Monday, July 2, 2012

The Card by George Seaton

Title:The Card
Author: George Seaton
Cover Artist: Deanna C. Jamroz
Publisher: MLR
Genre: memoir (memoir-ish?)
Length: 7000 words

The dynamic between fathers and sons is complex, most often least understood by the players themselves. But is it the father who does not know his son, or is it the son who does not know his father?

The discovery of a Father's Day card in a box---long ago shoved into a dark corner in a cellar---provides a revelation to a son, a gay son that shatters all previous conclusions about his father. Set in Denver, the ravages of a massive flood, and the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl, provide the background for a son's coming of age, and a father's eerie ability to " the hunch...," that is essential to his prowess as a cop.


If this story isn’t a true event in author George Seaton’s life, it really feels like it—this story ranges from present day to back in time, back and forth, with stories and details that feel absolutely real.

The narrator’s father—he never outright claims to be George—is a Denver cop, and his abilities to solve cases and intervene in crises border on the uncanny. The father showed his abilities in incidents during the  1965 South Platte Flood that devastated Denver (there are still buildings with high-water marks showing) and also in a crime involving young Anne Marie Canino. The narrative isn’t linear at all—it jumps around from one detail to another, and then to present day, as the narrator considers this Father’s Day card, the only one he ever gave, and which he’s felt compelled to keep.

The story has the feel of an evening’s chat, maybe as if the narrator were sharing a comfortable sofa and a glass of whiskey with the reader, reminiscing about his youth and how he felt about his old man: unapproachable, often silent, more often absent, but still the lodestone of the family. The son knows his father’s  cases better than he knows the man, and each time he comes back to talk about this greeting card, the mixed feelings come through, and every time he talks about the past, a little more of both the father and the son come through. The son fears that he doesn’t measure up to expectations, and maybe that the father has detected too much at home.

There isn’t a romance element here exactly, although a teenage companion helps with early experiments. The narrator’s long term partner appears now and then, to tease about dragging boxes of keepsakes from home to home, repackaging when the cartons fall apart but seldom peeking inside. It takes his different perspective to see what the narrator might have found for himself long ago.

And that’s what will put the tear-prickles in your eyes. 4 marbles

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