He sat staring morosely at the painted cream table top, with the sun's rays showing the worn patches, the scratches, & the awful green trim along the edge. It reminded him of the institution green paint. It was supposed to calm people it was said. That particular shade of green made him feel rather green, and also, rather angry.
He supposed the table top was from his mother's days in this house. Before she died. He wondered why his father hadn't got rid of it, or changed it. He wondered if his father even saw it these days. He looked at the little dent marks he had made with his pocketknife on day when his father was not home yet.
His gaze lifted to the smudged widow, the swipe marks where someone had tried to wipe it clean, but had only succeeded in smearing whatever it was, in arc. He glanced at the filthy curtains, the red & once-white check now grimed, & almost permanantly pleated with stiffness. He could remember the last time his sister had washed them, ironed them, & hung them back in the windows.
It was before he went away, & he was shocked to suddenly notice that the two little pot plants she had placed on the windowsill were still there. Brown skeletons, both of them, with dried soil now almost turned to concrete, or perhaps dust.
His vision shifted out the window, across the long grass, to the leaning stakes from old tomato plants. The overgrown & thigh high weeds which had overtaken the once neat vegetable garden.
He remembered weeding it, watering the vegetables, helping his father plant the new seedlings. That was three years ago now. He had been gone for a year. He had been home again for six months. If he could really call this home.
He looked at the plum tree, now stripped of most of it's leaves. He remembered the evenings in the early summer when they had lain beneath the magic of the cotton candy tufts of pink plum blossom. He remembered how they had talked for hours. Her long hair lying on the grass,Little petals of plum blossom, like confetti on her hair. Her easy laugh, their happy discussions of books they had both read. He had felt no one would love the books he liked, but she did. She seemed to see them, understand them with his understanding.
"Where the hell did you go last night?"
His father, standing in the doorway, his face wearing an expression as sour as his after-sherried breath. His eyes red, pouches of too many nights of drinking sagging under his faded blue eyes.
He turned to fill the jug, & turned on the element on the stove under the disgusting frying pan, which looked as if it might never have been washed. It seemed he lived on whatever food came out of that pan.
"I hope you didn't get stupid, & go making trouble at the girl's place. The old Lady doesn't need that nonsense, at her age."
"What makes you think I went there? I just went out for a run. I might play footy."
"Not with your build, your'e too slight. They want big buggers, the Maori boys would flatten you in the first five minutes."
"I might make those Maori boys my mates, then they wouldn't flatten me!"
Why did his father always have to make him feel worse about his size. Why couldn't he have inherited his father's height, not his mother's slight build. He could feel his face burning with the shame, the sense of inadequacy his father just had the knack to bring out. He wished his blond hair & white skin did not make his blushing so obvious. He felt a rage burn over him again.
"Do ya want some bacon? Eggs? May as well have some, seeing I'm cooking. What about a cup of tea, eh?" As if to soften the remark about his size.
His father didn't take milk in his tea, & he knew there was no milk in the fridge. The old man never remembered to buy it, & it rotted in the fridge when he did. He never forgot his sherry flagon though, as the stack of empties out the back testified.
"Nah. I prefer coffee."
"Well if you get a real job, you can buy your fancy coffee, can't you?". He put the hot water in the teapot, swirled it about, tipping it out and adding the tea leaves from the packet.
"Old man Purdy said I could help stack the hay in his shed today. He'll pay me."
"You can come & work with me. I can teach you house painting, you'd do ok."
"Dad, we both know it wouldn't work, me working with you. I piss you off too much. Besides there wouldn't be enough money. You knock off too early, to get into your piss every day."
The older man turned back to the frypan, flicking the fat over a couple of eggs. Pretended not to hear the last remark.
"Just stay away from that girl, I'm warning you. I don't want any more scenes like there were here that night. Understand?"
He waited a minute or so, dishing out the dripping eggs onto the fatty bacon, some dry bread & butter.
"What the hell were you thinking? I thought you were trying to kill her!"
"Let's leave it eh, Dad? I will see if I can get the mower going, & mow the lawn later this afternoon?"
"Please yourself. I don't care anymore."
He could see his father meant it. He seemed to have lost all care about the yard, the house, his life. It was a wonder he still had any jobs, but he was still regarded with some respect, even though he 'drank' and his only son had been sent 'away'.
Lenience was given, after all the poor man had lost his wife, in childbirth, when she was very young.
He still managed to work, he kept that much dignity.
This is so old it has a beard!!! It goes with the time of the story.