I drop my forkful of cake, get up and follow Dad to the shed. We see each other once a year, and that one day is no day to argue. Out back he fumbles with a padlock and a fistful of keys. The leaning shed is held upright only by junk crammed to the ceiling. The lock finally pops, the door sags open. Inside Dad worries a tangled 3D collage: three tattered ladder-back chairs, a mildewed deflated yard Santa, a hard-plastic machete. He pulls out the knife, play-cuts off my head.
I’m selling antiques, he doesn’t say.
Weren’t you selling herbal supplements? I don’t ask.
Nobody at church understood herbs, he doesn’t need to say.
I don’t ask what he tried before botanicals, or before that. His get-rich schemes are serial. I don’t ask if selling junk at flea markets pays the bills, or if he lost Mom’s life insurance on the dogs. Dad doesn’t ask, How’s Steve? Still together? You healthy? Written anything lately? A hundred unasked questions pack our practiced silence.
He drags out a bin of LPs. Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, the soundtrack to Footloose. My records, I don’t say. Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality is still in its plastic. At thirteen I’d brought it home to no one shouting Dad’s on the dole again, to no one screaming, Deadbeat! Addict! Loser!—just a house mute with worry. The record, never played, disappeared under my bed. I wasn’t even a fan.
Black Sabbath, I say. This might actually be worth something now.
How much? Dad points the machete at my throat.
I say, A hundred quid?
One twenty, he says, and starts wrapping it up.