Fiction · 06/10/2020

So Many Holes in This Our Universe

Father seldom came home for dinner. Now, he never comes home, and Mother gets a phone call every evening during dinner.

She drops her fork, tosses back her waxy bouffant, and cradles the handset to her ear. “Uh hunh, uh hunh…Garlic and butter over spinach…It won’t stop us from loving you and you, us.” She sets the phone down, rubs her eyes with the back of a hand, and dollops too much boiled spinach onto my plate.

“Who’s it?” I say.

“Missus Whatsit.” She forks a dab of green between her pink lips, which then begin wriggling under her red nose.

One night about a year in, Mother’s away from the table when her phone rings. “Dad, it’s me!” I hold my breath, shoving back my chair and dancing away from Mother’s reaching hand.

“Holes.” His voice is gruff and slurry just as I remember. “Hell!” Then he mumbles, “Morass of it. Holes… it’s full of ho — ”

“David! Hand over my phone NOW!”

Mother looks so serious I cannot disobey. “No connection,” I say. “They hung up.”

Mother grabs the handset and shoves it to her lobe. “He hung up,” she says and hangs up. “Whew! Don’t do that again.” She conks me lightly on the noggin. “Your father loves you very much.”

I let Mother answer the phone from then on. She passes along Father’s wishes on my ninth birthday, his “Happy Thanksgiving,” his “Merry Christmas.”

But Mother’s phone doesn’t ring on New Year’s Eve or the next night.

On the third silent night, Mother is jabbing her spinach and checking her signal strength every two minutes.

“He’s probably up in the air,” I say. “Important meeting in Tibet, I bet. Does Dad know the Jolly Lama?”

“Dalai Lama,” she says, poking more holes and watching melted butter trickle around them.

After a while, I catch her eyes. “It’s full of holes, isn’t it? The whole thing, we’re all full of holes.”

The butter runs and runs.

Poke more holes and spinach remains the same.


Kenton K. Yee’s fiction & poetry has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Strange Horizons, and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, among others. Trained in physics and law, he writes sheltered in place in northern California.