Kristen E. Nelson is a founder and the Executive Director of Casa Libre en la Solana, a non-profit writing center in Tucson, Arizona. You can find more of her work at www.kristenenelson.com.


Kristen E. Nelson Photo Credit by Sarah Dalby.


Contributor Notes

Kristen E. Nelson

Kristen E. Nelson

Kristen E. Nelson

from, My Father’s Stories



iii. Family Parable


Here are my family portraits.



My father’s walls are decorated with palm-leaf crosses and photographs. Cross, frozen little girl, cross, frozen little girl, cross. The portraits are mass-produced Christmas cards taped to the wall. He is not in any of the portraits.





iv. Alcoholic Fable


I don’t know why I’m still alive. Just to drink and have a good time I think.



My father used to have curly blond hair, bright blue eyes, and killer shoulders. Now he is shrunken. His hair is short and gray. His nose is bulbous and red.





v. Bad Joke


These two niggers walk into a bar.



My father tells jokes. At the restaurant, the manager is a black man. My father glows under his complements and customer service. Then he tells more jokes. I am tempted to tell a joke about an old, wrinkled, drunk ex-cop with a fat wife who has nothing of consequence in his life; but I can’t think of a punch line.





vi. Love Story


I love you.



My father does not love me.





vii. War Story


I went to Vietnam and trained the insurgents. You have no idea what atrocities I’ve seen.



My father did not go to Vietnam.





viii. Sister Myth


Remember when I went to Alabama when your sister got sick? I’m so glad I could help take care of her.



My father went to Alabama two years before my sister was diagnosed with cancer. He got off the train with a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels. She called me crying. I heard the sound of cartoons in the background. My father was laughing. My sister’s children were not laughing.





ix. Urban Legend


I never had to shoot anybody when I was a cop.



When my father was drunk, and I was two years old, he tried to shoot me with his service revolver. He tried to shoot my sister and my mother. I don’t know who else he tried to shoot but missed.





x. Mountain Pastoral


Come stand out on my porch and take some family portraits in front of my beautiful mountains.



My father does not know what real mountains look like. His mountains are hills covered with electrical towers. I want to take pictures of his home while he is not looking. Of the pile of dog shit on his rug, the bowed wooden floors, the smoke from his Marlboro Reds, the open pasta boxes, the cheap beer, his wife’s large forehead, the dead plants, his fake Christmas tree covered in tinsel, the series of portraits of my sisters and me between crosses.