- Vol. 05
- Chapter 05
My father liked to collect things. Strange things. Weird objects and forgotten about artifacts that only another sucker would be interested in. He loved taxidermy and took it up in his early retirement. Stoats, squirrels and the odd hare stared back at me, dead-eyed, from every corner of the living-room. My mother would kick up a fuss and tell him to store them somewhere else, preferably in the attic, where we couldn’t see them. But my father wasn’t one to listen, and soon his stuffed collection grew, incorporating voles, foxes and even a heron. I asked my mother if we could store them in the spare room instead but I could see the lines of defeat etched heavily into her face and knew the battle had already been won. She died a couple of weeks later and I noticed my father’s stuffed collection remained unchanged. There were no other additions to the plethora of animals currently occupying our living-room which left me pleasantly surprised. Perhaps he had finally given up on his unhealthy collection. The house seemed oddly empty with my mother gone. She wasn’t a loud person but she had an opinion on practically everything and loved to air her thoughts on the Prime Minister’s decisions, the rising cost of supermarket produce and Ms Forde’s new fancy man. On this latter subject, she was particularly vocal, and once subjected my father to a weeks’ worth of evenings of idle tittle-tattle. Now, my father preferred to be by himself and often holed himself up in the spare bedroom which doubled as his private study. I wasn’t sure what he did in there nor what could take up twelve hours of his time every day but I needed to find out. I finished my Shakespeare assignment in record speed and re-heated yesterday’s leftovers which was half of a pepperoni pizza, and waited for my father to re-emerge. I didn’t have to wait too long before he stumbled into the kitchen clutching his mouth, rivulets of blood seeping through his fingers.
‘What the fuck?’ I pushed back from the table and stood as my father did a double take, hurrying to get back to his study. Thankfully, I’m a lot younger and fitter, and reached the study before he even made it halfway up the stairs. I pushed open the door and stared at his latest collection: moulds of false teeth, their gums red as berries, teeth like shiny pearls, propped open by twigs. And there in the centre were teeth I recognised, teeth which always had an opinion on something, and beside it were three adult teeth, recently pulled out. I didn’t want to stay with this creepy collection any longer so I hurried from the room in search of my father and found him lying at the bottom of the stairs passed out from the blood loss, his mouth an unsightly mess. And there, clutched in his hands, were the pliers; the pliers that were now mine.