Mara by Brooke Allen Mara came home one day to find her father had moved in.

She was especially surprised by his visit because he had died some months earlier. “I’m grilling burgers,” her father said, greeting her at the door. At first she thought joke but what would be the point? And how? Her dad was wearing a light blue short-sleeve work shirt and denim Sam’s Club jeans. His hair was lighter and thinner than she remembered but then it’d been two years since they’d spoken before he died. “Funeral,” Mara stuttered, looking at her husband, who stood next to her father at the doorway. “Oh you went, did you?” her father asked, raising his eyebrows and squinting his eyes as if examining her. “I thought you said you wouldn’t go near my funeral or visit me in the hospital if I was dying.” “Well, I went,” she said. And you looked like hell, she thought. That evening they had dinner on the patio. It was November but it was still a cool sixty-five degrees outside as the sun set. Mara felt mosquitoes sting her arms. No one spoke. Her husband looked back and forth from her to her father as if signaling action between them, but Mara flashed him cold hard eyes and he stopped. Her father slept on the loveseat in their bedroom that night, and the next morning she found him sitting in the chair where she usually sat to do her morning reading in the front room. When she saw him, she turned and went back to bed. She emailed her boss feigning a stomach bug and lay under the covers reading the latest news stories on her tablet. When she got to the end of the page she clicked update until a new story appeared.

1

“You were about seven and your brother was probably ten.” he said. she wanted to scream. as she continued to draw. don’t tell their children the cocaine in their truck is just sugar. “I’m Mara’s dad. Real fathers don’t cheat on their kids’ mothers with prostitutes.” she said. He’s not my father. Her coworkers stopped by and introduced themselves and he shook their hands. in almost a whisper. 2 . “But when you told me what happened I hugged you and told you that I loved you.” “I remember. She kept her eyes glued to the screen. She said none of this.” Mara remembered the incident vividly. “Remember that time we went camping?” he said.” he said. “You broke the hammock your mother and I had bought in Mexico while you were horsing around and you were so scared I was going to be mad at you. don’t disappear for months at a time without calling and then show up dead and pretend like everything is ok. Mara didn’t look up from her computer for these exchanges. The next day as she sat at her dining room table going over her grocery list. At half past nine he came into her office and sat in a chair in the corner. her father sat across from her.The next day her father followed her to work. She looked down at the paper in front of her and began to draw a checkerboard in the margins. She tapped the keys on her keyboard slowly and intently. She had spent what felt like hours but was probably about thirty minutes in a panic attack until her father came back from fishing to see the hammock and react in what she was sure would be a state of outrage and anger.

She guessed she looked no older than three. Mara sat down at the table in the dining room. She filled in every other box with ink and sketched chess pieces until her husband came home. Fuck you. When she got home the sun was setting and her husband had left the door unlocked. She picked up the rectangular photo and studied it. “Have you seen him?” she asked. and Mara typed forcefully on her keyboard until 5 P. holding the steering wheel of a tractor. Mara awoke the next morning and walked to her reading chair to find it empty. not angry. He said he hadn’t. but she wasn’t smiling. There was a photo lying in the middle of it. Strong. his left hand held up in a wave to the camera. She called her husband at work.M. She was looking at the camera too. Her father was grinning. There was no sign of her father or his pillow and blanket on the loveseat in her bedroom.Mara said nothing.” her husband called from the living room where she could hear the mumble of the TV. She looked. she thought. She was sitting on her father’s lap. The next day her father sat in the same chair in her office. “Your mother dropped off something she said she found today. She went to work and pushed the keys on her keyboard until she was the last person at the office. but defiant somehow. 3 . Her mouth was drawn in a tight line and her eyebrows were furrowed. No one came to visit.