Somewhere in Kentucky there is a girl who will become the next Covington Latin School Sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. She is good at Algebra because she had the same book the year before back at her old school, back home in New England. Her name is Reina Maureen and she is a kind of graceful skinny with brown-black hair. Freckles form spider diagrams across her high cheekbones and implode into one another, like little constellations stretched out across snow, like the resplendent white snow back home in Vermont. Though she wears plaid and her sister calls her rumble tumble, she is adored. Her classmates choose her, this foreign Snow White, as their Sweetheart.
Back home a piano is playing, a key discorded vibrates and then stops. Restarts. Stops. Restarts. Her sister is learning the piano inside of a Tudor Revival style house. The ivy never grew on the home’s facade like it should have, though, and the surrounding shrubs and landscaping were left to their own devices. This house is a home and it is full of children. There are five of them. They come and go as they please and sneak into rock concerts and smoke weed behind their friend’s garage. The oldest son looks just like Jackson Browne. A couple of times he even got away with free drinks from a bartender who really believed he was Jackson Browne (although he was much younger). “Lone wolf” the family calls him. Though he is strong and tall (with broad shoulders, flowing brown-black hair), he can’t stand all these kids crawling all over the place. He wants to spend time with his girlfriend, to play his guitar and go rock climbing in the mountains instead.
One time, during his first year of college, one of his childhood friend’s stole his ID and pretended to be him. The imposter marched around and said “I’m Victor Keranen.” The stolen identity wasn’t just a betrayal from a single friend, but served as an ambiguous and unsettling reminder of the shaky ribbons of trust he so loathed to send out.
Another time, when Victor was fourteen, he moved into a cave in the Vermont mountains, at least according to him. He learned to be like those hunter green marble slabs jutting out from the quarries. Victor preferred it that way. “Nobody missed me when I moved into the mountains alone when I was fourteen.” Even thirty years after this happened, he liked to remind everyone in the family of that fact. The Keranen family was much too large, too rambunctious, too talkative and too busy to notice, he thought. But they did notice. It was this seemingly one oversight that would become another unforgivable pain for Victor, but for the family, it became fodder–a good laugh at the melodramatic for his brothers and sisters. It was the punch line to a non-existent joke at family reunions. “Hey remember that time Victor moved into the mountains when he was alone when he was fourteen and nobody noticed?” Everyone squawked.
Astarte, or Star, is the oldest. “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” her younger sisters would tesase. Her blonde hair flowed into immaculate into straight sheets that caressed her face. When she was a young girl she cut out pictures of Rod Sterling and glued them into a notebook.
Konrad was the next born after Star. He has grown from a smiling little boy with crooked teeth to a sprite young man. He is clever. He is a prankster. He gets this from his father.
Aline is the middle child. She is thin with long brown hair and on the edge of rebellion.
Victor, Star, Konrad, Aline, Michelle, and Reina. These are the beginnings of the Keranen children. If there is one thing all of the Keranen kids have in common, it’s a small streak of mischief.
The plateau of blue ocean water buckled under the dingy Victor Keranen Senior rowed out. This was peace for him. There was no place more sacred than the water.
His hands were wrought like used maps by the time I knew him. He had been to Spain, the Bermuda Triangle, around Cape Horn, and transatlantic at least three times. “Whatddya think I’d curse like a damn sailor or something?” He liked to nudge me and smile really big. It was like we were in on a secret together.
Because it wasn’t obvious enough that he loved sailing, he turned us all into boats.
A blue light flickers on the face of Mrs. Keranen, who is lying on the couch. A harlequin novel rests beside her on the nightstand along with an empty box of chocolate covered cherries.
It was snowing on the night my grandfather died. This is unusual in the south. I went to Kmart to buy milk for my mother. I don’t know how to grieve properly, if there is a proper way (which, I have been told on good authority there is not). “Are you alright to drive in the snow?” my mother is texting me.
We sat in my grandfather’s sunken den while Kaari showed off his collection of craft beers. “This one is from Japan.”
“I wish you had known him. He wore Snoopy Socks and Birkenstocks and dressed sloppily. He looked nothing like other doctors. When he started his residency, his patients used to crumple up food in balls of tin foil and sneak it to him during rotation.”