Today’s Sharing Sunday piece is by last week’s Fully Awake Dreamer, Tom, I hope you enjoy it! He doesn’t need much introduction other than he’s awesome and his writing is awesome. Enjoy!
[Thursday, January 15 2009]
Logan waves a hand in front of his father’s face.
Frank stirs and rolls his head to the side. ‘What’s …? Where are we?’ he slurs.
‘It’s all right, Dad,’ Logan says. ‘Just gonna put you to bed.’
Frank’s eyes open. He’s on his back. Wide-eyed, he stares at Logan.
‘Relax,’ Logan says. ‘We’re almost there.’
‘Bed?’ Frank asks.
Frank wiggles an elbow. His fingers brush the edges of something cold and metal.
Logan laughs. ‘God, you’re a state.’
The noises Frank makes are unintelligible. He drifts back to sleep.
Logan shakes his head. ‘You know, you really shouldn’t drink so much.’
Building apprentices like Logan cut their teeth on the shitty tasks no one else wants. Logan never imagined his next job would be in his own backyard, or that he’d have to work alone to spare his father the cost of extra labour.
The workshop he is standing in is olden-styled, made of brick, and was Frank’s first big project when they’d moved in. Right now, it is in shambles. Logan always knew the tilting palm in their yard would be trouble. He’d begged Frank to cut it down. At least it was the workshop, and not a family member, that broke its fall.
Logan inspects his work so far. He is close to finishing. The replacement wall is taller than he is. Without a crew or pulley, he must go up and down the ladder many times to complete it. It’s fortunate the workshop’s walls are veneered and not load-bearing.
Everything’s looking good, level. He shouldn’t need his masonry saw.
Logan steers his broom around a mountain of leftover bricks. His father has no aptitude for numbers and had grossly overestimated the materials needed for this job.
Logan paces in the kitchen, scrolling through the contacts on his mobile phone.
Aunt Lydia answers on the third ring. She shares with him an anecdote about leaving her groceries on the bus. ‘Look, darl,’ she says, finally. ‘I know why you’ve called, but it’s not going to happen. What she needs is a good rest.’
‘I understand, but can’t I just—’
‘No. It’s not a good idea.’
Logan hears a familiar voice in the background.
‘Is that …? Give me the phone.’
‘But you know what the—’
‘I want to talk to my son!’
There is silence on Lydia’s end. Logan supposes her hand is clamped around the mouthpiece.
‘Logan? Are you there, honey?’
The sound of her voice disarms him.
‘Hi, Mum,’ he says. ‘Have you … How are you feeling?’
‘Okay. I’m doin’ okay. Well, Lydia’s driving me mental, but that’s hardly a new development. Beats being crowded by nurses and I suppose the food’s a little better.’
Logan smiles. ‘Look, Mum.’
‘I want to come home,’ she says.
Logan slumps over the counter. He was afraid of this.
‘I know, I know,’ she continues. ‘I’m gonna do it – divorce him, I mean. I just need more …’
Logan doesn’t say anything.
She huffs. ‘I don’t like leaving you there. With him. But look, it’s not all bad. Lydia says she can get me work in Brisbane. Fresh start would be good, don’t you think?’ She falls silent a moment, then reiterates her stance. ‘I’ve got to come home. I have to have this out with Frank.’
Logan says okay. He tells her he loves her and that he’ll support her no matter what. When he hangs up, his strength is depleted. He’s not sure what Eat, Pray, Love shit she’s been reading, but it’s clouded her judgment. She knows what Frank is like. She knows – has to know – that confronting him is a bad idea, that it is practically suicide.
Logan rises to the tips of his toes. From the cupboard, he brings down a small box.
When it’s free of its protective cardboard, Logan places it on the counter. It is the family’s seldom-used pestle and mortar.
Logan looks in the family’s bathroom cabinet. Residue has congealed on the lid of Frank’s foot-fungus cream; the family’s tube of toothpaste – a brand-less, discount variety – has been flattened and coiled so that the end resembles a tail; a deodorant can, featuring a silhouetted bikini girl, is perched at eye level on the centre shelf.
Logan reaches in for his mother’s prescription sleeping pills.
Logan is in the kitchen when he hears his father’s ute pull up. Frank’s shift ended at five but, as today was payday, Logan had known not to expect him until at least six-thirty. He hears work boots crunching over gravel. Soon, an outline appears in the frosted glass. Frank’s keys jangle as they hit the ground.
‘You …?’ Frank slurs as he stumbles in. ‘The hell you doing?’
‘Nice to see you, too,’ Logan says. ‘Just spent the entire afternoon fixing your workshop. But, nah, don’t mention it.’
‘Oi!’ Frank snaps. ‘Watch ya mouth.’ He slings his keys across the counter. ‘What are you skulking around the kitchen for?’
‘I wasn’t!’ Logan hates that he’s come across as indignant. ‘I finished the job a few hours ago. Just went to Doug’s for a few, and then, then I—’
Frank pinches the bridge of his nose. ‘For fuck’s sake,’ he says. ‘Be quiet. Make yourself useful and get your old man a beer.’
Frank crosses into the lounge room and slumps into his favourite chair. When at last he kicks off his boots, Logan exhales, suddenly aware he’d been holding his breath all this time.
‘Run you dog-cunt piece of shit!’ Frank says after twenty minutes of silence.
The outburst jolts Logan upright. He hates the international horse races.
‘Whoa, Dad.’ He fans downward with his palms. ‘It’s all right. Want another beer?’
