Phone Call

By Stephanie Rodgers

Featured Art: Figure with Guitar II by Henry Fitch Taylor

When I got the phone call, I listened
to my sister’s voice give
no hint, at first, that overnight,
like that, her life had changed.
I said hello and flipped through
a book on the nightstand, knowing
deep down, from all my missed
calls, that she was preparing
to tell me something
important. How are you? I asked,
trying to delay what I knew already
I didn’t want to hear. And after
her silence, then, I sat straight up—I was still
in bed—my eyes blinking
awake, the automatic
coffee pot dripping into the quiet,
and I said it: What’s wrong, Heather?

expecting for one singular moment the death
of our father, the sniffed
pills, the heroin finally ending
his life. But when she said
nothing, I demanded, this time, hearing
the pitch of her voice fill with the sound a brass
instrument might make breathing
a low note, barely
audible, into the crashing,
noisy universe. And she said it: Joel killed himself
last night, choking
on “killed,” and when I said, Oh
my god Heather
oh my god,
she understood, she told me
later, for the first time,
that her husband was never
coming back. The sun peeked through
the window blinds. It flashed across
the framed faces of his daughters, who I pictured,
for a second, on the swing set
behind their house, their father pushing them
higher each time they swung back to him, further
away each time, further away.

Originally published in Issue 19.

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