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Daddy’s Caliban


by Jay Lake



Mommy always told me and Cameron not to go looking for ways to reach the Old Tower. “There’s ghosts and worse over there, Henry,” she’d say. “You boys got to go wandering, fine, you’re boys. But our people stay on this side of the river. Better yet, stick to the park.”

The park was safe but dorky. When we were seven, that was okay.

This side of the river was home, Mabton and everything that was ordinary. When we were ten, that was okay.

Summer we both turned thirteen, well, there was nowhere else to go but across the water and up the hill. Mama must have known that — all us Puca boys got the wander in us, as Daddy says, but she just wagged her finger and warned us off, then packed sandwiches and said to stay out until dark.

Daddy worked in one of the mills north of town, where the river drops through a series of falls and they could put in big waterwheels a hundred years ago. It was all steam engines and belts now, but that was where the buildings still were. He was a shift supervisor at Caliban Products, which meant he hassled the other kids’ moms and dads about being late or taking too long in the can.

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