Candice M. Kelsey | fiction | Father’s Day

Father's Day

Loving her entailed carving out collapsed tunnels with his bare hands. Occasionally she would toss him a pickaxe or a shovel, but for the most part Daniel was on his own, left to navigate the turns and inhale the sediment. Never had she been with such trained hands, an agility that revealed familiarity with this territory called grief. He did not need a map, just some light now and then.

She never mentioned James was taking her to Las Vegas for the week leading up to Father’s Day; he wanted to play black jack, hang out in the sports book with his dad. It seemed unimportant. Besides, she hated acknowledging the existence of her husband when she was in the car with Daniel. Not that Daniel minded; he knew things were complicated with James. And he was patient. She had found a way to exist as one man’s wife and another’s lover. Like finding a way to sneak through the trappings of grief.
After ten minutes of driving in silence, Daniel pulled onto a street two blocks from her apartment and uttered a chaotic I do love you. The day together had been intense, and she wanted to remain in this moment with no shadowy past or transient future. Even though she adored his thicket of cinnamon curls and hummingbird eyes, she hoped his body would lose its form. That his skin would vacillate in and out of focus, that his delightfully caustic wit would swirl to ribbons of gold leaf, wrapping her body in mummified ecstasy. That the pair of them could find a bottomless tureen of time, warmth forever. Could they exist, could anyone exist outside physical properties, melt into an aesthetic of emotional veracity? The man to her left, perched behind the steering wheel of a silver RAV4, existed outside of human bounds and transcended definition. In his presence, her mind went numb, and her heart gave birth. 

I love you too, she responded. What a crime, she berated herself, to meet his passionate declaration with such routine syllables, over-used slop. The leftovers of language. If only she could dissolve, bleed her eyes into liquid bark and purge the copper strands of inadequacy into the night air. She wanted him to see her essence, not who she had become after two years in a loveless marriage. 

She met his eyes once more, and her imagination returned him to a physical shape. She was relieved to see recognizable symbols of flesh, angle, and shine. The clarity of body. It was then that her eyes caught a tiny, half-folded yellow slip of paper frozen in the dust by the gearshift. A scribbled Father’s Day. Daniel’s simple yet tender reminder to himself unlocked the complexity of this upcoming holiday, which she had buried along with her father several years ago. A grave that had swallowed more than just his defeated body. Her mother had planted a new maple tree where the old blighted one of her childhood had been removed. After her father’s death, her mother could not tolerate the rounded divet marking the absence of the tree. I pour sesame and millet on it every morning, she told her daughter. I want to feed the dead in hopes your father may come back as a bird. Nothing could stop her.

Nothing can stop Father’s Day, not even death. Holidays are evergreen—a life is not. I have to remember to send my dad a card, Daniel offered, a gesture of kindness to break the silence after noticing her fixate on his note. How had she not seen him as someone’s son, as someone who calls another man father? Quite a strange sobering to recognize the vulnerability of genetics, of family and history, in another human, especially one whose existence was already so expansive. He was not entirely hers. It was an important epiphany, that we belong to no one. She wished she had understood death is the only master before seeing her father in hospice care.

Like so often in life, a response is expected. In a rage of spirited denial and a little too loudly, she blurted, Have a good F—, I mean, I hope your dad has a good Father’s Day. He wasn’t a father, of course, and her blunder caused a slight warmth to bloom from her neck. Its warmth reminded her of how her thighs burned from tensing on the ill-positioned kneeler during her father’s funeral Mass. The man she once called father no longer existed. Her status as his daughter became tenuous, debatable even. What happens to family roles when the structure of those very people dissolves?

He replied with compassion, his native tongue. I’m sorry. The most redundant yet necessary words in the English language. 

When she exited his car, the cold was an affront. With one hand in her jeans pocket and the other fumbling the bundle of sweatshirt and to-go bag, she faced the pavement plotting the exact moment she should turn back to wave while she walked two blocks to where her husband waited. She reached her head around and manufactured a smile, however anemic. Her father would disapprove of this infidelity. In the next step forward, she was alone. Life was a series of leavings and deceptions.

What if his car could drive off without him, leaving him suspended in air at the very spot where he had been perched behind the steering wheel? What she really wanted was her own body to float free from all this gravity. She imagined it was so.

She also imagined she had not stolen the half-folded yellow paper from his car, that his little reminder wasn’t buried with her hand deep in a linty jeans pocket where she made Father’s Day disappear. She felt cruel as the universe.

Entering the apartment, she found James at his computer tracking the stock market, his one true love. The mail’s on the table. Your mom sent a picture of the baby maple tree—the first bird on it or something. Her husband squinted at the screen. She would never be more than mere flesh in his presence, all angle but no shine. She began packing for Vegas after shredding Daniel’s slip of paper, watching his inked F and all the other letters fall like seeds.

Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram

Candice M. Kelsey (she/her) is a poet, educator, and activist in Georgia. Her work appears in Passengers Journal, Variant Literature, and The Laurel Review, among others. A finalist for a Best Microfiction 2023, she is the author of three collections with two forthcoming from Drunk Monkeys and Fauxmoir. She has five and a half cats. Find her @candice-kelsey-7 @candicekelsey1 and