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    Robin Antalek

    3. The Danger of Everything

    By Robin Antalek

    My father is licking Scrabble tiles with a tongue thick with spittle, trying to make them stick to his face. So far the N (1), the Q (10), and the Z (10) have adhered to his forehead and left cheek. The R (1), T (1), and A (1) have fallen onto the table. This would be funny if my father weren’t crazy and I wasn’t visiting him in the day room of the Presbyterian Sisters’ Home for the Mentally Imbalanced in White Plains, New York. Who the Presbyterian Sisters were, or are, has never been explained, and none of us (my mother, myself, our lawyer, or my father’s court-appointed mental health advocate) has ever thought to ask. I suppose we were just grateful that they would take a man named Killian Stein, so obviously not Presbyterian but definitely mentally imbalanced.

    If I lean back away from the table where I sit across from my father—the Scrabble board between us covered with rows upon rows of nonsensical words, spelled with triple, even quadruple, consonants and sometimes nary a vowel—I can see my mother’s wood-paneled station wagon idling in the tow-away zone where she promised that she and Rose, her Yorkshire terrier, would be waiting. Luckily for Rose, she had been curled asleep against my mother’s thigh one year ago when my father lit our house on fire; she was the first thing my mother grabbed. Our lumbering old Lab, Henry, wasn’t so lucky.

    On the Scrabble board the only recognizable words are Malcolm and husband. When my father saw what I had spelled, he laughed. It was a deep laugh, shockingly out of place. But there was no mistaking that it was the same laugh he had for me as a little girl. Then he would swing me up onto his shoulders and carry me into the house, all the while pretending he had no clue as to where I had gone. . . . Read More.

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