The Pilot's Son
I remember spinning, face pointed up at the ceiling with my hands stretched out as the world blurred to a kaleidoscope. Small feet filled mom’s shoes, these high heel stiletto numbers, and the purple silk of her nightgown so cool against my skin. The hem at the bottom spun with me, ballooning out.
“Like the movies,” I told mom.
“Yeah, like the movies,” she said. “Just don’t tell your dad. He’ll kill me.”
“No, he won’t. I’ll protect you,” I said.
“Ah-huh,” I said, and kept spinning until I had to lie down, my head resting on the carpet.
When my dad got home, I did not tell him about the dressing up, so he did not kill my mother. We hid the signs real good. Put the shoes back just the same, not an inch out of place. The nightgown got folded and put back into the cedar drawer where I first found it and then gotten caught.
“What are you doing with that?” my mom asked, laughing, when she found me in her room brandishing the nightgown like a cape across my shoulders. I jumped, dropping the gown at my feet.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“You don’t have to cry. Mom’s not mad,” she told me.
“You scared me,” I said, nose sniffling.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
She sat in the doorway with her arms crossed.
“You can try it on if you want. We can play dress up,” she said.
“I want to spin.”
“Then spin,” she said. And so I did and it was just like the movies.
“Yeah, like the movies,” my mom said.
Dad flies planes. That’s why there’s plane decorations in my room. My dad flies planes and is good at math. My dad flies planes, is good at math, and doesn’t cry. Ever.
“Why don’t you cry?” I asked my dad one night when he was putting me to bed.
“I do cry,” he said, but I think he was lying.
“I never see you cry,” I said. “I see mommy cry all the time.”
“Mommy’s just...more emotional than I am.”
“Am I emotional?” I asked.
“Yes. I think so,” dad said.
“I want to never cry. Like you.”
“Crying is good sometimes.”
“Then you should cry,” I said.
“Okay. I’ll see what I can do,” he said, tucking me in and kissing me on the forehead. As he left the room, he tapped a model airplane hanging by some fishing line from my fan, making it twirl.
“I love you,” I said. I always said it because one time, my mom told me that if you didn’t say it, people could get run over just like that, and it would be too late and you could never say it to them again and have them really know for sure.
“I love you too,” he said and shut the door. My dad flies planes. He is the pilot, and I am the pilot’s son.
At the store, there was Halloween stuff out because, like my mom says, it’s getting to be that time of year again. I found a werewolf kit. Inside, there was makeup, plastic fangs, and some black claws you could glue onto your nails.
“Can I get this?” I asked my mom.
“I thought you wanted to be Batman this year?”
“I want to be a werewolf too.”
“Batman-werewolf?” she asked, taking the kit and looking it over.
“Okay, fine,” she said, throwing it into the cart.
As soon as we got home, I ripped the packaging open and glued the nails to my fingers. I ran around the house chasing Archie with them. Archie is our dalmatian puppy, but he’s old now. His real name is Achilles, but when I was littler, I couldn’t say that, so I called him Archie and, as my mom says, it stuck.
I wanted to scare mom and dad so I got real quiet and snuck into the kitchen on my hands and knees across the cold, white tile. They didn’t hear me or anything. All I had to do was wait.
“How are you feeling?” my dad asked.
“What about the new meds?”
“Just making it worse, honestly,” she said.
“We’ll get there soon,” he said. That was my cue.
“Boo!” I screamed, jumping out from my hiding spot and clawing at my dad to scare him, not to hurt him.
“Are those press-ons?” my dad asked.
“He’s gonna be a werewolf for Halloween,” mom said.
“Batman-werewolf,” I corrected, and did another circle around the house chasing after a barking Archie.
“Here,” my dad said, handing me the plastic fangs from the kit once I made my way back around. I gnashed my teeth and howled at the ceiling fan. “Now you’re a real monster.”
That night, Dad found mom crying in the bathroom. She said there was blood, so we took her to the hospital. While mom was seeing the doctors, dad and I sat in the waiting room. There was a TV, but I was too busy trying to keep my claws from falling off to watch. The glue wasn’t very strong, so I had to keep reapplying them until the bottle was empty and, even then, they weren’t sticking good anymore.
“Is mommy okay?” I asked while fidgeting with a claw.
“Yes, she’s gonna be fine.”
“Then why’s she at the hospital?”
“Because mommy and daddy have been trying to have another baby, and sometimes, it’s not as easy as that.”
“Easy as what?”
“As easy as it was having you. She had a… Well, they call it a ‘miscarriage’ when you lose a baby,” he said.
“Lose a baby?”
“Lose, like the baby doesn’t make it.”
“Oh. Does the baby go to heaven then? Like grandpa?”
“Yes. Like grandpa,” he said. I put my head on my dad’s arm.
“It’s okay if you need to cry,” I said. “It’s good sometimes. Remember? You said.”
“Yeah, I remember,” he said. But still, he didn’t cry. All he did was stand up and go over to one of the nurse’s carts. He returned with some super-special hospital tape that he spun around each of my fingers to make sure the nails wouldn’t come off anymore.
“Let’s see how many nurses we can scare,” he said. I took my fangs out of my pocket and brushed them off on my T-shirt before slipping them into my mouth.
The monster was back.