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like they did back in high school when I used to watch her face redden as we walked home together hand-in-hand. There are a few cigarettes left in my pack and I offer one to June, even though I know she quit years ago when she was pregnant. She declines, and I light one for myself. “Does Jane know what’s going on?” I ask. “For now, I just told her that Mel had to go see grandma and grandpa in Michigan. I didn’t tell her more because I really don’t know what’s going on myself. Her parents took her to see their family psychiatrist—that whole family’s nuts—and he diagnosed her with severe depression.” June tips her cup back and takes a last drink of coffee before dumping the grainy bottom over the railing. “Somehow, she had managed to hide it for years. No medication or anything. I never noticed, even up until right before she left. Guess she didn’t want to talk about it.” She’s blaming herself. I can tell. The wind blows my ashes across the porch. Normally, June would have yelled at me for this, but she only acknowledges the ashes as though they’re a bug skittering across the deck. Jane steps up on the porch, stomping snow off her feet before sitting down between her mother’s legs. June waves her hand in front of her face, telling me to put out the cigarette. “What’s up, Twiggy?” I ask, crushing out the cigarette in my empty cup. “It’s cold,” she responds, smacking snow off her boots and pants. With her blonde hair and skin-and-bones body, my first thought for a nickname was of the ‘60s model. The reference is before both our times, but using it makes me feel older, more mature, more like what I expected of adults while growing up. I toss one of the snowballs I made at her, and she replies with one of her own. “You done sledding already?” I ask. “I can’t feel my fingers and toes anymore.” “Want me to make you some hot chocolate?” June asks. Jane looks up with a wide, closed-mouth smile; a habit she developed after getting her front teeth pulled a few years ago. “Let’s get you warmed up.” We go inside the house that June, Mel, and their daughter had shared as a family ever since they became one. I’ve been here countless times for holidays, weekend babysitting, birthday parties, or just to stop and say hi. They were the kind of regular appearances a sort of father should make in his sort of daughter’s life. “Father” may not even be the right word for what I am. Calling someone father has certain connotations and responsibilities that I’m 10 |

Daniel Shoemaker

Permafrost Magazine Summer Issue, 36.2  
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