Posted on: August 21st, 2011 Irreversible Dad

By Kenton K. Yee

I noticed Dad shrinking when I was in third grade. He could no longer pull books from the top shelf and his pants mopped the floor. I wanted to tell Dad to see a doctor, but Mom told me to let him be. “He is what he is,” she said.

By the time I reached high school, Dad was the size of a teddy bear. Fortunately, Dad had academic tenure, so his condition was not a problem at work. The morning after I got my driver’s license, I threw a blanket over him, locked him in a cat carrier, and drove him in for testing. “Collapsing wave function,” the man wearing the stethoscope said.

“It’s irreversible.”

Dad continued teaching until a student nearly stepped on him. By that time, I was packing for college and Dad was smaller than a mouse – a baby mouse. We kept him in a gallon mayonnaise jar with two cotton balls. He licked one for water; the other absorbed his excrement.

I had to squint to resolve him during my first visit home. We sat in the kitchen. I munched a donut and flicked specks of powdered sugar into his jar. He chased after the falling flecks like a goldfish gobbling feed flakes.

“Be nicer to Mom,” I said. “Changing your soggy cotton balls through the mouth of a mayo jar with tweezers is making her twitchy.”

He cupped both hands over his mouth and shouted, but all I could hear was the quiet of cotton.

A few days later, Mom phoned to say she could no longer find him. I rushed home and took his jar to the research hospital, where they stuck it into an electron microscope. The computer screen flickered a black and white image of Dad sitting on a molecule of atoms, his legs crossed, an elbow on a knee. Engrossed in the undulations of a proton wave, he was as I had always imagined: the tall physics professor who reached up to the top shelf and pulled down books for me; the skinny graduate student who worked up the courage to ask Mom out on the final day of class; the little boy who stayed alone during recess in his second grade classroom to read about subatomic particles in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

6 Responses to “Irreversible Dad”

  1. Sandra M. Odell Says:
    August 21st, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    What a wonderful sensory exploration! The terse descriptions lend to the immediacy of the setting rather than detract.

    I also found it interesting that the father’s condition didn’t seem to bother him. Acceptance of self, when the child can’t quite accept the changes.

  2. Cheri Says:
    August 22nd, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Excellent piece, Ken. Tight, economical, very effective–and a complete story! Well done!

  3. Ellie Smythe Says:
    August 23rd, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Loved it. There’s been a trend for miserable, deadly serious, limited action short stories for way too long. This made me laugh out loud. Hope it wasn’t meant to be deadly serious…

  4. Fred Waiss Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Wish I could produce a story of that quality at that length!

  5. Garrett Ashley Says:
    August 27th, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Very cool. Though I didn’t laugh out loud in the end–I felt very sad, and lonely.

  6. Stefanie Freele Says:
    December 8th, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Bravo! A memorable piece.