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The Short Form

“I Am a Souvenir”

Thomas Grattan

Excerpt

I was watching television when my father got home. He had on new glasses. He lifted them off his face to show me their intricate marble pattern, the durable lenses.

“These are from Italy,” he said.

My father was an optometrist. When my mother lived with us, he got new glasses once a year, talking about them like a geography lesson. The owlish pair was from Paris. The ones before from Cologne. The Italian pair was the second he’d gotten in the last four months.

“I like the color,” I said.

“Yes, son. A good color. You eat yet?”

I shrugged, dreading another night of runny scrambled eggs that no amount of ketchup could save.

“Good color,” he repeated, walking into the kitchen, cracking eggshells against the lip of a bowl.

“The house next door,” I said.

Butter sizzled in a pan. My father whisked.

“Come again?”

“Next door,” I repeated. “The roof is still on the lawn.”

He glanced at me, blinking fast. His eyes seemed paler, myopic; his hair a true white, though I still imagined it as brown and gray. I understood why people mistook him for my grandfather, why they looked bemused in the grocery store when I called out “Dad” and he answered. He could have a heart attack at any moment. It might take hold of him in his sleep, with only me at home to save him. But I wouldn’t hear it. I’d be asleep too.

Winner of the 2007 Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction