremerton Ferry (Bremerton—Vashon; Vahon— Bremerton), while other times sells books on amazon.com, SellerID: plainpages. He’ll sell any books the people love, strolling down to library and yard sales, but he loves especially books of Romantic fiction, not of risqué gargoyles, not harlequin romance, but knights, errant or of the Table. Eric has not published before, but has read in local readings at the Gig Harbor Candy Company and the Lavender Inne, also in Gig Harbor.