Short story by Michael Botur
Dad used to take Sam out to the boundaries of their kingdom and point out particular hills which looked like boobs and bum cracks to make Sam giggle, while Sam swung through the shade of dad’s pillar-legs. Dad would toss his little trays of Seroquel and Prozac and Lorazepam in the tussock and Sam wouldn’t call him a Litterbug. It was their island kingdom and they could do what they wanted, except that Sam woke up one morning and realized Dad wasn’t cool, he was an embarrassment, and he was tired of Mum telling him to take it easy on Dad just because Dad’d rolled the quad bike and bopped his head on a stump.
Something about Dad just stank, and it’d taken Sam all of his life to notice, like the smell of burned toast from the kitchen wafting into the lounge. Some days Dad was Wild Hog, speeding, cooking huge feeds, giving out twice as much pocket money as he was supposed to; other days Dad was the Mild Hog and he spoke to Sam like Sam was just renting a room and he pissed with the toilet door open and sucked Mum’s neck while she was doing the dishes. They were both shitty conditions. Having no Dad would’ve been tonnes better.
He wasn’t allowed to say them words out loud, Wild Hog and Mild Hog, Mum said, even if Dad’s gaping five inch shorts made him want to scream. Sam made her some carvings of pigs in woodwork, and she put them in the high cupboard above the water heater, too tall for Dad to reach.
Dee’s old man called him “Little Sam” at work to distinguish from Sam’s dad and that pissed Sam off big time. He’d had cunts on Main Street call him Li’l Sam, not even trying to insult him, just casually saying it like it was legit, a fact, blue sky, brown grass, Little Sam. Mr Dee told Sam to get a haircut if he wanted to sell quality tractors to quality customers, told Sam he looked like Medusa and Bob Marley had had a baby, like his dreadlocks were unruly snakes. Sam tried to tune out while he was getting the lecture, thinking over something his dickhead dad had said one time, how when stuff’s difficult you can’t stop or slow down or go back, you’ve got to push through it, like on a motocross bike on the worst bumps you’ll ever go over, doesn’t matter how wobbly it gets, you’ve got to speed up and push through it. If you slow down, you’ll get weak, get shaken off.
‘You ain’t listening, I can tell,’ Mr Dee went, knocking on the deep green frame of a tractor with stinking new tyres with whiskers of rubber sticking up from them. The shop could be seriously boring on days when they were waitin for parts to come in, and all Sam did was dust and wipe fingerprints off glass.
‘I heard you,’ Sam went. ‘The thing about the bike.’
‘Listening, were we? Alright hot shot, howsabout a quiz: what’s the maximum amount of cash we can take, by law?’
Sam picked a dreadlock out of his ponytail and stroked it.
‘Go home. I don’t need you until Sunday. Ask ya dad if we accept drug money here at John Deere. I told him myself, not so long back.’ He took Sam out into the parking lot, said they could both use a break, let Sam have one of his tailies, and told Sam what it took to really hold down a career in the agricultural machinery industry. ‘It’s your chance to start afresh,’ he said, ‘Get away from all that up there.’ He poked his cigarette towards the hill where they could see the farmhouse.
After work, Sam poked the boss’s daughter, Dee, squatting in the bark chips under the fort at school, four in the afternoon after they’d finished eating their silent pies, the sun wobbling and fragmenting. He had a little smile on his face as he did it. Dee started shivering and chuckling and closing her eyes and pushed Sam’s hand away and tried to stroke his dreads, but Sam stood up and banged his head on the fort and shouted that he was gonna kill the prick and stomped off towards the kingdom on the hill, his sweaty feet squelching in his gumboots, his skin brown as the soil. He ate a couple of them pills, but they made his head feel soggy.
‘Can’t just quit because you ain’t liking it,’ Dad explained at the table. ‘Work’s like a marriage, it’s not the same as when it begins – no offence hon but none of us’s got a perky chest no more– ’
‘Eat your tea,’ Mum said.
‘ –but you’ve gotta just think of what it was at the start. Wobble through it.’
Sam couldn’t even hear him– Dad had a tongueful of stew and little brown bubbles were flying out onto the table and his nose was snuffling, all thick with tobacco residue.
Sam cleared his throat. ‘Yo, ah, Dad, when you go skiing, d’you take one pole or two? Like, are you a bi-pole-r kinda dude?’
