I knew he’d grown up when the questions stopped. He knew what all the words meant, where the dead went, why mummy left.
Then he left home too. No tears, just farewell.
So, I sit by the window asking myself – where did they both go? My family and the years.
He pinned Isaac to the cold floor, restraining him with wax-coated ropes, the boy’s mouth gagged with an old t-shirt to stop the screaming. He raised his sharpened peeling knife and prayed he’d forget that look in his boy’s horrified eyes. But God didn’t stop him – and he never forgot.
In the small dark hours of morning, an incongruous cold March wind whistling eerily through the vents, I forget about this project. I forget about fifty words. I remember the important things in life that matter more as you grow uncomfortably older.
Then daybreak comes and I remember to forget.
My wife left, saying I was an unmanageable child. I don’t think she’s coming back. So don’t bother turning up at my house this year. There’s nothing I want and the kids are staying with their grandmother. If you appear, I’ll probably be drunk and floor you.
By the time you read this I will be gone.
Whatever they say about me, know this – I loved you without exception.
Tonight, as I cradled you and rocked you to sleep, I believed in angels.
Be a better man than I was. Spend it wisely my son.
Words terrify me. Their power and immediacy. Will you marry me? Changing everything. Just an articulation of speech. I do. Words transforming worlds. Like a head on collision. It’s a girl. Easier than falling from a great height. I don’t love you anymore.
So, I just say nothing these days.
I was born the son of a circus owner. Dwarves, clowns and tamed bears were my childhood playfellows. A mute giant taught me to juggle fireballs. Tallulah the fortune-teller siphoned away my innocence. Then the ring-master thrashed me with the lion whip and I ran away. Now I’m an accountant.
It had been nine years. He never expected to see Billy again.
He passes prison security and waits. Billy appears. Worn, altered. Older.
Silence. Then: “Thanks for seeing me. Before…too late.”
Hesitation. Then: “Thank you for putting me here, Dad. I understand. Finally.”
They embrace for the last time.