When I was young, I almost killed my father.  This was when he kept his pistol loaded next to his cufflinks in his mahogany nightstand.  I was eight and I had become attached to trinkets: my mother’s enameled bangles, a horn-handled carving knife, the glinting horse bits in the barn.  And so I had been fondling a pocket watch next to the gun, running my thumb and index finger along the chain, and next I picked up the gun and placed it in my lap.  It had a pleasing weight.  I pointed it at the mirror above my parents’ dresser and immediately became astonished.  I pointed it at the statue of a wooden bird on the table in the corner of the room and didn’t feel as bad.  When my father walked in the room, I pointed it at him and the gun went off, missing him by a foot and blowing away a section of the door jamb.

      In my teenage years, my father began going on business trips.  It was unclear at times if we were all still a family, but my father was becoming famous.  He had invented a curative for dry skin.  It was the most popular medicine for its purpose, and we received letters from people who had once been suffering and pained but were now much happier for his efforts with the product.  My mother and I did not know of anyone named Henry, but my father had named the ointment Henry’s Salve, and so it was.  He would come home haphazardly and place his briefcase by the umbrella stand and disappear into his study or take a walk or listen to music in the library.  I once saw his suitcase for three days before finally finding him in the kitchen with a sandwich.

      When I was twenty-three, I married a politician from the next town over and my father walked me down the aisle smelling of lime and cinnamon.  He kissed my cheek as he gave me away, and it was hot and piercing, a little prick of pain.

      It was the next morning when I noticed a welt rising on my face much like the hurt one feels from an oncoming blemish.  My husband and I headed to Europe for an Italian tour of the Cinque Terra and my little blemish became a dry spot and then scabbed over until I picked it and it scabbed again.  Sitting in a café by the sea in Vernazza, my husband told me that the sore was distracting him from our conversations, and he suggested Henry’s Salve.

      And then, three weeks later, my father went broke and died.  The loss of his fortune must have been gradual, but in my knowing it had come quickly, and his death, although very quick—he died in a car crash—had drawn itself out over my lifetime.

       In a reoccurring dream, I’m eight years-old again and shoot my father in the face, a very violent thing.  In this dream, my father lives long enough to shoot me in the face, too, and I’m left with a hole similar to the sore that I haven’t, as of yet, used Henry’s Salve to treat.

Blythe Winslow's fiction has appeared in literary journals such as New Delta Review, Quick Fiction, Night Train, and elsewhere.  She edits the online literary journal Twelve Stories and has taught writing at the University of


I don't dedicate my stories to people but, if I did, this story would honor Kevin Wilson.  I read his story "Songs in the Key of Being Angry" in WordRiot and was amazed at the story's structure - how many years pass in such a short space, and how so many plot events are offered to the reader at once.  I used this story as a structural model when I wrote "The Wedding Kiss" as a way to get myself writing.  Of course, his story is about kissing cousins and includes references to meat on a stick and Metallica; "The Wedding Kiss" couldn't be more different in terms of setting and character. In any case, thank you kindly, Kevin Wilson.



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