Get My Heart Together, Tom Petty Jesus

Tom Petty shakes the last drops of beer over my father’s grave. “The less air an object displaces the more likely it is to float,” he says. I don’t know what he means. I can’t tell if he’s talking about my father. I can’t tell if he’s talking to me. I can’t tell if it’s Tom Petty talking or just the NPR voice on the radio, as it always turns out to be with these dreams when I sleep with my earbuds in.

Tom Petty Jesus doesn’t think this is the right grave. Like my mother, he thinks they secretly moved my dad to the black section at the bottom of the hill, across the creek from the pig huts and the muddy corral where the shell-shocked horse stands all day. Plus, Tom Petty agrees with my mother’s other theory: they made us leave the nursing home that last night so the attendants could finish my father off. They were tired of the headache, which, you know, I tell him, I can see it. Alzheimer’s made my dad an angry drunk, in a manner of speaking, and those girl-gang attendants were a rough crew. I once walked into my father's room to find they'd left the station on the scrambled porn channel. Which: they wipe your father’s stink, they own your father. They own you.  

“Forward,” Tom Petty says.

We’re having dinner at a country club. My dead father is there in a clean white golf shirt under a madras print sports coat. They’re serving beef ribs. New red potatoes, boiled. Tomatoes my father picked from his garden. Fried perch. Cole slaw. Green corn. Cherries and iced milk. Consommé aux nouilles.

“Thank you, please, but no,” I say when offered the soup. Dead people can’t eat in dreams, so it seems best that I don’t either.

My dad is working the table and hasn’t quite made it to where I’m sitting, but I feel sure he’s seen me. He’s shaking hands and kneading shoulders and winking after his jokes, his winning manner. I’ve seen it a thousand times. It’s a gift. What does he care if a girl gang killed him? He’s running for mayor of heaven.  

“You can’t throw a stone at every dog that bites, you know?” he’s telling Tom Petty. “Amen?”

My dead dad winks at the table and the table winks back. He winks at Tom Petty. Tom Petty Jesus winks.

Everybody winking in the afterlife but me.

Bird Report

April 25. My spirit animal in the locust tree. A cardinal staring at his reflection in the sliding glass door of my walkout basement. Twitchy with imagined insults.

Easy there, champ.