The Prodigal Nothing

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December 22, 2022 by The Citron Review

by Ronan Fenton


I’m back home after a year away and counting the differences. My dad has hearing aids now and through psychic hacking I send him subliminal messages while he listens to the radio or zones out of a work call about some unknowable mystery. I tell him about sympathetic magic, the baby teeth I buried in the back garden, the replica of our house stored in the attic where the spiders infect it with a happiness that mirrors our own. I tell him about what it’s like to speak to no one and have them respond, how quickly friends unmask themselves as strangers to everyone, including themselves, how it felt to sit in the backseat of the car on a long road trip without having to worry about direction or destination, only the anatomy of the journey. I tell him about a dream I had that didn’t make any sense and a line of people queuing outside a walled courtyard where a sleeping child drowns for eternity in a fountain of flowers and perfume. I tell him about a name. I tell him about a number. I tell him about how I want to take care of everything. I tell him I will, someday. My mum has let her hair grow out and forsaken dying it so the familiar hazelnut brown is threaded silver and grey. Nameless flowers bloom in the back garden. The berry bushes bursting through the netting in the far corner are giving fruit for the first time since I was diagnosed with chronic depression and I wonder was I stunting their growth or have the antidepressants acted as a fertiliser and pulled their luscious bodies back from the earth. Their juices fill the cracks between my teeth as we smile with nicotine-enamelled mouths, laying in stalks bleached by the sun beside our rescue greyhound, who has patterned the garden with the detritus of sheep bones taken back from a recent island retreat. I remember the off-white regolith, the pale interior scaffolding of an animal with the better part of them still exposed to the elements, nested in gorse in the coastal highlands. There are a few bones left relatively intact for the dog to toss in the gyre of turning sunlight, honeycomb marrow browning on the sandstone tiles. Water spills from her bowl as she stretches out her neck to snap at a bothersome fly. Fairy lights garland the charcoal fencing and strangle the winter-flowering cherry tree whose foliage shades the rhubarb. My sister’s overflow of chattel now fills what used to be my bedroom. We sleep downstairs on the pull-out futon in the kitchen to keep the dog from howling all night. Unfamiliar food in the fridge and cupboards. Nothing I know how to eat. The house has a different smell to it, but amidst all this revision and transitioning, so many things remain the same. My childhood books line the shelves. We never have enough clean socks. The milk goes off before the use-by date. Every time I need to use the bathroom someone’s already in there. I can hear my parents making phone calls from the other side of the house. The same keys grant me entrance. Some say things only exist in their differences. They say they find their uniqueness in what they are not. I think this place exists in its similitude to our most treasured memories, those of us who have called it home. 


Ronan Fenton is an Irish writer living in London. He writes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama and art criticism. His work has been published in Poetry Ireland Review, Violet, Indigo, Blue, Etc., Selcouth Station Press, Neuro Logical, and Coven Poetry, amongst others. Twitter: @Ronanfenton36




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