Here’s my first attempt at flash fiction – very pleased that it was longlisted in the quarterly Flash 500 competition.
I became a man when I answered the phone one evening. The babysitter panicked and called mum. When she got home I was writing a letter on my bedroom floor.
He didn’t write back. We talked on the phone instead.
When my teacher asked me why I hadn’t done my homework, I said, “I have a dad now.” I told anyone who’d listen. I thought I’d feel normal but it was better than that. I felt like an explorer.
It was funny flying without leaving the country. EastEnders was starting when we took off and it was still on when we landed. The airplane lady called me a brave young man.
I met dad at the airport. He didn’t look like my dad. But that’s not how I thought of it at the time; I needed to look more like his son. I thought that was how you became a man, by becoming your father’s son.
So when mum called me on the ride home, I swore at her and I made sure dad and his friend would hear it in the front, and they did and they laughed and I thought I’d made dad proud.
So I ate three Weetabix, not two.
I swore between breaths.
I sat on the floor playing video games until morning in a room thick with smoke.
I imagined that my BB gun was real when I fired it from a seventh-storey walkway at strangers below.
I convinced myself that I wanted to do these things just because I could.
Like sitting and watching DVDs of things you see on television all the time. Soaps and that. Only with DVDs, you can watch things back-to-back so it uses up more of the evening and there aren’t even ad breaks for conversation.
All week it was dad and me with his friends or the TV. I didn’t mind; we’d have our time later. Besides, I liked showing people that I had a dad now. That I’m normal. And normal people don’t interrupt EastEnders to ask, ‘why?’
So here I am, stuffing the last ten years back in my suitcase and zipping it tight. In go the countless questions I’ve wanted to ask but haven’t. There’ll be time for them later. And when I get back and shut myself in my room for a week and don’t speak to anyone and he stops calling at the usual time and we move house and I lose his number and I eventually stop caring, I’ll be ok.
Because I’m a man.