Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers' Day

So, what shall we do today, Old Man?

We could dig worms from the bank and put them in a jam jar and hold old half-broken fishing rods by the deep pools of the river. I could tell stories of how I used to catch fish by hand as a young fella, and how one day an eel caught me by the finger instead.

And what if it's too cold for standing by a river?

We could lift hay bales and feel the coarse, hard twine before it snaps at the touch of a sharp knife. I could throw the hay into the feeder and you could loosen it for the curious muzzles of the bullocks, nosing through the feed with their snaking tongues. I could tramp through the mud of the yard and grumble about landlords, kick the worst of the muck off at the lone tree. We could peer into the hollow in its side together at the robin's nest, empty now, but not long ago filled with hungry beaks that opened like inside-out umbrellas begging for food.

And what if the lone tree has fallen?

We could tug and pull at the cross-cut saw, sweating in flurries of sawdust. You could push too hard and bend the blade and I could worry and swear and we could go to the lane where the coal is left loosely. I'll shovel and you'll drop the bag or hold it open the wrong way looking at birds instead of concentrating.

And what if there's coal and timber enough in the house?

We could sit by the hearth and watch red-hot horsemen dance through the soot of the fireback, twist wire coat hangers into toasting forks and hang bread in front of the cinders. You'll scrape off the worst of the black where it's burned and I'll reach down the jam pot from the cupboard.

And what if the house has fallen?

You'll help me dig rows for potatoes in my new garden and pick colours for the walls of the new house. We'll plant a hedge and hang an iron gate and railings and paint a house number on a plaque and do a thousand other things.

And what if you tire of the new house?

We'll sit on bar stools and drink beers and speak in low voices about things between us. You'll look at me and notice the laughter lines and the roguish glint in my eye and we'll wonder where the time has all gone.

And what if the time has all gone?

You'll look at children and cats and dogs and green hills and purple mountains and all the things seen from your window and you'll remember how I loved them. And in the evening, you'll listen to the birds singing until nightime comes on and you're called to close the door.