The Fifes Go On Holiday

IMG_4732
Florida, U.S.A. 2017.

“Kids, your mother and I have something we need to tell you.”
Peter paused. He relished the tension reflected in the eyes of his three children and forced himself not to grin as he took a deliberate sip of tea. Susan, his wife, sighed and squeezed his shoulder.
“Come on Peter, you’re being cruel.”
“Yeah papa!”
“Yeah, what’s going on?”
Peter giggled as his youngest child Frank frowned up at him. He patted his son’s head and Frank responded by kicking him in the shins. Peter’s smile didn’t shift as he knelt down and grabbed the back of  Frank’s head, pressing their noses together.
Without breaking eye contact with Frank he said “Kids. We’re going on holiday.”
Frank gasped. Susan grinned. Martha, the eldest, spoke quietly, “Wh-where are we going pa?”
Peter looked up at his daughter.
“Oh. I think you know.”
A penny dropped and the kitchen exploded. Martha screamed and shoved her fist in her mouth. Sally, the middle child, squealed then slammed her head into the dining table. She immediately fell to the floor. Frank gently placed his hands on either side of his father’s face and kissed his forehead.
“Thank you father.”
Peter nodded solemnly then stood back up. His wife, leaning against the sink, wiped a tear from her eye. Peter smiled at her, she smiled back and they embraced. Their lips locked and tongues slipped happily into each other’s mouths. They stayed this way until the room fell silent once again.
Sally stood back up, wobbling slightly. There was a slip of blood down the side of her forehead and she was smiling.
Peter sat down at the head of the table and gestured for his children to do the same. Susan turned to the sink and on her tip toes pulled a small velvet pouch from the cupboard above it. She opened the bag and placed three thin black objects into her husband’s waiting hand. If there was any excitement left in the room it immediately dissipated. Tension returned and Martha whined.
“Ma this is no fair, I was up last time.”
“It is fair young lady, you know this is how we do it. We are all equal.”
Martha crossed her arms and frowned. Peter slammed his fist on the table and threw her an accusatory finger.
“None of that attitude miss. I mean it.”
Martha uncrossed her arms and shoved them in her pockets. Peter did not put down his finger. He pointed to each of his children in turn.
“We are a family. One unit. One body.”
The children in unison repeated, “One unit. One body.”
“Exactly.”
Peter put down his hand. Carefully, so the children couldn’t see what he was doing, he covered the three objects with his fist, leaving only their top halves exposed.
“Alright children. Everyone choose a straw.”

The Fife’s basement was as large as it was clean. Which is not to suggest either. Most of the area was shut off due to a flooding earlier that year, except for a raised tiled island in its centre. Above that dangled a lightbulb and below it a flat metal bed. There Frank lay with his father standing beside him. Peter was in front of a wooden bench, rearranging objects unseen to Frank.
“Can’t I just do this next time, I’ll be bigger then.”
“I’m sorry Frank, you drew the short straw.”
“Are you sure?”
Peter chuckled. “Of course I’m sure.”
The basement echoed with the sound of metal scratching against wood. Frank wriggled restlessly.
“Can I have the oxy Dad?”
“No son.”
“But please.”
Peter sighed and turned to his son, “I’m sorry Frankie but we’re almost out. We have to save at least a little for the trip.”
“Aw come on, just a bit.”
Peter placed a hand on his little boy’s cheek. Frank pouted and Peter chuckled.
“God forgive me I can’t say no to a face like that. Here you go son.”
Peter pulled a small glass vial filled with white powder from his shirt pocket. Frank grabbed it greedily, twisted off the top and carefully tapped a pile onto the wooden bench. As he bent over to rail the line his father laughed and tousled his hair.
“That’s enough now son. Let’s get this sorted or we’re going to be late.”
Frank turned back to his dad. His eyes were half closed, his mouth smiling and his nose powdered. He laid his head back down on the headrest behind him.
“We’re going to have fun aren’t we Dad?”
“We sure are son, we sure are.”
Little Frankie closed his eyes and his father lifted his right leg. He placed a two-by-four underneath his son’s shin and from the bench behind him he pulled a claw hammer.
“I love you son.”
“I love you too Dad.”
Peter pushed a stray hair behind Frank’s ear, leant down and kissed his forehead. He looked so much like his mother, he thought to himself before reaching over and flicking on a nearby radio. ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee filled the room.
Peter sighed and rolled his shoulder’s back. He smiled.
Upstairs Susan, Martha and Sally sat around the kitchen table. Sally was six spaces away from the end of Chutes & Ladders and things were tense. The three tapped their feet along to the beat coming from downstairs.

When little Frankie woke up, it was to paradise. ‘Despacito’ thumped loudly but there was no basement anymore, only sunshine. His head felt heavy and though it was an effort he tried to lift himself. A large soft palm pushed him back down and Frank welcomed his father’s smiling face into his vision.
“Morning Pa.”
“We’re here Frankie.”
Frank blinked and his eyes focused. Bright colours and blurry shapes became roller coasters, became people, became music, fun and happiness. A disembodied mouse’s head leered down at him from every available surface.
They had made it.
Frank laughed without meaning to. He could see his sisters running ahead, his mother chasing gleefully after them. He was moving forward. No. He was rolling forward.
Peter pushed along his wheelchair bound son with care. He slowed down as a group of children ran in front of them and took time to avoid any cracks in the pavement. When they reached the first line for the first ride the pair looked at each other and scoffed. Peter’s wife put an arm in the crook of her husband’s and one of Frank’s sisters sat on his lap. Together the Fife family laughed and laughed and moved straight to the express lane for the disabled.
Little Frankie smiled and fell back into unconsciousness.

Interstate-95

Georgia, U.S.A. 2017.

There is nothing in my mind that is worth repeating
nothing worth keeping
sky green
and ground in between.
Driving a circular highway
lined by things unseen
Keeping me safe
Keeping me sound
sky green and ground
in between.

Spending money because that’s what I’m told to do
Pretending I’m trying because that’s what I’m told to do
‘What’s your plans for next year?’
because you’re currently not enough.
Not enough to trust
that you’re trying enough.
Not enough to trust
with the future I’ve raised for you.
And it’s true.
I’m not.

Apples wrapped in plastic
pass us one from the back seat
as we drive this circular highway
surrounding either side of our minds.
Things unseen.
Things unsaid.
The apples are marked with a sticker saying ‘red’
like the messages in my head
that I send myself in my sleep.
Apples wrapped in plastic
because it’s easier to stay fresh
than it is to grow
easier to stay fresh
than it is to grow
excessive waste and stale taste
biting my tongue
as I talk in my sleep
about things I don’t
repeat.

sky green

and ground

in between

marked by exits on this highway
blocked by roadworks and signs on the wrong side of the road
that we drive by
that we keep driving by
keeping myself repeating
nothing worth