Jasper, the enormous stray I've been feeding, works my father's hand, kneading and licking. "Maladjusted," my father mumbles, chunking him to the carpet. Jasper paces to the middle of the room, switching his tail, his white shoulders moving like a gorilla's. Paul, my son, named him over the phone yesterday, during the few minutes Laura actually let me talk to him.
I watch my father examine his palm as if for fleas, and take his empty mug. "Want more?"
"Probably got no survival skills," he says, leaning to lift the remote off the coffee table, which means he intends to go to sleep.
I go to the kitchen for more coffee, the same pot I've been reheating since noon. I slosh the black water into both cups and set them in the microwave. Nine days since Laura filed for full custody; three weeks I've been here, sleeping under the same humming fan and stiff bedspread I lay under in high school. In a corner, initials painted in glow-in-the dark nail polish by an old girlfriend, Talia Hunnington, still shine faintly for a few minutes every night when I switch off the light. My son's initials—P. T. W.—are the same as mine, but I doubt writing those letters, when he learns to spell them out, will be enough to jog his memory into associating them with me. Laura will never point out the connection.
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