Posted on September 18, 2015September 18, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair9.18.2015 Journal Prompt Image from The Summer of 42 September 18, 2015: When he returned… Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Mum has a sewing class one evening a week and the church committee meeting on another. She marks the days on the calendar so dad’ll know not to arrange anything. Dad has me to look after then. He says how it’ll be a lads’ night in and he winks at me and he says we can watch whatever we want on the tv and we can get popcorn in, the sweet kind. And outsized bottles of Coke. And we’ll just kick back and be ourselves.
It isn’t always like that, though. Dad sometimes pops out, after mum has left. At first he made excuses, like he had to get something from the store or he’d forgotten something at his work or he needed a quick word with someone. He leaves me sitting in front of the tv, with popcorn and coke, more than I can eat and drink, and he says I’m to open the door to no one and not to answer the phone.
When he comes back, dad smells funny and he’s got a little colour in his face, like he’s been running, and he says he’s sorry that it took longer than he thought it would. I know not to tell mum that he’s been out and he slips me extra money and he says it’s so I can get myself something I don’t need. And he winks again, this time like it’s our secret.
He thinks I don’t know. He thinks I’m too young to know. But I’m not. Like this one time mum was out and the phone rang, and dad answered. He said he’d take it upstairs. I listened in and there was this lady’s voice talking to my dad and saying how she missed him and couldn’t he come over, and she said she was undoing the buttons of her dress and maybe by the time he got there all the buttons’d be undone and she’d be wearing nothing but a smile.
I recognized the voice on the phone and it didn’t take much thinking to work out what was what. Dad was doing it with Mrs Arnley at the library – Chrissy. She’s pretty as apple blossom and she’s got legs that go on forever and there’s plenty as take out a library book and they don’t read ‘em but taking ‘em out so they can collect another one of her smiles – her name’s Chrissy and it says that on a badge pinned to her left breast.
Billy Tallis says he saw her left breast once, swears it, on his little sister’s life and his sister’s only got one leg so Billy swearing on her life is something sacred so it must be true – saw the whole of it, he says, and the nipple, too. He rubs his finger and thumb together as if that means something. Says she was leaning forward to pick something from a low shelve and it nearly jumped out of the front of her dress and Billy could see it. Like the full moon and it comes out from behind a cloud. He said it was the nearest thing to heaven he’d ever been. My dad’s been a lot nearer, judging by what Mrs Chrissy Arnley said on the phone that time, promising my dad the moon and the stars and everything under ’em; and dad’s happy as Larry when he comes back, all smiling and blowing air, and he settles himself in his chair pretending like he’s been there all evening so mum won’t know.
Billy Tallis has got pictures of men and women with no clothes on. He tore ’em out of the pages of a magazine he found hid in his dad’s bedroom. He showed ‘em to me – shows ‘em to all the boys and charges ’em for it. Billy says he’s like the man and the woman underneath is like Chrissy Arnley. I tell Billy that he aint the man and he never would be. He says ‘fuck you’ and he takes back his pictures and folds ‘em into his back pocket. ‘What would you know?’ he says.
I don’t say. I don’t say about the phone call, and how the man doing it with Chrissy Arnley is probably my dad, just like I don’t let on to my dad that I know where he goes on the evenings when mum’s at church meeting or sewing class.