If We Hold Each Other Tight

Michael J. Brien

Image of the back of a porch swing. The photo is cropped so only one side of the swing is visible. The wooden slats are covered in faded white paint. The arm of the swing is threaded with plastic-covered chains that extend up toward the ceiling. In front of the swing is a railing with a black-painted rail and white-painted balusters. The railing is attached to support posts on the left and right of the photo. The swing looks out onto a lawn with shrubs and trees. The porch is in shadow and the light is fading over the lawn.

Photo Credit: blgrssby/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

They walked along the short bricked path from the front porch to the dirt drive. Both of them remembering the fifth anniversary of the older man’s wife’s death from the kidney failure she had battled for nearly a year. The night held a lingering scent of pine that had been in the air since the day before when the electric company had come through and grubbed the acreage beneath the power lines.

The younger man, his only male progeny, cocked his head, listening to the small cracking sounds that the night insects made back in the trees.

When they reached the dirt, they looked at each other and turned to look back at the house. From inside the cabin, the dim light over the stove peered through the flimsy curtains that the older man’s wife, this progeny’s mother, had sewn on her Singer machine just as she had begun her dialysis treatments. A blue-veined harvest moon parted the tops of the pines and laid its bright white light at their feet. They walked in that moonlight back to the steps.

The old man stared down at the wide pine boards beneath his feet and spoke for the first time since supper. “In 1954 I became accountable. I got my degree, joined the US Army as a private first class bound for Korea, and your mom delivered me a fat red-faced baby boy.”

The younger man’s smile was hidden in shadow. He felt a slight breeze trace his face and arms. “Quite a year, Dad.” He held his father’s elbow as they stepped up onto the porch. Arm in arm, straddling the wide planks, they shuffled to the porch swing.

The older man lifted his eyes and held out his arms. They glistened like the sudden birth of two more stars in the expansive galaxy swirling above their heads.

The son stepped into their open gate and the old man drew him in, holding him tight.

The son’s arms came up and banded around his father’s small frame.

The moon rose higher and brighter, neither man letting go. The weight of each perfectly balanced against the other.

The old man moved his wet face into the soft flesh of his son’s neck and whispered, “I miss her something terrible.”

“You always will, Dad.”

The older man pulled his head away and motioned to the swing. “Let’s sit for a while and remember.”

“Sure, Dad,” the son heard his own voice soft as an owl’s silent flight in the night, swooping in under the porch roof, landing gently beside his father.

The older man sat down, the seat rocking back slightly. He took a deep breath, speaking sure as he did on the day he spoke his vows to his bride, “If we hold each other tight, we can keep each other warm.”


Michael J. Brien is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. He is the author of over 90 published children and adult short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction pieces, and is a recipient of grants from the Iowa, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire State Arts Councils. He is a member of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project, and an adjunct member of Southern New Hampshire University. His recent work has been published in Edify Fiction, Oyster River Pages, Amoskeag, Miranda, Epiphany and Flash Fiction literary magazines.
Email: writermusicman[at]icloud.com