One morning, early, he awoke for what he thought was the usual day. It was that late January morning where you can’t tell if you’ve woken up too early or too late. Either way darkness and the dull, orange hue of the lamp-posts are all that pierced that particularly dark dawn.
He was in the ethereal space being unsure if he was awake, asleep or where reality dwelt at all. ‘Time to go, come on’, was the command from his brother. He’s more riled than usual, and why’s he getting me up; he should mind his own business. He grabbed his shirt, where it hung from the bunks that housed his younger brothers, like a poor 1950s movie attempt at a ghost.
His mother stared at him agog. ‘What in the name of God are you doing?’ cried she. ‘What? Sure it’s not a non uniform day’. She sighed and seemed teary. Only now did he truly look about him to see what’s what, shaking off the morning drudgery and the adolescence. The clock read 515, it was definitely darker than he thought it should have been for the time he usually rose.
‘This has nothing to do with school’ laughed his mother. They all laughed and he felt quite foolish now in his uniform even if he still had no idea what was happening. ‘We have to go, a stor’ she said with more pain in her throat than usual, he thought.
Away they went in the car, all six, well six of seven. Events at home had led to these six being all. The seventh, his Dad, had been on the outside for some time. Living a pseudo life of passing through the house like a ghost salesman filling the house with fear that they may have to engage with him.
This had finally come to a head in one big crescendo of vitriol, spite and slurred words. All whilst Rob and his brothers slept. Well, his older brother was awake, as was his mother. Two warriors trying to be a buffer for the younger ones. Between their father’s malevolence and them. In years to come such a moment would be acknowledged, but right now all that existed between was the fear of unknowing what was to come at all.
Rob always looked young, but looked younger this dark morning, his boyish features enhanced by the vulnerability overriding all. What a sight they must’ve been, to the guards especially, driving around at four am with two young las in front. His mother switched seats, and rightly so. Too late however, they were being flagged down.
The flashlight followed the neon blue of the sirens that brought them to a halt. They were victims of fear, yet felt afraid to betray the patriarch all the same. He bought their somewhat mumbling tale of being at it early this morning guard. Realistically they wished he hadn’t.
He found himself back at home, dizzy from all the loops the car had made. Wheels turning the only sound as they pondered where life was headed exactly. He had always been the go-between, so he thought this could work. Maybe he could reach his father, who seemed lost in the abyss of booze-induced rage and ire.
The phone didn’t ring as long as he would have liked. ‘Hello? What the hell are yee cowards at?’ ‘I could ask you the same Dad! Do you see anything wrong with your family driving around in the freezing, dirty January morning, and you sitting at home somehow feeling wronged?’. Silence filled the line between them. Sensing his advantage Rob pressed on; ‘What do you want for us?’
His father floundered for the first time, but the booze soaked demons refused to let their hooks loose. He went back on the carousel of resentment and self obsessed wrongs that override a mind bedraggled from alcohol and self-hatred. ‘Yee can go to hell, it’s my house and I’m going nowhere.’ Things were coming to a head.
The courts had got them back home, and quickly. His Dad was gone to his haven; the snug. They got the locks changed and just as the locksmith lurched out of the estate, the grey staggering silhouette of his drunken father sidled into view. Into the house he went, assured that his Dad would see sense and start to reflect on where he had ended up. Why he was assured, on reflection, was a mystery, perhaps born out of that redemptive love a child has for a parent. Misplaced this time.
Back at the bunks again, his shirt from that morning still languishing on the sleek wooden floor. The rest were looking out other windows, similarly trapped in their own world of fear and panic. He looked out the window to see what was what. An icy, irrational panic gripped his soul as he peered out the upstairs window. His father was staring back at him, halfway up a ladder, a look of murder flashing across his face.
Blind panic overrode all. Rob took off like a scolded cat. He didn’t get far. His shirt which mocked him at the crack of down, now brought him crashing down with a thump and a thud. As if bound by their singular hurt, his father was down too. ‘How do you feel so alone and vulnerable in a housing estate?’ he wondered.
His father looked up at his second son, looked down at the wet gravel under him, that the booze insulated him from and any level of introspection evacuated his bound mind. All the bitterness, rancour and malcontent rose within to a singular point. No way back from this now. He staggered to his feet, a twisted look of venom across his creased face. ‘They’ll have a job to stop me, I’ll tell you that.’