‘I don’t get what you’re saying,’ Dad said, using his knife to press stew onto his fork. Sam could see his dad’s baggy throat working each chunk of meat down. ‘Our family doesn’t ski. Mum, you ski? Nah, no one skis in this family.’
Mum cleared her throat, put her elbows on the table and said, eyes downcast, ‘Where’s this going?’
‘Sorry Mum. Did you have a nice day? Get much eggs?’
‘Sam’s just stewing,’ Dad said, and Mum slapped his arm and put a finger over the laugh trying to pop out of her mouth.
Sam slid his stew away from him. ‘That’s seriously corny.’
‘So’s that.’ Dad jerked his thumb out the window towards the cornrows.
‘I wanna be excused.’
‘Your mum made this. Good tucker. Finish it for her sake.’
Sam stood up, fought to pull the lighter out the pocket of his skinny jeans, and clutched it while he raised his plate and drank the stew and burped and said, ‘Cheers mum,’ and kissed her before he shoved the ranchslider out of the way.
‘Where are you GOING?!’ Mum screeched, as if he had any options.
It was chilly outside and he rubbed his chest. He didn’t like wearing nothing but his motocross singlet and stubbies. Sam opened a can of beans and put a spoon in them and squelched up the hill to the woolshed where dad’s porno mags ended up, where Dad thought his plastic bags of twenty dollar notes tucked into the hay bales were a big secret, grunting, wondering if Dad was gonna yell something, lit up a joint and bullied it down his throat. Too many seeds in the drawhole, so he stomped the roach into the dirt. The little seeds could sprout, do their thing. It wasn’t like Dad would mind an extra plant – along the creek, where the native bush was sposda be holding the mudbanks together, every second plant was a big ol’ cannabis bush.
It was too hard slotting the bullets into the rifle, his eyelids were closing, so Sam practised a few dry shots from up the shed, scoping Dad from two hundred metres. Night was good, helicopters didn’t fly over at night searching for plants. The wallabies kept bouncing into the view of his kingdom, upsetting his aim. Sam was the prince, Mum was the queen. He could see Dad’s magnified legs inside the lounge, warm, well lit, glowing from the fireplace, but the only one who got up and walked about the kitchen, checking on her scones, coming within his scope, his blowing-away range, was Mum.
Sam only came along because he got a driving lesson on the way and Mum couldn’t teach him because she got too tense and cried sometimes and he felt mean. They pulled into one of them developments where they laid out all the tarmac months before they stuck the house piles into the concrete. Sam did some alright parallel parking and only stalled it once and that was only because Dad’s sleeves were distracting him, these gay-as yellow and brown stripes. Couldn’t Dad feel how hot and tense it was?
They knew when it was time to swap back and all Dad said was, ‘Roll us one of ya smokes, I’m outta baccy,’ and Dad told him the clutch felt good, nice and warmed up. The trucks likes ya, Dad said, and lurched back onto the highway. Sam clenched the roof handle, clenched his anus. Wild Hog was driving when he wasn’t waving to everyone on main street or yelling some in-joke to ‘em.
‘I’ve just gotta do a thing,’ Dad announced as they hit the 50 kay zone and the paddocks turned into cafes, twisting off the road into the parking lot behind the drycleaners. Sam pushed his sunnies tightly onto his eyes and folded his arms, pushing his head down and doubling his chins, fiddling with the radio, trying to get some noise from the outside. He pretended not to watch Dad take a suck on his pipe and thump his chest, and bump pecs with a guy in bright red gear on a green Kawasaki sports bike who didn’t take off his helmet. Sam didn’t even notice the Nike sports bag which was weighing Dad down on one side until Dad had slung it over the bikie guy’s shoulders. The bikie folded his gloved fingers into the shape of a telephone receiver and bumped fists with Dad then buzzed out of the parking lot and evaporated.
‘Careful of the plants,’ Sam grumbled as Dad jerked out into traffic, ‘You don’t wanna drive the leaves off.’
‘They’re alright back there aren’t they?’
Sam turned around and looked at the dope plants cowering under the blue tarpaulin on the back of the truck. Dad jerked to a stop outside the bank, the biggest squarest building in town, two huge pillars holding up its roof. The seatbelt cut into Sam’s guts. He’d been holding a steak sandwich, but he couldn’t eat it ‘cause Dad’d cooked it. He’d only eat mum’s cooking.
‘Can’t you smell that? We’ll get busted. That reeks.’
‘Might be the piss bottle.’ He tugged the 1.5 litre Coke bottle out from under the driver seat and rattled it, making the yellow piss foam against the sides. ‘Hurry up and go see your lil friend. Better empty this.’
