Still Life

by Paul de Denus

On the morning my father left for good, we found his briefcase, hat and a note neatly arranged like a still life on the desk in his den, the arrangement, a snapshot of the life I had watched him move through daily as he readied for work, a carefully assembled image that defined his place in our household of the steady breadwinner who quietly disappeared out the back door into a world that I at a young age did not fully understand. It became clear to me later what that picture perfect image on his desk really meant - the gathering of all the pieces from the life he was now apparently done with, his resignation from his job as husband, parent and caretaker and most painfully, his resignation from us all. The joyful talk and laughter that had once filled our home with so much love and happiness had slowly been replaced with a cold and deafening silence and it left us confused as we waited for some sign that everything would eventually return to normal. There were mixed signals, creaking floorboards, muffled bedroom doors closing, faint whispering and sobbing and then as time went on, raised voices and the front door slamming, a car engine turning over. I think back to that morning my father left and that still life on his desk, wonder if it was meant to be left undisturbed like some sort of cairn he might come back to, an in case I change my mind moment so he might just pick up where he'd left off as if nothing had ever happened, only it wasn't to be. The next day, all his things were gone.


Paul de Denus writes fiction because non-fiction sounds complicated. He lives in his head in Virginia.