“Miracle Factory” by Carmen Petaccio, examines a divorce through the voice of a wry narrator. Told through a series of non-linear moments, Petaccio explores the fallout of broken family from the teenager at its center. “Miracle Factory” is touching and funny, and is a story you won’t soon forget. “Dad has decided to start playing guitar again, for the love of god.”
Mom and Dad are giving marriage another go. No point asking why. Dad boxes up his janky suite at the La Quinta. Mom unearths the banished Dad photos from the crawl space and sprays their frames with Pledge and wipes. Then there’s that Pledge smell, all through the house. They call a family meeting in the family room, perch on either arm of the Bad News Couch. Their eyes are cult recruiter eyes. “This is what’s best for us,” says Dad. “For all of us,” says Mom.
Dad has agreed to rebuild “Santa’s Miracle Factory.” Before The Divorce, Dad was locally famous for converting the yard into a low-rent Christmas spectacular. There was a giggly, pedophilic Robo-Santa, a manger of marionettes, multiple Rudolphs whose noses buzzed red. Minivans idled by at all hours, like giant, B-movie snails. On Christmas Eve, Dad would sync the whole shebang to twinkle along to Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” But last year: no Santa, no Springsteen. Just a wreath nail-gunned to the dark front door by Mom. Dad promises, “Never again.”
Mom doesn’t approve of a friendship with Kaylee Sanders. She never has, and The eBay Incident hasn’t helped. What happened was: Kaylee stole a bunch of Jimmy Choos from some rich bitches’ lockers and sold them on eBay. When she got caught, Mom lost her shit—banned Kaylee from sleepovers; said she deserved expulsion, maybe juvie. Central High School disagreed. All Kaylee got was ten days OSS and a comprehensive repayment plan. So instead of gym Kaylee has eighth period study hall, which is a happy coincidence, because she skips every day to buy multicolored Fantasia cigarettes at 7-11. And she shares.
Dad is taking over The Drive to School until he finds a new job. He used to be a sales rep for MillerCoors, “the best Jersey for a stretch of the early 00’s.” A stranger would ask him, “So, whaddaya do?” and he’d exclaim with genuine pride, “I drink for a living!” But he got laid off in the lead up to The Divorce. Now he changes the channel when Heineken commercials play during Devils games. Now he sips wine spritzers and begrudgingly does The Drive to School, both hands on the wheel, so his crooked veins show blue.
Mom always closet-smoked, but after The Divorce she went public. Before she’d Krazy Glue her Virginia Slims to the back of the toilet, or tuck loosies into the fingers of summertime gloves. Now she smokes openly and constantly, indoors and out, no explanation provided. Dad moving back in hasn’t changed it. Ashtrays dot the kitchen counter, the patio chairs, cigarettes inside them like crushed question marks. One night she straight up lights up at dinner. Dad says, “You know, there’s a reason they call those ‘death sticks’ in Star Wars.” To which Mom replies, exhaling smoke cinematically, “Cool observation.”
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