‘I hate the bank,’ Sam said, ‘They only want our money.’
‘Our money is it now? Prince of the kingdom are we?’
‘I’ll inherit it when you’re dead, face it.’
‘Tough guy, aren’tcha. It’s bank or school, that’s your options. When I’s your age, I dint hardly go to school.’
‘Can I go now? Jesus.’
‘What’s got you in a queer mood?’ Dad pushed the bundle of cash into Sam’s arms and yelled after him as he hopped out and strutted into the shade and fake lighting and grey carpet, ‘Get back here.’
‘If she, y’know, your little girlfriend, if… if you two’re eloping, just ring your mum on her birthday, will ya? Attaboy.’
Sam made it to the bank steps, paused, turned back, asked for Dad’s bottle of piss and went behind the bank, into the parking lot. He found the ute Dee’s dad had let her drive to work. He undid the bonnet, popped the cap on the windscreen water reservoir, poured his family’s piss into the tank, then popped the cap back on, pressed the bonnet closed and took the bags of money into the bank.
Dee was behind the counter. This was the sweet work experience gig she’d scored. She reached across the cool marble countertop and stroked Sam’s sticky lumps of hair, told him he’d still look cute without his locks.
‘Leave orf. Can you just bank this?’
Dee took a blade and sliced open the cellophane wrap holding Dad’s brick of twenties together, and put handfuls of the green and purple notes into the money counter.
‘D’you think it’s funny?’ she said while the notes riffled.
‘How, like, I get to work inside, in the shade. You should, like, fully get a job here.’
Sam exhaled, looked at the clock.
‘Dad says you should come round for dinner.’
She stamped a receipt and said, ‘There’s dirt under your fingernails. I should clip them for you.’
‘Don’t. Leave ‘em. Leave my hair alone, too.’
‘Baby, you’d look like soooo hot with a proper haircut.’
Dad put his hand down on the horn for a full thirty seconds. Someone yelled at Dad to shut the heck up.
‘Zit done? Should be twenty K. Can I go now? Dad’s off his meds.’
‘Wait – don’t – I’m sposda, like, we got this policy, like I’m sposda send a financial advisor up to your place. So you don’t bank cash all the time. He can, like, give you chequebooks and overdrafts and stuff.’
‘I’ve gotta roll. This family don’t need that rubbish.’
‘You sound like your dad half the time.’
Sam looked behind him at one of those old veterans from the parade queuing up. ‘Get on with ya customers. See you after school.’
‘WAIT! Are you still doing work experience? For Dad?’
‘Um… it changed. Tell him I’m working for Dad now.’
‘Sam! Which dad?’
‘The shit one. My one.’
The counselling was an excuse to get out of class and the counsellor man had a jar of lollies on his desk that you were allowed. The counsellor called him by the name written on the roll, Samson, spoke to him in a moist, soft voice, asked him to see things that were hard to see. Sam squirmed on the beanbag, squinting, makin angles with his shoulders as he squeezed his shoulders together in fronta of his turtle-sunken head. They talked about the thumping noises coming from mum and dad’s bedroom some nights, the snickering, the hunting knives casually left on the toilet and the kitchen table, the secret mashed potato recipe, the pill boxes lilting through the tussock grass, the gun closet, and Sam had to explain what he meant by Milf, like how when women are at a certain age, their tits are like balloons with all the air out of them, that they’re that much nearer to your face and you can’t help notice them, you know?
At lunchtime, Sam and Dee found a hillock to lay back and smoke on and get wasted on energy drinks while the sun tanned their forearms. Dee had Mum’s pointy, kissable chin but her skin was way whiter and frecklier. Smoking and Mum made him think about how, when he used to sneak Dad’s tobacco pouch into the plantation, Mum would sneak up and turn the sprinkler on and they would both turn their heads away and her burst of laughing matched the bursting white water, and he would turn it on Mum and spray her until her top was soaking and heavy and her nipples stuck out like horns.
Dee stroked his ropy dreads, whispered in his ear some tips for how to talk blokes into buying harvesters and tractors, how to give a proper handshake, what sort of small talk to make to get them onside.
‘Whoa whoa whoa,’ Sam interrupted, hurling the smoke into the dry grass, ‘I’m not about to go to bed with the punters. That’s some queer queer tactics you’re on about.’
