Monday, June 28, 2010

Waiting for Daddy

"Not long now!" Billy pressed his face against the window, staring down the long drive hoping to get a glimpse of his father's car. "Daddy'll be here soon."

"He won't come any quicker for you steaming up the window. Come away and have your tea." I motioned to the fishcake, mashed potatoes and peas on the table. Billy went through phases and this and chocolate pudding was all he'd eat at the moment.

"Where's my pudding?" His face creased; whether in anger or sorrow I couldn't tell but even at this age he could be a handful and I wasn't prepared to take the risk.

"After you've eaten your dinner." I pushed in the chair as he sat and tucked a napkin into his shirt collar. "I'll fetch your pudding when I see a clean plate."

"Meanie. You're a meanie. You're a meanie old hag. You're a meanie old hag and I hate you. You're a—"

"Enough." Billie could extend his insults for an interminable length of time if he wasn't stopped. "Eat your dinner and you'll get your pudding."

By the time his plate was clean he'd forgotten he hated me and looked up with his face shining as I served his pudding. "Not long now, is it?"

"When you wake up tomorrow he'll be here." I smoked a cigarette in the conservatory while he finished and went upstairs to get ready for bed. I went up a few minutes after I heard the toilet flush.

"Not long now, eh?" He smiled up at me as I tucked him into bed. Our father had died eleven years ago in the same building accident that had sent a lump of concrete as big as a fist into my brother's temporal lobe.

I kissed his forehead. "Aye Billy. Not long now."

I waited until his breathing had dropped into the long, slow rhythm of sleep before inserting the needle into the hair under his armpit where the mark would go unobserved by morticians. Who was to say Daddy wouldn't be waiting for him in whatever afterlife he imagined?

No comments: