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Promise Broken

by Danielle Sullivan

Is dad going to die, he wants to know.

I don't know. All I can promise is that I will always be honest with you.

I know that, he says. I just don't want anything to change.

I don't tell him that everything already has, that his mother, who once saved her tip change from waiting tables to go skydiving now panics at the slightest turbulence in an airplane, afraid that that it will plummet to the ground leaving him with neither a mother nor a father. I don't tell him that his father who never locked the doors because he was certain that he could defeat any intruder with a baseball bat now knows that the deadliest intruders don't enter through the back patio door, but are microscopic and slip surreptitiously into the body and divide and divide and divide until it becomes difficult to breathe. And I don't tell him he, too, will discover that grief is love at its most helpless.

Instead, I tell him not to worry, that we wouldn't have to move, that he would go to the same school with the same friends.

He doesn't answer, stares at his tattered shoelaces, dissatisfied with this version of the truth. He senses that something substantial and irretrievable is gone.

Danielle Sullivan is an Associate Professor of English at San Juan College and resides with her husband and sons near Durango, Colorado. Her husband is a survivor of advanced stage lung cancer.