I close the front door and dump my bag. The house is quiet. I start to push open the living room door, but I can already smell his scent, hear his sighs. I close the door again and go up to my room.
He spends most of the evening in the bathroom. When he comes out he announces that he’s washed his hair and had a shave like it’s a major breakthrough. I nod and smile, still falling for his bouts of exuberance.
I’m going to get things moving this week, he says. Finish clearing out the studio then I can get started on that shoot I’ve been wanting to do.
The first time he mentioned it, an image sprang into my mind. It was full of colours and shapes and endless possibilities. I didn’t even care if he wasn’t getting paid, just that it was something to go on, for him and us. But the image was fading, like a sunbleached print.
And then I’m going to call some galleries, he continues and I want to tell him to stop talking. Just stop talking.
The next day I come home and he’s slumped in the chair again. He mumbles something about staying up late. There’s half a bottle of whisky on the floor and empty packets of crisps. I look at him and the mess of old videos lying infront of the TV and I want to shove him off the chair.
A while later, I hear him moving about downstairs. I listen to the kettle boiling then his footsteps plodding towards the backdoor and I will him to break convention. I long for the sound of furniture moving, equipment being assembled, music, a phone call, anything. But all I hear is the backdoor open and shut and the scraping of the patio chair.
I go downstairs and sit in the living room. I switch the TV on, think about what mum would say if she was here and who would blow up first. Then he’s back in again. Smoke follows him like a dank cloud and his eyes have that funny shiny look.
Aren’t you getting on with sorting stuff out, I ask; for your shoot. He swats the idea away as he slides into the chair. It’s too late today. Start fresh tomorrow.
I dig my thumb into the buttons, navigating the void of kid’s after-school shows and daytime TV.
Deadliest Catch, that’s not half bad, he says. You wouldn’t believe the size of the things they pulled out in the last one.
We watch together, father and son, as men called Rick and Wade battle the foamy seas in the final hours of Alaskan crab season.
Alex is a freelance proofreader and behind-the-scenes museum worker. When he’s not burrowing through basement stores or looking after his two spirited little girls, he occasionally finds the time to write. Words have been published by the likes of Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine and Reflex Fiction. @alexrankin7 alexjrankin.com