guitar hands The Darkness Comes Back

Melanie Conroy-Goldman

Beep beep. Dudley pushed his truck over Fiona's slipper. Fiona snapped her smarting foot into the air and jigged backwards, trying not to step on her son. Above him, in front of her, the breadcrumbs were half-mashed into the hamburger.

Mee-loaf? asked Dudley.

You'll eat it and like it, said Fiona, knowing the imperative was a wishful tense.

In the living room, Enid and her girlfriend tossed cheese curls into the air and tried to catch them in their mouths. Clack clack. Their braces snapped around air. Cheese curls wafted to the ground in slow motion. Fiona thought of the inevitable orange oblongs she would find ground into the rug the next morning. She thought about the calories in meatloaf, her spreading rump. She thought about the acne medication Enid's doctor had told her to buy. Fiona's rock and roll days were over.

Enid, Fiona called when the girlfriend had finally gone. Enid, your daddy is coming to visit.

What do you mean, visit?

I mean, your real one, love. The Darkness. Your daddy that made you.

The one whose bright idea it was to call me Enid?


I hate him.

He sends you loads of money, E. Besides, he's from England. Enid is a nice name over there.

And I bet you think those Mexican kids are just thrilled to be called Jesus or Elvis. I like the name Fiona. But no, you had to keep it to yourself, just like the breasts and the good skin.

E, please.

Oh, Mom, cut the prude act. No one's convinced.

Beep beep. Dudley didn't look like he was convinced or not convinced. What he did look like was his daddy, Dr. Paul Peterborough, both bald, both with meatloaf bellies.

Well, he's coming over this evening. I hope you'll be polite, Fiona called up the stairs.

Whatever, said Enid. This word comprised a great percentage, Fiona thought, of the things Enid said.


Dinner was a trial. Dr. Paul Peterborough tried to talk orthodontia, while The Darkness tried to steer the conversation to Fiona's body. Did Dr. Peterborough know that her breasts had once been smaller?

What is it with my breasts today? asked Fiona. Dudley was the last one she had remembered caring.

Could we please? asked Enid.

Ahem, said Dr. Peterborough. Ahem. We've put braces on Enid. What do you think?

I imagine they look nicer once you're done with them, said The Darkness.

I hate you, said Enid. You're not my father.

Both men looked uncomfortable.

Moody, said Fiona as Enid stormed up the stairs. Hormones.

The men nodded in unison. They spent the rest of the dinner sawing at their food and making comments on Dudley's appetite, grip, head of hair growing in nicely. Though The Darkness did touch Fiona's shoulder once, close to her breast, when Dr. Peterborough had risen to get more wine.

Really, Fi. Very nice. You were too skinny back in the day. A little weight does you a kindness.

After dinner, The Darkness asked Dr. Peterborough whether he could spare Fiona for a walk. Dr. Peterborough had put braces on Fiona's daughter's teeth. He saw no reason he shouldn't agree.


So, said Fiona, how is Rock and Roll?

The Darkness shrugged. To tell you the truth, this comeback tour thing is not all I hoped. I still have this sense I've forgotten something, a kind of reverse déjà vu.

Good Lord, said Fiona. What does a rock star do for his middle-age crisis? You already have the red convertible. The drugs. The younger women.

It's a dilemma.

They walked on in silence. It was one of those summer nights when the sky seems to stay the purple color that precedes night for hours before the real darkness hits. They could hear the muttering calls of night birds.

I was thinking, said The Darkness, about settling down.

Oh, said Fiona.

I've always carried you with me, Fi. I've always remembered our time together.

It's been fourteen years, The Darkness. And then we only lasted about three months.

Still, he said.

How many other exes have you visited?

The Darkness shook his head miserably. Twenty five, but you were the one I was holding out for. You and Eliza.


Right. Fiona, I'm beginning to think I'm not the sort of man women marry. Why buy the bull when you can get the cock for free, or something.

It's true. Most women marry orthodontists.

The Darkness stopped and rubbed a little something from his leather pants. When he straightened, Fiona could see he was squinting. Old man, he was losing his night vision.

You know, I do think of you from time to time, said The Darkness. I think of that little tattoo you had. Your dentist-fellow didn't iron that off or anything, did he?

Fiona shook her head. I should be getting back, she said. She could see a pale line gleaming around the horizon like a nightlight under a door, or the glow of a distant city as seen from a tour bus.

Would you show me, Fiona?

Shyly as seventeen, she lifted her shirt and turned her back to him. There it was, a little devil holding a guitar. The Darkness knelt on his arthritic knees and put his mouth to the image.

For a full minute, Fiona let him press his kisses into the old ink, there, on her suburban street.


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