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Talisman and superstition
by Norman Belanger

I sit across a table from my father, in a loud, brightly lit spot on Mass Ave. College kids whoop at the bar. A Patriots game blares from five screens, which captures his attention while we wait for our food. He taps his fingers, hums a song. In my memories, he is singing: while he stood at the sink as he shaved with a safety razor; when he drove, with his arm dangling out the rolled down window; he sang on Sunday mornings over pancakes.

I watch him, still handsome, as he chews a mouthful of sandwich. His hands were once strong. He was a hardworking man, a boilermaker. Those hands would rap you in the head if you got smart, and gently put on a Band-Aid if you scraped your knee. He carried a rough handkerchief to wipe faces, with a good amount of spit.

He goes through his pockets, emptying the contents next to his plate. There is the handkerchief, about three dollars in quarters, dimes, and pennies, a wallet, a black plastic hair comb, the key ring that says ELVIS LIVES.

He places down a rock, a round flat smooth green stone, in the center of everything.

“What’s that?”

“My special rock.”

From my pocket, I pull out a grooved stone, the secret talisman of my heart. I picked it up, one perfect day on Race Point. I’ve carried this rock for decades. Its ridges are worn from the rubbing of my hands, worn by daily anxieties, fears, heartbreaks. It is warm with prayers. It is charm and superstition.

How strange, these two objects in the middle of the table seem to be, suddenly imbued with new meaning. I wonder at the mysteries of this man across the table, as elusive and familiar as the lyrics to an old song.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Norman Belanger is a nurse and a writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His poem “a purple sky” was recently featured in the Silver Birch Press “Beach & Pool Memories” series. His prose work has  appeared in Aids&Understanding, Red Fez, Blunderbuss, Potluck, and Jonathan a gay men’s literary magazine. Visit him on Twitter @norman_belanger.