|David Ramos Fernandes
that morning he was ready to
getting up early, mark tip-toed to the bathroom and
ran hot water against a towel, wringing it tight before pressing it to his forehead. he
returned to bed. an hour later, his father knocked on the door, waiting for him to reply.
this time mark kept quiet.
his father knocked again, then pushed open the door.
he was dressed in his work uniform, his tie hanging loose from his pocket.
i think im sick dad.
oh. his father stood over the bed, looking down at
the school shoes by his feet. he noticed that they werent polished. cant
you come downstairs?
i dont think so.
okay. he nodded, reaching for his tie. its
okay. i can do it myself.
mark gave him a weak, struggled smile. sorry
his father shrugged, stretching out the tie,
straightening the creases. he did this for a while, until mark leaned up from the pillow
and took his fathers hand, pressing it against his forehead.
see? im all clammy.
he felt his father gently pull his hand away. yes.
ill be alright. ill make sure i drink
plenty. an ill have some of that tinned soup thats downstairs.
yes. yes. he looped the tie around his collar,
judging the distance between the two strands by lining them up against the buttons on his
shirt. he did this a few times before he was finally satisfied enough to begin knotting
the tie. when he finished, he turned and walked towards the doorway, his hand reaching out
to close the door behind him. yes. thats a good idea. he paused. so.
mark closed his eyes, waiting for him to leave.
yes. well i better - as the door slowly swung
mark listened as his father made breakfast, the kettle
hissing, the toaster jumping, the same plate and mug knocking into the kitchen sink to
soak, his footsteps creaking from the linoleum to the quiet hush of the hallway carpet,
the silence of him standing by the front door, wanting to leave, but needing to say
something, ill see you later then, and then nothing.
lying still, mark watched his bedside clock flicker
through the morning until he thought it was safe to get up. dressed in his pyjamas, he
walked downstairs and opened the small door underneath the staircase, reaching up for the
plastic boxes where he knew his father hoarded all the things and bits that didnt
belong anywhere else. he took one of the boxes down and carefully poured out the contents,
dragging his fingers through old screws and rusted nails, strips of copper wire, burnt
fuses and broken plugs, a ring of insulating tape, matches, an old nametag from his
fathers last job.
he worked his way through the pile until he found the
key, placing it in his mouth while he put everything else back, careful to pick up even
the smallest shavings of wood that had spilled out.
running up to his room, he left the key on his bedside
clock and quickly undressed. once he was naked, he ran into the bathroom and showered,
making sure that he scrubbed behind his ears. he brushed his teeth, then washed his hands
and face, twice.
when he was satisfied, he went back to his room and
slowly put on his school uniform, correcting the length of his tie by measuring it against
the buttons of his shirt. taking the key and the clock, which he placed into the pocket of
his blazer, he picked up his shoes and took them into his fathers bedroom, where he
found the blackened cloth and can of polish his father always liked to use.
after a while the shoes began to gleam in the sombre
he put the shoes on, wiping around the soles to make
sure he didnt mark the carpet with polish. walking over to his fathers
wardrobe, he opened the door and looked at himself in the full length mirror, tugging his
shirt a little to even out the creases on his chest.
in the kitchen he found his fathers stepladder
which he carried upstairs and positioned underneath the attic door, shoving some of his
school books beneath the legs of the frame.
he took a deep breath.
taking each step slowly, he climbed the ladder and
pushed the key into the small lock his father had left there, turning it softly, listening
to the catch as it sprung open.
the door shuddered. dust curled out from around its
he took another step up and pushed his shoulder
against the weight of the door, lifting, then swinging it back against a wooden beam. he
stared into the cold darkness of the attic, across the strips of insulating foam and water
pipes, looking for the stack of cardboard boxes he had found the week before.
for a moment he thought they had gone, and he froze at
the sudden image of his father hiding in the darkness, waiting to catch him.
then, as his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he noticed
the thin shafts of light breaking through the cracks in the roof tiles above his head. he
saw the old boxes piled up against the water tank; the words printed across the sides.
goodmans. golden apples. bells.
easing himself up into the attic, he balanced his way
across the beams towards the boxes. placing the clock on the water tank, he began to lift
the top three boxes off the pile. old toys stared up at him, a grey teddy bear, action
figures with missing arms and legs, chewed up pieces of lego, scraps of paper, a crayon
picture of a small house with three stick people standing over it, with circles for faces
sand dots for eyes.
he opened the last box, slowly reaching in and taking
out each object, arranging them in a set order around him. a baking tray. an oven glove.
faded, half-torn books. a cardigan. an empty make-up bag smeared with powder and pencil
lines. a broken tube of lipstick. cassettes. a cheap plastic hairbrush. some old coins.
crouching down, he examined each object in turn,
running his fingers against the smooth curves of the tray, thumbing through the books,
reading over the same words, the coins dropping from one palm to another, the small stump
of bent, broken lipstick, rolled back and forth, gently moving against his thumb, the
warmth of the gloves. he breathed in the smell of the empty make-up bag, the same scent of
perfume he thought he could smell on the cardigan, his head buried in its folds, the arms
tucked around him.
by the time he looked up at the clock it was
mid-afternoon, but he stayed, crouched there in the darkness, for a few more hours, the
hairbrush in his hand, dragging the tender needles across the stubbled dome of his head,
making her up.