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My father used to work at an Entenmann’s, loading cakes, cookies, and pies onto the back of big delivery trucks.

He worked nights. The work aggravated his back so he wore a thick black brace with velcro straps. It looked a bit like a cummerbund. He worked late, and slept late into the day. The sun aggravated him so he blackened it out with opaque drapes.

He worked nights and came in early in the morning and it disturbed my mother, who kept regular hours and slept on a waterbed for the sake of her delicate, scoliosis-afflicted back. So my dad moved into a separate room, with his own bed and piles upon piles of his dirty, stale-smelling laundry.

He kept odd hours. He kept to himself in there. He put a set of weights in the room, and a TV, and a white acrylic dresser with a mechanical bank in the shape of a golfer. Place the coin where the ball ought to be and turn the crank; the golfer will strike it with his club and make it disappear into the grass in the bank’s base, preserving your money and keeping it safe.

There were also old-timey Pepsi knick-knacks on my dad’s dresser. Old crates and glass bottles and coasters and things. He loved Pepsi, and drank at least one two-liter per day. He loved Pepsi so much that it maybe gave him diabetes and killed him. That and all the Entenmann’s cakes.

He hated working at Entenmann’s. He hated the long, odd hours and how they disturbed his sleep. He hated fighting the sun and slipping out, into the darkness. He hated his mouthy co-workers and how they gossiped about their wives and their side bitches. He hated the long expanse of pallets upon pallets of cakes. He hated the physical toil and the drudgery and that he felt stuck, because he didn’t have a degree and he had a family to provide for.

He wanted to quick but his dream jobs were impractical. He wanted a cat but we all were allergic so he got a chinchilla. He wanted to eat all the cookies, cakes, and pies that he could get his hands on, but he developed diabetes. He wanted to sneak a bite or two from our snacks so we locked them up in a box in a drawer in the living room closet. He didn’t want to admit anything was wrong but it pained our mom to see him slowly kill himself. He wanted to stay with us but he had to go. He wanted to give us the house we’d grown up in but then he got too angry to let us keep it. He wanted to live like nothing was wrong but some things were very very wrong and he died.

My dad had a nightmare every single night. In it, he was in a massive warehouse like the one at his work, but unending, infinitely large. It was dark on the edges, stretching out, out into nothingness, or everythingness, stacks upon stacks upon cursed stacks of cakes, cookies, and pies, going on forever, as far as his eye could see — no, farther. And there was a never-ending supply of trucks, too — large square dark maws waiting hungrily for him, demanding to be stuffed with the soft, sugary foodstuffs, the delivery orders unceasing, his toil never-ending, the bright crack of daylight never coming to free him and bid him away from the dank, unlit hellhole, to let his head hit the pillow of his smelly room, tired, weak, and free.

My mother has moved on from a waterbed to an electric air mattress with a memory foam top. She sleeps in it alone, free of disturbances. She used to have nightmares where our chinchilla dove at her neck and tore her throat out with a shriek and a long spurt of blood. I don’t think she has those nightmares anymore.

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The first 100 Ohio Portraits are now available for $2.99, for Kobo, Nook, Kindle, and all other ebook formats.

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