KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 4: Fall 2015
Memoir: 573 words [R]

From an Appalachian Peak, a Small Red Star
for Me and My Father

by Thomas F. Sheehan

This appointment came when light tired, this arrangement, this syzygy of him and me and the still threat of a small red star standing some time away at my back, deeper than a grain of memory. I am a quarter mile from him, hard upward on this rugged rock he could look up to if only his eyes would agree once more, and it’s a trillion years behind my head or a parsec I can’t begin to imagine, they tell me even dead perhaps, that star. Can this be a true syzygy if one is dead, if one is leaning to leave this line of sight regardless of age or love or density or how the last piece of light might be reflected, or refused, if one leaves this imposition? The windows of his room defer no light to this night, for it is always night there, blood and chemicals at warfare, nerve gone, the main one providing mirror and lethal lens, back of the eyeball no different than out front, but I climb this rock to line up with another rock and him in the deep seizure of that stolen room, bare sepulcher, that grotto of mind.

Today I bathed him, the chest like an old model car, boned but collapsible, forgotten in a lowlands back room, a shelf, a deep closet, waiting to be crushed at the final blow, skin of the organ but a veneer of fatigue, the arms pried as from a child’s drawing, the one less formidable leg, the small testes hanging their forgotten-glove residuum which had begun this syzygy, the face closing down on bone as if a promise had been made toward an immaculately thin retrieval, and, at the other imaginable end of him, the one foot bloody from his curse, soured yet holier in mimicry of the near-Christ (from Golgotha brought down and put to bed, after God and my father there are no divinities), toenails coming on a darkness no sky owned, foot bottom at its own blood bath, at war, at the final and resolute war with no winner.

Oh, Christ, he’s had such wars, outer and inner, that even my hand in warmth must overcome, and he gums his gums and shakes his head and says, sideways, mouth screwed into his outlandish grin, as much a lie as any look, as devious, cold-fact true, “I used to do this for you,” the dark eyes hungry to remember, to bring back one moment of all those times to this time; and I cannot feel his hand linger on me, not its calluses gone the way of flesh or its nails thicker now than they ever were meant to be, or skin flaking in the silence of its dust-borne battle, though we are both younger than the star that’s behind us and dead perhaps, as said; then, in a moment, and only for a moment, as if all is ciphered for me and cut away, I know the failure of that small red star, its distillation and spend still undone, its yawn red as yet and here with us on the endless line only bent by my imagination, the dead and dying taking up both ends of me, neither one a shadow yet but all shadows in one, perhaps a sort of harmless violence sighting here across an endless known.


—Previously appears in Plum Tree Tavern (23 August 2015) and in Forge Journal (2009); republished here by author’s permission


Thomas F. Sheehan
Issue 4, Fall 2015

Master of several genres, Sheehan has been writing for a long time—eight decades—and he has no plans to slow down. Hundreds of his short stories appear online and in print venues, with nearly 400 of his Western stories alone in Rope and Wire. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 28 times. One of his five short-story collections, The Westering, was nominated in 2012 for the National Book Award, and one of his five poetry collections, Korean Echoes, was nominated in 2011 for a Distinguished Military Award.

Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea in 1951, an experience that forever changed his life and continues to inform his writing. Many of his stories also include a special character: his home-town of Saugus, Massachusetts. In 1990, he retired from Raytheon Corporation, after 35 years there as a writer and analyst.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond includes additional biographical information about the author as well as links to interviews, reviews, recorded poems, books, and more

Poems and Prose by Tom Sheehan in Plum Tree Tavern

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