originally published in Out of the Gutter
I bet it’s easier for the daughters of serial killers. If your dad gets caught running around strangling brunettes I’m sure you can chalk it up to his dark side and still fondly remember the times he let you eat raw cookie dough when your mother wasn’t looking.
I'm not so lucky. My father killed half the population of Salt Lake City because he was a blundering idiot despite his two PhDs and job at a top-secret (not anymore) laboratory. He wore tweed blazers and his Blackberry on a belt clip. Everyone forgave him for wearing mismatched shoes and running over traffic cones. His absentmindedness had always been part of his charm. We affectionately called him a menace.
My dad’s forgetfulness forced his reliance on others, especially me. I checked that his shirt was buttoned correctly in the mornings. I turned the car off when he left it running in the evenings. Whenever I fixed something for him he’d smile, whack his forehead with his palm and say that he didn’t know what he’d do without me.
I buzzed in the static of his attention.
One day he left his lab and with a vial of a Category A bioweapon in his pocket. He went all over the city, running errands like Tinkerbell with pocketful of poisoned pixie dust.
My mother and I were in Grand Junction for a volleyball tournament. We lived.
He died horribly, like everyone he killed. It took three days.
“I don’t remember putting the vial in my pocket. It was a simple mistake, like leaving the toaster on or the garage door open,” he infamously said to a reporter on his deathbed, mostly paralyzed and trying to explain himself.
That comment was a message to me. He meant that his forgetfulness rotted without my watchfulness.
He meant that it was all my fault.