FROM THE SON TO THE FATHER
Back and Here Again
He was walking now. Head bent back and tilted to one side. Whether or not he had volunteered or had been lifted out and set down is not clear.
They had been shopping. A short walk down the hill to the grocer's. Inside, as in any building that was not home, he had watched that other world, the one which existed just a few feet above his head and which occasionally dipped down for a brief moment of inclusion.
They were approaching the old farm and he could hear the chatter of the chickens above the noise of the cars changing up a gear as they crested the steepest section of the hill.
They stopped. She stooped slightly over the handles of the pram, her breathing shallow and urgent. She placed one hand on her swollen belly and with the other, reached down for his.
He was walking again. Head down. Watching the early morning sun catch the shine on each alternate new shoe and concentrating on the cadence of their fall.
Her grip was tight and the pull, forward. He wondered what the badge on his jacket pocket meant and tried his best, at first, to keep up. He knew instinctively that the tempo was not born out of any excited anticipation but out of a need to be on the other side of something, to be beyond and the event, behind.
The gravity of home was stronger the further away it became and yet the rubber of his new shoes could not slow their progress towards the gates. There, a woman was waiting, both stern of face and of dress. Hard edged. No solace to be found in her cold embrace.
The woman took his other hand and, for a moment, he had a hand in both worlds. He looked up at the old, familiar one and saw heartbreak over-ridden by a grim determination. She let go his hand and turned away.
He was sat on the bed. Her hand was in his. It had been a long time now since she had last walked and her physical frailty seemed to him somehow to be unfair. A poor reward. He saw the same heartbreak and determination as she asked him not to drag it out. He kissed her. Let go her hand and turned away.
He was walking again. Head bent down and tilted to one side.
"Daddy, you know that cartoon, 'the Magic Pencil'? The one where everything you draw comes to life?"
He said that he did.
"If you had one of those, what would you draw?"
"I don't know, sweetheart. Lots of ice-creams, I guess. How about you? What would you draw?"
He reached down and took her hand.