Like My Father

local_library Like My Father

by Jack Bronn

Published in Issue No. 221 ~ October, 2015

Squirreling around my seat in a movie palace

built to showcase Bogart smoking

and Esther Williams swimming

my old man is whisper-yelling settle down, boy

when the red velvet curtains taller than our red brick colonial open

and the gold baroque scrollwork turns to shadow.

Corporate fanfare plays, ignored for the last time

before the blast of horns and golden scroll

destined to fill a generation of fantasies

and empty a galaxy of wallets

 

Stars rise and seats rumble

under emerald fire from a ship

massive enough to support

decades of parody.

Out of this behemoth comes a mechanical man

all in black, sci-fi Johnny Cash

and all my childhood fears

coalesce in his never-ending death rattle.

A tiny man in a silver trash can

whistles, whirs, screams and bakes

under a Tunisian sun.

An English ectomorph clamped

into a metal crop-top translates

the lingua mecha, and even my old man laughs

when the little astro droid

falls to the ground with a clunk.

 

Wizards and pirates

a Boy with Potential—

who might be me—

talking animals and musical monsters

a princess, a prison break,

sword fights, gun fights, car chases in space

finishing with a display of force

so bright, even droopy-eyed Bogie

would have been blinded

by the industrial light.

 

Thirty-five years later I’m playing

another game set in the cosmos

that captured seven-year old me,

this one on a device

so advanced it could replace

every glowing button and spinning dial

on the Death Star.

Droid voice catches the attention

of another boy, so small he makes

the trash can man seem a giant.

The boy is slow to speech

but he laughs and claps

at every beep

so I put in the disk

and the fanfare blares.

 

Standing on the stained beige sectional,

in a small, square room with one red wall

he looks like I must have

in that palace with my dad.

 

When R2 appears

the boy doesn’t wait

for the skinny yellow butler

to translate. He screams and whistles

back at the ‘bot

answering every click and whir.

 

Can’t speak English

won’t sit on a toilet

eats with his fingers

wipes his nose on his palm—

not always in that order—

he conducts the London Philharmonic

like Williams himself,

swings a lightfinger

like Yoda on Ritalin.

Sitting on my lap,

he makes TIE fighters with our hands.

So what if your kid can read French—

my son speaks astromech.

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Jack Bronn has been a sign maker, a cook, a semi-professional beach rat, and a door-to-door perfume salesman. He received his MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University. He lives in Cary, North Carolina with his wife and son. He writes.