‘Queer?’ Dee withdrew her legs and folded them. It was fuckin’ sunny and she covered her eyes with her hand instead of squinting. ‘Who talks like that?’
‘Crumbs, what a life, eh! You feeding the chooks?’
‘Leave orf. You’re sick in the head.’
Dad was leaning into Sam’s room, eyeing Sam’s pics of dirt bikes and Mum and John Cena. But Dad was holding onto the door frame, not trespassing. Mild Hog, in his short-shorts. ‘You look like me old man when he was recuperating after the war. Head fulla bandages. Know what he said to me? He said: Get a haircut, boy. Classic! Boy if he didn’t go queer after that head injury… .’
‘Leave me alone.’ Sam rolled away.
‘Chooks though, you’re feeding them this morning. Okay? Love ya. Finish ya wank.’
Sam spent the morning counting chickens for a cull. At night they were his bros, they were active, but during the day their mistrust made them pathetic. 1,988, Sam ticked off, chicks too, but them ones weren’t counted unless their parents recognised them. It was a funny one, watching them over the first ten days to see if a baby was going to be rejected. Hard to tell what they were thinking. You’d think what with all the pain of squeezing the egg out, the baby would be priceless to the parents, ‘specially ‘cause it had nowhere to go.
Standing there, counting and squinting, Sam realised he was supposed to be at school. At some point, he’d stopped getting in trouble for skipping school, even when he didn’t have work experience. Maybe his olds reckoned this was work experience, and that this was his job, like something he’d actually said yes to.
‘I wish you’d tell me these people were coming,’ Mum said as Sam brought his girlfriend in through the fly screen.
‘I stole you this,’ Sam said, sliding a packet of new tractor mud flaps across the breakfast bar. ‘Got enough grub for Dee, Mum?’
‘I’ll have to now, won’t I.’
‘My dad says hi!’ Dee said, and Sam sniggered. ‘What? He thinks you’re, like, omigawd, like son in law material.’
It was chops for dinner, with turnips and roasted carrots. Dee could hear everyone over the TV, gnawing. Even Mum rolled cigarettes on her knee while she chewed. When the ads came on, Dad pointed the remote at Dee like a pistol and muted the TV and asked Dee if she were a cop, and Dee was the only one who burst out laughing.
‘It’s a straightforward question,’ Mum said.
Sam whispered to Dee how Dad’s jersey was the colour of turnips and pretended to gag. He’d had a smoke beforehand and was trying to pretend his food was McDonalds somehow.
‘This is nice,’ Dee said over the TV.
‘Sending a financial advisor round, are we?’
Dee swallowed hard and coughed and looked for something to drink. Sam thumped her back. ‘Nah nah, honest, it was just an idea.’ The silence and the staring made Dee itchy. ‘Does your dog have a flea collar?’ she asked, squeaky-voiced, ‘Sorry to sound…I think you might have… .’
Mum rolled her head around and looked Dee in the eyes for the first time. ‘You still haven’t answered the first question, officer.’
Sam saved her. ‘Talk about something else for fuck’s sake.’
‘So do you guys sell, like, millions of eggs?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘At work, Sam brought in all these twenties, like, mad stacks! Like, a thousand twenty dollar notes, I had to count them all! You must’ve not been to the bank in ages! Like, we’ve got chickens at home but we only get like five bucks a day from the box at the end of the drive. Can I see your chickens after tea?’
Sam looked at his plate.
‘Remember us when you’re a big shot for John Deere,’ Dad said, staring deep into the TV, then he leaned over and smooched Mum, ‘C’mere.’ Mum giggled. Sam blinked repeatedly, his cheeks reddening. He put his plate on the carpet, food untouched, and rolled a tight cigarette.
A fart escaped from underneath Dee. It broke Mum and Dad up. Sam swallowed. Mum corrected her posture, smoothing down her cardigan and said, ‘Oh Christ.’
Dad went and sat on the throne with the door open. When Dee went to get her gumboots, she shrieked, and Dad waved.
After dinner, Dee and Sam trudged up the hill and sat on an old workbench with magpie shit on it. The sky was black above a bandana of crimson. Snow glowed on the mountains. The wallabies ran in their mob and none broke away. The hills around the farm blocked the view of the highway beyond the township. They looked through the scope of Dad’s rifle for pigs snuffling at the edge of the bush. When it was Sam’s turn, he aimed the sight through the kitchen window, fifty metres down the hill, held it until Dad came into view. Sam pulled the trigger and mouthed BOOM, made a whistling noise.
