Family Reunion by Jessie Woods

By Jessie Woods
25th March 2013

A family torn apart by misfortune is reunited.

Nothing ever changes. Father’s big burgundy cushioned chair, his favourite, is in the same place against the wall, situated on a bird-floral sisal rug. I remember how father used to say, “It’s not that you are what you eat. It’s you are what you sit upon.”

Mother would sometimes smile down at me while rubbing her huge belly, pregnant with my younger sister, Elena, and say, “Don’t mind him. Sometimes he can be a bit peculiar.”

Next to the huge stereo system is my mother’s recliner, sturdy and mocha-coloured. She loved to watch the TV while sitting there, and, inevitably, she’d fall asleep during a rerun of The Donna Reed Show. I’d then change the channel to Gunsmoke.

I loved that old black and white TV set and I used to sit in front of it for hours, as if I were part of it. It never broke down except for once, when Father had to replace some vacuum tubes and he almost electrocuted himself. He loved to brag that during the war he died a thousand times.

And there is the little wind-up robot that could walk and say my sister’s name in this very gravelly and fuzzy voice, as if transmitted through long wires of static. My sister named it Tommy. She said that someday Tommy would kidnap us and take us back to his planet. Father laughed.

He was usually in his own room, one he had built for his “experiments.” He tried explaining it to us, when Elena and I were older, but it still left us scratching our heads. Mother said to take everything he said with a grain of salt.

Father told us that he was trying to find a way to make us immortal, to transmute us from the basic substance of our bodies into spiritual entities far beyond the humdrum of what was around us. He pronounced it as alchemy. We all saw him as a weekend mechanic who could hardly tune up the car without a backfire.

He collected tiny pieces of our flesh, bits of our nails, strands of our hair, into test tubes. He said that he needed just one more step, that invisible ingredient, that kick from somewhere, that would complete his marvellous project.

Poor father. Such a failed Sunday inventor.

Then there was that terrible storm that blew so many roofs in our small town. Mother, Elena and I huddled under my bed. The wind was deafening. And father shut himself in his private room, tinkering.

Then it hit us. Our roof crashed.

We died that night. But, thanks to Father’s alchemy, we’ve returned. Mother is the soul of the recliner. Elena is the voice in the toy robot that never shuts up. Father is the big cushioned chair with the two tears in the fabric that stretch, imitating a smile.

And I am the unblinking hidden eye in the old TV set.

A real estate agent shows the young woman our furnished rooms. I watch in horror as she tests Mother’s hard leather with her fingers, or almost steps on my sister. As she sits on Father’s lap, the arms of the chair slowly elongate and start to wrap around her. Just then, the agent announces that there are other rooms in the complex she wants to show her. She says on the way out that this apartment, like so many others, has a long, rich history.

With the door open, there is a slight wind.

Father smiles.

Mother’s foot-rest rises.

Elena sighs.

My TV screen cracks.

Copyright Jessie Woods, 2013.

Robot image copyright Davinci licenced via Stock Free Images

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