I Had Trouble with Comparisons

by Matthew Salesses

The boy brought home a cardboard box and set it on the kitchen table like it meant something. I sorted through looking for worth.A new dinosaur toy, a salamander tail (real), two self-moving Matchbox cars, and, most strangely, nine fingernails I hoped were false. I didn’t want to touch them to tell. I still wouldn’t know where they’d come from. They were painted pink, and their public display baffled me. Had he left them for me, or the wifely woman? I waited for him to come out of his room, not wanting to interrupt whatever he had to keep private. He stepped out in his “best” shirt, all black except for a white line down the middle. He called this his tie—I had tried to give him a real tie but he hated anything around his neck. I asked him, “Another tail?” to warm him up, thinking about our dead cat. He said, “Dad,” with a tremble, the first time he had called me that, and I realized at once that he was trying me out, “this is my apology box.” I had no idea whether to hug him or seek a hug for myself, or seek help. I said, “And the nails?” He held one out to me. I was a biter. He hung his head and the Dad seemed to retreat into his mouth. “I’m sorry,” he said, I didn’t know why. I thanked God the nail felt false.

Matthew Salesses was adopted from Korea at age two. His latest book is a novel in flash fiction, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying. His essays and fiction have appeared in The Good Men Project, The New York Times Motherlode Blog, The Rumpus, Hyphen Magazine, Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, Witness, and other venues.

 

Besides “comparisons,” what else do you have trouble with (knowing, of course, that the “I” of the title is not you)?

    Parenting.
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