Barney T. Haney
YOU KNEW THE TIME would come. Admit it, you wanted it to. But not, you hope, for selfish reasons. Leaving the birthday party, goodbye hugs, and your niece, under the weeping willow in grandma’s backyard, making a stick shelter, says, “Uncle, how come you and daddy don’t like each other?”
Look her in the eyes. This young girl, growing up on a farm of boys and men. It’s hard enough. You grew up here, too.
She looks away. She understands the implication of her question, but does she understand the consequences of knowing? This shit is confusing. For both of us.
“What makes you say that?” you say, despite the obvious—in this girl’s nine years she’s never seen you converse with her father.
The wind blows wisps of hair in her eyes, raises a curtain of willow spray. Beyond the harvested corn, the road stretches far away. You could go, but you don’t.
“Well because Daddy says you were mean to him.”
Young kids understand themselves in relation to their parents. To what degree do they need to believe that their parents are good to sense their own good?
“But I don’t believe him,” your niece says and picks up another stick from the tangled pile she’s gathered. “You’re not mean.”
Some part of me is, young lady, some part of everyone, but not all of me, and we both know I ain’t what he says I am.
“You know I love you so much,” you tell her.
Her fragile shelter, a child’s rickety tent, holding against October’s wind.
“I know,” she sighs, “and Daddy says it’s okay to love you.”
Being compelled to seek that permission is fucked and beautiful. Know both. Know there is no resolution. Remember: the time will come again. And another time. And the meantime makes the meaning.
“This,” point at her then at yourself then back at her, “is good. You don’t have to worry about that.”
BARNEY T. HANEY teaches English at the University of Indianapolis His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Mid-American Review, Fiction Writers Review, Marathon Lit Review, among others.