The Safest Place

After returning home from a family excursion

to the circus, my Dad announced,

“any monkey can do what they do,”

then laid his back on the shag carpet,

lifted his hands toward the ceiling

and told me to do a handstand on top of them

I was in gymnastics at the time

and had recently felled the biggest boy

in my third-grade class at arm wrestling—

but this seemed pretty crazy

Still, I put my palms flat against my dad’s

and tried twice to kick myself up

into a vertical position,

each time landing on the floor beside him

Undeterred and saying we could join

the Flying Wallendas,

my dad told me to kick harder,

so I did—

flipping over his head and

knocking the barrel end table

onto its side with such a thud

my mom came in to yell at us

With the tops of our heads touching,

we giggled like girls until she stormed

back to the kitchen

I got up to try once more,

this time getting my arms, torso, then legs

extended into a perfect line

where I balanced

and looked down at my dad

who looked up at me—

but because everything that is perfect

must end,

my arms began to shake

and I fell flat on top of him

He pulled his arms in,

wrapped them around me tight

I could smell Old Spice in his armpits,

beer on his breath

and for a moment

I kept my head on his chest,

closed my eyes

and rested

Elisabeth Harrahy

Elisabeth Harrahy’s work has appeared in Zone 3, Paterson Literary Review, Blue Heron Review, The Café Review, Passengers Journal, Ghost City Review, I-70 Review, Wisconsin People & Ideas, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for Best of the Net. She is an associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

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