Men of the House

In the public house with a broken heart, the old imitation oak table in the cramped corner has cracks which are starting to show and no amount of spit and polish will mask these scars. You long for the days of ash and smoke. Not to partake of that particular poison yourself as it was never one of your vices (although there were many others) but because you wish for a thick sulphuric cloud to come between you and them – these grey, gaunt, ghosts of a future yet to come if you let it. This is what will happen if the hope dies.

The silences are always awkward, so you deal the cards from a well-thumbed pack of safe subjects. Football. You ask them the score but you already know the answer. You all bent your backs so far back for each other that every bone must be broken in more than one place by now. And every argument has already been had again and again, so there’s no need to open those rusty old Pandora’s boxes any more.

The food arrives as bland as the conversation – meat thin and tasteless, bread old and stale. The waiter asks if everything is okay and you have no words left to answer him with. The beer helps to make you numb, so drink fast and order another. Another. But be careful, for should you consume too much the truth may come wriggling through your chapped lips whether you want it to or not and that is something that they have never been able to understand.

You can’t wait to leave that place and put some distance between you and the family ghosts who haven’t yet realised that they’re already dead – the men of the house. For when you cease to dream, to hope, what life is there left for you? As you leave alone, the door sighs in relief behind you and every step on the way home becomes quicker than the one which preceded it, until a walk turns into a desperate run. It’s not the first time that you’ve run away and it won’t be the last.

Flinging open the front door, you climb the stairs to your daughter’s room and try to fight down the fear that tells you that she may not be there any more. She is. So hold her, this beacon of light with her bright blonde hair – hold this warm reminder that all hope hasn’t been lost – not yet, anyway. Hold her close. Closer. And never let go.

Copyright © 2015 Philip Craddock. All rights reserved.

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