† I am riding in a car and my Dad is driving.
I am riding in a car and my Dad is driving. I look across at him, he is in a smart, black woollen suit, and no longer appears to be just staving off dishevelment.† He is clean and fresh, with a youthful air about him, no longer seeming tender, bloated and tired from the excesses of drink.
We are unfamiliarly communicative with one another, though it seems natural in this moment; we talk animatedly and laugh genuine laughter. I look out of the windows and, recognising the surroundings rushing past us, I ask where weíre going. We are on our way to my Mothers house in Milldale, which is surprising to me as when my parents divorced, it took my dad years before he would even drive on the same street where Mum and Bev lived at that time, and that house was less than two minutes from where we had lived as a family. And yet here we are, on the hour-long journey into the Derbyshire dales, to the quarter of a million pound, 5-bedroom house in the idyllic hamlet of Milldale. Does he know how well Mum is doing for herself?
I ask him whatís bought this remarkable turn around in his attitude and health. The words elude me now, although I remember him being remarkably honest about his problems. I want to remember, as at that moment a thousand years of guilt is lifted from my shoulders. He begins to pull over to the side of the road, explaining in words I canít see or feel in my memory that he has to kill me.
The car has stopped and as my Dad draws a shiny blade from his belt, I leap from the passenger side door, escaping the knife that flashes through my vision; the chase is on. I begin to run out, into the fields and valleys, pleading for my Dad to stop; that itís not necessary. I am running and running but never really putting any distance between my father and I. Running breathlessly for miles over the fields and valleys, looking back over my shoulder to see my dad hard on my heels. His body is trim and limber and he nimbly matches my speed over the varying terrain. Through deep, healthy gulps of air he is apologizing, saying heís sorry that it had to be this way.
I am struck by how similar he looks to me; we are both dressed in suits and it is like looking back at my own, personal death; an aged doppelganger, looking to usurp my place in youth.
Abruptly I come to an impasse; a frozen stream that once flowed up hill blocks my path. I look around desperately and see to my right that only other route forward is down a steep, rock-strewn incline. I begin to skid down the loose covering of black rubble. Itís quite deep, my feet sink down into it, and as I look down, I realise I am ankle deep in a sea of dirty, pebble-sized emeralds. I reach down and scoop handfuls of them to fill my pockets.
Suddenly I am at the bottom of the hill in a dried out riverbed. It to is covered in a rich carpet of gems. Blue ones hidden beneath their thick covering of dirt this time. I donít stop running, my father is still pursuing me, but I reach down when I can to pick up the blue gems from the floor. There are red ones too which I hastily stuff into my pockets, cramming the breast pocket of my shirt with handfuls of them as I turn out of the riverbed and find myself in a large auditorium.
A large audience has gathered for a screening of a film, seated in tiers that stretch up and away into darkness. My flustered entrance draws few attentions. I decide to catch the film and look for a seat.
Unbelievably, the place is full and the only two available seats are right next to each other in the corner on the first row. I sit down closest to the wall, shrinking into my seat to try and avoid the eye of my Dad. I watch as he bursts through the door, his teeth bared and his knife in hand. I am not so much scared as embarrassed; people will ask questions, try and get involved. I can see Dad has the same reservations as he stiffens up immediately upon seeing we are in a public space and walks stiffly towards me.
I lean across to the gentleman in the seat but one from me, he appears to be alone so I ask if he wouldnít mind sitting next to me, as my dad would like to sit down but he is trying to kill me, so Iíd like him to not sit so close. The stranger is more than happy to help, and quickly changes seats. He almost seems embarrassed that he waited for me to ask.
My dad sits down and the movie begins to roll. I canít be sure, but I think it is a kind of educational film on the dangers of excessive drinking, alcoholism and how to spot it. The film is engaging and I smile to myself at the irony.
Occasionally I look across at my dad. The light from the film is reflecting off his glasses, turning the lenses white and obscuring his eyes. His face is expressionless, I suddenly realise it has always been this way. His knife is still gripped in his hand, pushed out in front of him in plain view of everyone and he just sits there staring unflinchingly.
I settle down to watch the film and start to eat the gems from my top pocket as if they were candy. They donít really taste of anything, but theyíre there so I eat them. I offer some to the guy next to me, he looks at my hand and plucks some out, throwing them to the back of his mouth and munching on them greedily. Thank you he says, taking some more as do I, settling back to watch the film.††††