I recalled my father’s voice today, as words lurched out of me, “Twenty bucks please on number four.”
It was impossible not to get in trouble with Dad when we were kids. Socks always poked out of dresser drawers like rabid dogs panting, and it wound him up no end. My legs were too slow when he came at me with his wide hand.
Anytime one of us got sick, noses running green in air thick with Friars’ Balsam, Dad disappeared leaving Mum to cope solo.
“Useless bugger,” she’d curse, after he’d closed the door. A hand forever cupped to her mouth when she spoke—her cave of secrets.
We were meant to hear those words.
Dad topped himself because he couldn’t pay his debts. We all got to choose something, before the rest was bundled up and sent off to the Sallies.
His dressing gown was a heavy wool tartan, with a silken belt that reminded me of Irish dancing. Girls wore those, not boys. But our Dad liked flash things, and the weight felt easy on my shoulders.
I don’t remember Mum having a dressing gown. She was always up by the time we got out of bed. Her hands a constant map of angry red cracks, with a cigarette permanently adhered to her bottom lip.
She had to get an ‘under-the-table-job’ afterwards, and I got a paper run.
Mum didn’t muck around clearing out Dad’s side of the closet.
“No point reminiscing,” she said, through tight lips.
I never saw her cry.
Dad took me with him to the races once, purchased a bag of lollies and left me there to watch the horses. I sat alone until evening draped me in its cloak, and then walked home—freed from something that had no words.