Culture | Peter Punchkiss was a man who looked exactly like my father

Peter Punchkiss was a broad-strokes painting of a two-bedroom house with lots of windows.

Peter could touch an open flame, but only with that soft patch of skin between the thumb and forefinger.

Late at night, when he needed to think,
he would go on long drives, only to stop in a well lit area and pull his car across both lanes of the street—
just to instill a little
calm.

which is also how he met his first wife, now that I think about it.

Peter Punchkiss was all of the world’s right angles.

When he spoke,
it was like listening to six or seven people
talking in the next room.
It’s hard to explain it better than that.

Peter always sat in the first chair he came upon when he entered a room and then said, usually to me,
If you do not settle
you cannot
rest

And this is actually how he met his second wife.

One time he asked me if I ever thought about my father.

I know he always put his hazard lights on when he was speeding.

I remember being in the car.  It’s dark out and the tires are making such a noise.
I keep my hands cold pressing on the glass of the window.

Then I’m in a room full of beds.  I’ve strung my sheets from the innumerable crags in the ceiling so they look like sails.
I sit and watch our old neighborhoods float by.

The last time I ever saw Peter Punchkiss went something like this:

I’m in a car and the tires are making such a noise.  We’re driving through the country.  It’s too late, really, but Peter is in one of those moods.  Suddenly we’re blocking the road in front of an all-night diner.   We sit.

I think about how I’ve often heard Peter in his room at night talking to his mother—
the receiver to his ear, the phone unplugged

He thinks about how there are four meals he can cook that I will never, ever, tire of.

In my head Peter puts his four-ways on and we speed off,
but really, we just keep waiting

and after a long while Peter turns and says, I’m sorry I’m not your father anymore.



I close my eyes right as the light comes up over the mountains.  Just that much light gets in.


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