Posted inEditor's Pick

Even the Dogs

T Kira Madden | Longreads | March 4, 2019 | 1,940 words
Posted inBooks, Essays & Criticism, Featured, First Chapters, Nonfiction, Story

Even the Dogs

In an excerpt from her memoir, T Kira Madden recalls a harrowing adventure with her parents.
Tatiana Gerus / Getty, Bloomsbury Publishing

T Kira Madden | Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls | March 2019 | 8 minutes (1,940 words)

It’s four a.m. on my father’s birthday, and he’s in his red- sleep, the kind where his skin pulses the color of roast beef and his wedding ring looks ingrown. This is his don’t- wake- me- for- three- days kind of sleep, the face- down- on- the- tile kind of sleep, which is where he is now, naked, on my parents’ bathroom floor.

I said wake the fuck up, ass-blob. My mother pushes her bare foot into his back until it leaves a yellow- white imprint. A dead body color. My father moans, and the sound drools out onto the tiles. His eyes wink on like lagging televisions. My mother curses in Chinese—you fucking fat cow!— the only Chinese phrase we both still use.

Why does he sleep on the floor like this? I ask. Your bed is so nice.

One day you’ll understand how good a floor can feel, she says.

It’s true: their bed is nice. I sleep in it sometimes. Night terrors don’t leave me alone come three a.m. lately— the shadows of limbs behind my windows, visions of blown- off faces with dangling eyeballs— and my parents are always awake, up to something, alive.

He plays dead because cold tile feels good to fucking fat cows after double fisting Sambucas all night with strippers, says my mother, each word louder than the one before it.

Sometimes, mom buckles me into the car in the middle of the night to collect my father from these strippers. That’s the word she uses: collect. My father is always in need of collecting. The strippers seem sweet to me. They swing their shoes by the straps, tap their nails against my mother’s car window, saying, Come on Chinadoll, relax, it’s nothing. They call my father Big Boss, or Mad Man, depending on the night.

My mother walks over to the bedroom closet. She claws into my father’s hanging clothes and tosses each item at his body— limp, cotton skins.

Both of you, get dressed, she says. We’re going for a drive.

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