‘What did you get him with?’
‘My dad’s got rat poison at the shop. If you wanna make it look like an accident.’
Sam released a blue cloud from his lips and put the joint out in the dirt.
‘You’d need to know his favourite food.’
‘That’s stew, easy. Too easy. Boom.’
Dee watched Sam smiling in his sleep and picked Sam’s long sticky hairs off her arms, grimacing. With her fingers, she measured the dreadlocks and worked out where to snip them and pictured the scissors she would need.
She helped Sam hose down the holding pens, and he couldn’t hear her yelling over the gushing water that her handbag had been invaded overnight and the condoms taken out of it. After he switched off the hose, he sighed and said, ‘You didn’t look inside hay bales did ya? Good. Don’t.’ Sam fit his Dad’s gumboots too well so Dee was stuck in trainers. When she came back for a glass of water to wash the dust out of her mouth, Mum told her off for trailing manure inside the house.
They had to appear at morning tea, and they kicked each other under the table, watching as Mum did everything for Dad, pouring his tea, buttering his toast. Wild Hog pinched Mum’s wrist when she sawed too big a hunk of luncheon from the log of chub and Sam threw his head back and yawned at God, ‘There’s a bus that goes at 10 every morning. If you need a holiday for yourself. I’ve got money.’ Dad rose up, folded the corner of the page in his magazine, went and filled the kettle softly, while Mum stood up. There was a single CLAP and then Mum’s knuckles were shivering and Sam was frowning and rubbing his cheek. Dad put a teabag in Mum’s favourite mug and Sam grabbed the car keys and headed for Dad’s truck, and Dee limped after.
They tried to have a cup of tea and do a group assignment but a pot of stew was simmering on the stove and Dee kept looking at it and nudging him and Sam said was gonna show her the quad bike. They drove it down towards the creek, speeding through the black soil and tree ferns and getting slapped in the eyes by dope plants so tall their tops were keeling over, not minding if he lost control and rolled. It’d be buzzy to have what Dad had. They took turns sniffing diesel in the tractor shed then stumbled to the house. Dad would be mustering all month, else harvesting, and the cordless was off the hook which meant Mum was doing the accounting.
‘Smoke,’ said Sam, rolling onto his back. His folks’s bed was sooooo wide, you could roll forever. Dee was wearing Sam’s rugby shorts and jersey. They’d been handed down from Sam’s dad, and fit Sam fine, but nothing of Mum’s fit Dee. They played dress-up for a while, their brains still rubbery. He rolled a joint but Dee asked too much about where he got his awesome weed and he stubbed it out on his tongue and Dee gasped. Dee didn’t fit any of Mum’s gear that well. They tried fucking again, and Sam figured out a trick to get it in while he clawed the padded bra that hid Dee’s little pink nipples, and Dee dug her nails into his shoulders and nibbled his face. He stared at the photos of Mum on her wedding day as he came, punching and cursing.
Afternoon, they trudged up to the shed. She asked when he was going back to John Deere and he said he trying something else out for a while. He showed Dee the rubbish bags full of green and gold buds inside the old water tank, sprayed with spiderweb, then said, ‘I shouldn’t’ve shown you that.’ There would be a frost overnight, the air said. The kingdom would turn white and a moat of mist would cut it off.
The moon invited them out, and after another smoke they shifted to the roof outside Sam’s bedroom window, a few of Dad’s pills under each of their tongues. Dee said, ‘Your property’s sweet.’ Her head rocked side to side. They could see a Mack truck hovering at the end of the driveway and that dude with the red bike and some men wearing black woollen beanies pulling back the truck’s curtain and gently placing sports bags in the back and sliding them into the truck’s stomach. Dad was pissing just in front of the truck. His quad bike was idling, rattling.
‘It’s not my property.’
‘Aww, but at the end of the day, it really is. Your family’s supposed to… y’know. Eh. Quit hogging that blunt.’
‘Hog,’ Sam mumbled, and sucked most of the goodness out of the joint and passed her the skeleton. ‘What, you wanna borrow my family or something? Lend ‘em for a weekend?’
‘You’re my one true love. I want us to be together for ever.’
Sam spat it into the tussock. ‘Don’t bogart.’ He turned away from Dee.
‘How much is it all worth? The farm?’
‘I gotta wait. To inherit it.’
‘If he’s hurting you… You don’t have to wait, basically. Know what I mean?’