Frank snaps his head around, nods and watches Logan disappear into the kitchen.
The channel changes and a re-run of Two and a Half Men begins.
When Logan returns, he places Frank’s beer in the centre of the coffee table. He realises his mistake at once and looks up, like a terrier that has defiled the rug.
Frank draws back his hand and clips him across the face.
‘Yeah, okay!’ Logan throws up his hands. He slaps down a coaster and corrects his mistake.
The table belonged to Logan’s late nana. Nana was very particular about coasters. Since her passing, Frank has become vigilant about their use, almost as though he expects her to materialise with a rolling pin in hand and a lesson to impart.
Frank returns to his sitcom.
On screen, Charlie tells a girl his interest in her has waned. She runs from his house, crying. Charlie quips to Alan about which of her body parts he’ll miss the most. The audience hoots.
Frank gives a rolling belly laugh.
Logan feels his blood go white-hot.
At the next ad, Frank, pacified by beer and television, turns to Logan. ‘So,’ he says, ‘heard anything from yer mother yet?’
‘Oh.’ Frank leans back and scratches his chin. ‘Thought you would’ve.’
‘I called Sunday. Nurses said it wasn’t a good time.’
Frank shakes his head, finishes his beer. ‘Bloody woman’s running the meter a bit. Does she think I’m made of money?’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘Watch ya mouth,’ Frank slurs. His threat is empty, a reflex.
‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t’ve …’ Logan stops himself.
Frank glares at him. ‘No! She shoulda known not to badger me about the mortgage!’ He shakes his head like he has suffered the mother of all injustices. ‘Sometimes, kid, you’ve gotta give ’em a tap. Only way they learn.’
He opens his mouth to say more, but Two and a Half Men resumes.
Logan opens the fridge and fishes out beers four and five. With a touch to his pocket, he moves to the sink and pours the contents of his sandwich bag into an open beer. When the crushed powder has dissolved, Logan follows Frank’s laughter to the lounge room. Instinctively, he hands his father a bottle with his left hand. Mid-gesture, he corrects himself, draws back the hand and offers instead his right.
Frank looks at him, his eyes narrowing. ‘The fuck? Give it to me.’
Logan thrusts the right-hand bottle in his face.
‘What’s wrong with that one?’
‘Wh— What?’ is all Logan can manage.
‘What’s wrong with that other drink?’
‘It’s …’ Logan searches, searches, falls through the trapdoor of his mind. He stumbles upon something. It’s stupid, but … ‘It’s stupid. You’ll laugh.’
‘Fucking numpty. Tell me.’
‘I’m superstitious,’ Logan blurts out.
‘I’m superstitious,’ he repeats. ‘I was screwin’ around on the site the other day.’ He paces himself, weaving the lie as he goes, building memories from nothing. ‘Like, I was under Johnny’s ladder and … This loose brick came outta nowhere. Almost took my head off, so now I’m superstitious.’
Frank laughs. Logan hadn’t expected a show of concern.
‘You’re an absolute kook,’ Frank says. ‘But what’s that got to do with the beer?’
‘Well, I read you’re only supposed to hand people shit with your dominant hand.’ Logan can’t believe his own drivel. ‘It’s, um, bad luck otherwise.’
‘Right,’ Frank says. ‘Fair enough.’ He snatches the spiked beer and throws it back.
Logan feels his throat tighten, but Frank goes right back to his show.
On screen, Alan, Berta and the girl from earlier take turns slapping Charlie across the face.
Logan laughs out loud.
Logan brings the wheelbarrow into the living room. Frank is slumped in his chair like some groggy fallen angel. Logan takes a swig of beer and sets it down on the coffee table. He doesn’t use a coaster; he’s done with those.
Logan waves a hand in front of Frank’s face.
Frank rolls his head to the side. ‘What’s …? Where are we?’ he slurs.
‘It’s all right, Dad,’ Logan says. ‘Just gonna put you to bed.’
With bent knees, Logan heaves the ninety kilo mass into the wheelbarrow.When the barrow is level, he turns it on its axis and steers it towards the back door. On the way, he bumps something – the coffee table.
The drink falls to its side. Extra Dry flows like magma.
The workshop is warm for this time of night. Cane toads croak and scuttle in the bushes outside.
By torchlight, Logan unceremoniously tips his father into the corner of the workshop. He lays Frank horizontally. The gap between Frank and the forthcoming wall is deliberately tight. Logan feeds Frank a scarf, wrapping it carefully around his pineapple-shaped head. The gag is a precaution; Logan can’t have Frank alerting the neighbours. He would bind his hands and feet, but it won’t be necessary. Even if Frank is able to coordinate, get to his feet, he will not reach the angle necessary to remove his gag, or kick, or apply any sort of pressure to that which encases him.
Since Frank has no friends, Logan isn’t worried about him being discovered. Frank’s work habits are erratic, no one will notice his absence until it is too late. Chances are they will blindly accept it, won’t even think to follow it up.
Logan lays an even course of bricks, thick with mortar. Then he measures, aligns and trowels them, just like his father had taught him. A level confirms the straightness of his work.
The wall gets higher and higher as the night goes on. Logan thirsts and aches, but will not stop for fear of his prisoner escaping. He knows this is irrational, but doesn’t trust to lower his guard.
On and on, Logan’s nightshift goes. Until at last the final brick has been laid.
About the Dreamer
Tom is currently studying Writing and Publishing at NMIT. His work has appeared in [untitled], INfusion, Vine Leaves, Inscribe and Crack the Spine. Check him out at his blog.