by T. Gene Davis
“Dad, I’m feeding the skeleton in the closet.”
My seven-year-old daughter stated this. She wasn’t asking permission. I had to sit up in my arm chair and set down my Kindle.
“Yes. He likes donuts.”
“I was not aware of that. I’m not sure feeding the skeleton is such a good idea.”
She bit her lip, looking down at the small plate of donuts she’d swiped from the kitchen. Her long blond sun-bleached hair fell in her face, and she looked back up at me.
“Dad, he’s really nice.”
“Honey. I don’t think he’d be in the closet if he was really nice.”
“No. He really is nice.”
“Lilly, stay away from the skeleton in our closet.”
“Why is he in the closet?”
“Ask you’re mother. It’s her skeleton.”
She wandered off in a direction away from the closet. I picked up my Kindle, and started reading, again. Before I finish three pages, Lilly walked past with the plate of donuts and a glass of milk.
“Where are you going?”
“Mom said that he couldn’t eat donuts without a glass of milk.”
“How very nice of her.”
“Could you open the closet for me? My hands are full.”
“No. You’ll have to set something down and open it yourself. I need to talk to your mother.”
Donuts every day became a ritual, mixed with cookies, brownies and the occasional sandwich. I admit I lost sleep over this familiarity with the skeleton in the closet. I protested to Julie, my wife, frequently.
“I really don’t think it is a good idea to let Lilly associate with that skeleton in the closet.”
“I really think you’re making a big deal out of nothing. It’s not like he’s eating dinner with us. Please, try to be a bit more openminded, dear.”
And that was how every complaint I made to Julie ended. With my sleep schedule becoming a mess, I lost most of my appetite. I’d eat at meals, but not much. On the bright side, I actually lost the belly I’d put on because of my desk job.
When Lilly turned 15-years-old, the skeleton started joining us for Christmas dinner. By that time, he’d put on a little weight, even though he still looked a lot like a skeleton. His sunken menacing eyes remained on me the entire time I carved the turkey. Luckily, he didn’t say much. I’m sure he wouldn’t have said anything nice about me. I can’t say that I ate a single bite that entire Christmas dinner—not even potatoes and gravy.
In Lilly’s senior year of high school, the skeleton found a job. Lilly and Julie pointed out that three incomes would make life much easier for us. The skeleton landed a very nice teaching job at the community college.
I felt upset about letting the whole world see our skeleton, but Lilly and Julie were correct. The extra money more than made up for the embarrassment.
“You know that skeletons have not traditionally been kept in closets,” the skeleton said while helping himself to my portion of lasagna. Julie made the best lasagna.
“Really?” I said, eyeing the lasagna he wolfed down. The lasagna barely touched the plate before disappearing down his narrow throat.
“Many Native Americans kept us in their bedrooms, under their beds.”
“I was not aware Native Americans had bedrooms, … I mean, … before European influence.”
“‘Bedrooms’ may not be the correct turn. Maybe, ‘sleeping area’ may be more correct, but you get the idea. The myth that keeping skeletons in your closet has always happened is just inaccurate. It’s that kind of hate that destroys our modern society.”
“Huh.” I wasn’t sure the skeleton was accurate, but I didn’t really know as much history as he did, and he did teach at a college.
“Dad, don’t you think it’s time that we move our skeleton into the spare bedroom?” Lilly batted her eyelashes, waiting for my response.
“Well, … I guess, …”
The skeleton, Julie, and my daughter praised my “forward-thinking” nature. I felt pretty good about all of the praise they heaped on. I even felt like eating some more lasagna, but the lasagna was all gone.
When Lilly graduated from college, the skeleton came too. He was, after all, a member of the family. And, he looked good in my old suit. He grinned one of his full-toothed grins and clapped as loud as anyone. He loved Lilly and my wife, and treated them like gold.
I noted that we were not alone in bringing our skeleton out in public. Fleshed out skeletons dotted the graduation assembly. Few people even gave our skeleton a passing glance. I mentioned as much to Julie.
“Discrimination is an ugly thing,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed. It felt good being part of the enlightened crowd. I took a deep breath and held it in, noting my new suit felt a bit loose, already.
Today, I woke up in the closet. The door is locked. I’ve waited all day, but no one has brought me a sandwich or donuts.
T. Gene Davis writes speculative fiction, poetry, articles, books, and computer software.
With Spring in the air, he spends as much time as possible working on his garden, yard, and working the family land.