‘Fuck it, yeah, we’re off.’ He found Dad’s spare ute key in the gun closet and they tiptoed to the ute, the gravel stabbing their naked feet. He’d been hoarding a small cellophane-wrapped bundle of notes and he pulled into a Mobil and bought a bottle of Brut with them and poured most of the cologne into the gutter and splashed the rest on his neck, and while Dee texted and clutched his arm, he drove up to the where the hundred kay zone began, the highway out of town, you could see the sign reflecting under the black stars, and he pretended the accelerator was Dad’s head and stomped down hard. It’d be moments before he was out of his kingdom, across the sparkling river, seeing mountains he hardly ever saw, checking out new Main Streets, eating food from countries he only ever heard about in the news, catching buses, soon he’d –
‘Sam… can we stop at my place? I wanna pack a bag. My hair straightener and that.’
He wrenched the wheels from the road and flying gravel machine-gunned the windscreen as the ute squirted and fishtailed and drifted and finally just stopped.
On the way back home, they passed the police station, the only thing still open at this time of night, and Dee told Sam to stop and go in and tell them everything. Sam said he’d do it on their way outta town, and they got home just as Dee started going on about rings, and the security light came on as Mum stomped across the lawn in her slippers and dressing gown with a pair of shears in her hand.
Sam was deep inside the fridge, looking for that 1.5 litre Coke he opened last month when he saw the pavlova his Mum had made, gilded with kiwifruit. A sob scrabbled up his throat like a burp. He closed the fridge door slowly, afraid to ruffle the surface of the pav. He couldn’t look at her at he skulked down the hallway, hair sticking to his soles. He noticed three dessert spoons and bowls laid out on the table cloth.
The gravel made a noise and the station wagon with the John Deere logo on the side rocked up. Sam could see her in the front seat of the safe, sealed mobile metal fortress with a cosy cardigan wrapped around her, tears crawling down her cheeks like bluebottle flies. Her head was all patchy and looked like a lemon in the daylight.
Mr Dee left the engine running and got out, strode across the bones and skulls on the lawn and stood over Sam like a pillar. His skull was bald and shiny and his moustached drooped unhappily and his glasses seemed to protect his face. Mr Dee’s shirt stayed tucked in no matter how pissed-off he got. He prodded Sam in the shoulder. ‘You been getting my daughter into drugs? This your father’s idea, Samson? Eh? Goin into her bag?’ His tie shook and his face flushed sunset-red.
Dee wound the window down. ‘Just come home with us, pleeeeeease.’
‘Move out of the way.’
Mr Dee strode towards the farmhouse just as Sam’s gumboot darted between his legs, kicking right into the bone above the guy’s nuts. Sam spun and ran as fast as the gumboots would allow him, up the steps, over the leaves of Dee’s hair lying dead in the hallway, off the hallway into the closet. He began to take a shotgun from its rack but stopped and caught his breath. Dee’s handbag was in the closet with the guns.
Sam waited for Dee’s dad to stick his nose into the shadows. He heard himself start to breathe. He heard Dee’s dad yelling, ‘Where you hiding, Samson?!’
The arresting officer found Dad in the drying room up in the shed, his eyes pink and sleepy and infected-looking. The cop sort-of explained why he’d come, and apologised and said his boss made him come out. Dee’s dad calling the cops had made the old wanker look weak – this was nothin but a family matter. Now Sam’s family had one up on Dee’s. The officer apologised repeatedly, complimented the planting Dad’d been doing along the banks, asked if he could stop by tonight, about eleven, when his shift finished.
‘And I understand Mr Dee threatened you?’ the officer said, ‘That’s what I’m writing down.’
Dad opened the passenger door of the cop car and sat in the shotgun seat and fiddled with the radio until the officer was ready. ‘He’ll be back before ya know it,’ the cop told the family. When Dad was seated comfily in the cop car, the officer coaxed Sam out of the gun closet and spoke to him on the porch. ‘That’s bullpies, right, about your Dad hurting you?’
‘Who said that?’
‘Delilah’s father reported some concerns there.’
‘No one hurt anyone.’
The cop folded his pad closed. ‘Well, that wasn’t too difficult.’
Dad and the cop crushed a few pill boxes as they reversed down the driveway. Sam was wearing Dad’s fluffy pink slippers with pigs on the toes. He wrapped one arm around Mum’s shoulders. She tipped her head into him. Sam put his other arm against the pillars holding the porch roof up.
Finally the sun went down and they went to bed.