• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 11


Numb-toed and goosebumped, I'm killing two birds, hooked by the strains of an antique melody washing over the last of the outbound lighters and fetching water for the heel-dug moats ringing the crumbling conical bastions on the sands behind.

My father took the shot without calling out. Looking up from the lit cigarette, he saw me for the first time as something other than the pawing, needy child. Something unfettered in the sure stride and swinging bucket. Confident. Curious. Apart. That paternal epiphany that doesn't come in slow, comprehending measures but hits you like a speeding car while you're rooted to the broken whites in the centre of the road, wondering which side you should leap for. Looking out from the water's edge, I was sizing up the widening world on my own. Sensing the significance of the moment, my father reached for the camera, aching to know what I thought of it.

He took the shot and we gave it pride of place. Foxed and faded, it keeps that place still: the first picture past the open door to the lives and memories of my own family. Its story enchanted the woman I always knew I'd marry. It conveyed to each of our children all the fascination and pride we felt in watching them grow and thrive on their own watches. Above all, it brought everyone who walked a stretch on my independent path closer to a loving father who was gone long before I first asked the A-line-skirted girl of my dreams to dance.

Sometimes the consequence of a lie justifies the deceit in telling it. Think back on all those parableized remembrances, all those mollifying little fictions, seeding and watering happiness and constancy where their opposites had no rightful place.



Stick with the misery that marks your time and it'll course through everything and everyone that follows on like a poison.

My father never looked far enough out from the end of his cigarette to notice the sure stride or the swinging bucket. He caught a lucky frame toying idly with the shutter, chain-smoking through the tedious hours before the trip back to the unloved sow heavy with the millstone of another useless mouth. I'd gone down to make my pathetic stand in the shallows in the vain hope he'd drop by to flick his ash alongside or at least bellow from the wind break for me to turn around or watch where I went, but he'd long ago crossed to his chosen side of the broken whites and none of us were on it. He missed his epiphany, cursing at the languid cycles of his wristwatch.

The accidental shot is the extent of my connection to my father and I chose to stop the flow of misery for all time in that sad and hopeless frame. The uncomprehending loneliness of the unrequited child exists only in the picture now, wetting the cheeks of a face no-one can see.