I’ve been umm-ing and ahh-ing about publishing this.
I thought about the story a long time ago, the way it would be introduced, some of the characters and scenes, the ending, etc.
It’s a really personal subject. It’s all true. And with that, it brings to the fore some distressing memories. But it’s a story I really wanted to get out.
Perhaps its cathartic. Perhaps I just can’t afford the therapy, and this will have to suffice.
Either way, I’m publishing …
My Strong Dad
My Dad’s bigger than your Dad.
I don’t care if he is a policeman, my Dad isn’t scared of your Dad; my Dad’s bigger. And stronger.
He was a catcher in a trapeze act in a circus. A real circus. You have to have really strong arms for that. Or else you drop people to their death. The clowns don’t like it when trapeze people die, because they have to do the cleaning up. They have buckets and a car and a ladder. The car always falls apart, so it’s not very useful for taking dead trapeze people to the hospital. My Dad never dropped no one. He’s very strong.
I went to the circus once. My Dad took me. I don’t remember Mum being there. Maybe she doesn’t like clowns; maybe she was in hospital again. My Dad wasn’t in the trapeze act that day; maybe he had a day off from catching people in his strong arms. Everyone should have a day off to take their son to the circus. And to rest their arms.
We sat at the front. The clowns saw my Dad and came over with a big bucket of water. They threw it over us, but it turned into small bits of paper, like magic. Everyone laughed. Even my Dad. He doesn’t usually laugh much. He shouts a lot because he’s big and strong.
When everyone was gone, the clowns came over to say hello.
‘Do you remember me?’ one clown asks, his smile not real, all fake paint.
I don’t. I’m scared, so I hide behind Dad. He’ll protect me. My Dad talks to the clown for ages, but he doesn’t laugh now, even though it’s a clown. No magic bucket.
I got a balloon. Dad didn’t buy it, someone gave it to me as a present. It’s the biggest balloon I’ve ever had, with a face painted on and everything. It bounces up and down on my string. When we get outside the wind blows it out of my hand, the string was too thin for me to catch, and it floats away. Really high. Freedom.
Dad shouts at me, and I cry. I’m never going to the circus again. It’s the worst place ever, I don’t care.
Dad is very scary when he shouts. He didn’t shout on the last day. Mum took me to see him and he was living in a room by himself. It was dark in the room. Under the bed was a box, a present. I remember it was Christmas but it wasn’t a Happy Christmas like it says on the cards. He gives me the box and says ‘Open it.’ Mum tuts because it’s not wrapped, and I say ‘It’s ok, I don’t mind’ thinking that Dad might take it away because he’s angry. It was a Sooty and Sweep puppet. That was the last gift I ever received from my Dad.
Mum got more than me. I know, because Dad said she asked for it.
I was five.
I was playing in the living room, and Dad was asleep on the sofa. I don’t know why he chose to sleep there instead of in the big bed, but I kept quiet like Mum told me. I didn’t want to wake Dad up. Then the doorbell rang and Mum had to answer it. It was a salesman and Mum needed to speak to Dad. She woke him, and he was angry about that. He told her the salesman had to go, but when she said that to the salesman, he said he really must to talk to my Dad. And so Mum had to insist with Dad.
And that’s when it happened.
Dad hit Mum in the face. With his strong fist. He broke her nose.
Then he threw her to the floor, really hard. Of course she’s screaming like a banshee by now, and that would easily scare a five year old; that was me, a scared and confused child, wondering what was going on between the characters in my tiny world.
Mum had one of those old Singer sewing machines, with the heavy oak and iron stands. Heavy. Deadly in the wrong hands. In strong hands. In Dad’s hands.
Mum was backed into the corner of the room, and Dad easily hefted the great bulk, not really needing both strong arms to lift it, and it toppled, the Singer tipping out of its frame, the deadly weight on its journey of destruction. Destination Mum’s face. Mum’s already broken face.
And whichever guardian angel was looking down at that time, we will never know.
The Singer caught in its frame, the frame scratched against the skirting board, enough friction to stop the attack. Death won’t be knocking today. Your services are not required. Move along.
Mum grabbed the opportunity. ‘I need to get Howard ready for school’ her trembling voice pleaded.
‘I’ll get him dressed.’ Dad’s angry voice.
‘I’ll do it, he needs me.’
‘I said I will get him dressed.’
‘It’s ok, I can do my own buttons and laces; I’m a big boy now.’
‘Let me do it.’ More trembling; more pleading.
I don’t remember for how long the stalemate continued. All I can recall is it being over. For good.
My Dad’s stronger than your Dad. I don’t care if he is a policeman, my Dad isn’t scared of your Dad; my Dad’s bigger. And stronger.
And a fucking coward.
And wherever you are, whatever rock you have crawled under, I hope you rot in hell.
You’re not a man, and you’re certainly no Dad of mine.