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Family Legends, Small and True
by Hans Ostrom
Thomas, my father’s uncle, fist-fought
my father’s grandfather—yes, it was quite
a tangle of relations, a knuckle-riot.
This happened during the first course
of the family’s Christmas banquet in
the tall white clapboard house on a hill
in a gold-mining town, California.
They fought beside a long table. They
did not take the fight outside. Each knocked
the other down. Dining resumed. This
happened in the Ago all families, yours and
mine, occupy—that vast astral soup of time.
One day Thomas merely left and was not;
and was not heard; and was not heard from
again, ever. No news of him since: that
is a species of immortality—everlasting,
immutable Disappearance. Thomas will
never amount; he will never amount to
anything except a fistfight and a dis-
appearance and these words, which Thomas,
after a fashion writes, letting me
hear from him now that the others are all
gone, and dessert and coffee, brandy and
cigars are served, and a piece of raw, cold
steak is applied to his bruised face, and
filial hatred glows like a kerosene lamp.
Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom