The boy you were swam the lake down shore from the steel plant where your father worked. No mind to the film, like mica, on the water’s surface, the belly-up fish on the beach. You did the back float all summer while your father took lunch breaks, fed Alka-Seltzer to the seagulls swarming the bank. They’ll eat anything he joked once before sitting silent at the dinner table. Your father swigged Schmitt’s and spent weekends cleaning the soot off the vinyl siding with a garden hose. You spent nights watching the flame atop a smokestack pulse like a heartbeat.
The man you are is still cleaning the shutters, long after the stacks gave way to rust, the coke dust clinging to the house like the ghost of your father. The Plant across the street is a field now, weeds leaching the black dirt. You sit on the porch as cars drive by, hypnotized by the new mills whipping the wind in the distance. Your son counts their red lights like fireflies along the shoreline, while Lake Erie exhales down Route 5.
Daniel Kaczmarek is a native of Buffalo, NY where he currently teaches and writes. His previous work has appeared in The Madison Review, nibble, and the anthology “Click of Time: Reflections on the Digital Age.”