After I Was Born by Troy Dagg

You stowed a bottle of port from that same year. I wailed at every bath. You comforted mum. You bought me a dog. Leaning on Sam’s back, I learnt to walk. I showered with you. You taught me to sud first, then sponge. You said it saved on the water bill. Sam ran away, never to return.

You held the seat. Suddenly, joyously, I was peddling solo. You cheered from the curb.

You shaved your moustache. You painted the walls of our new, bigger house. You laid carpet, paved, erected a pergola, planted a garden. You made a home. You said I was old enough to help. I preferred Lego. I coloured between the lines. I commanded spaceships and fought aliens. I deduced Scooby Doo ruses.

You surged red-chested from surf while mum and I shivered on the beach. You broke an Australian breaststroke record in your age category. You enrolled me in lessons. I choked and flailed. Diving terrified me. You said I had to do sport. I tried hockey. The ball slipped past my stick, between my feet. You volunteered as assistant coach. You said you were my father, not my best friend. I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. I mapped subterranean realms and populated chambers with denizens and treasure. You complained to the school. You insisted I get a paper route.

Suddenly, I was taller than you. Guns ‘n’ Roses morphed to Nirvana, dragons to vampires. I scraped in, the first in our family. I wore black. I dyed my hair. I expatiated upon Barthes and Blanchot, Foucault and Derrida. A lot of rot, you said. What job would that lead to? You asked if I was on drugs. You asked if I was gay. I refused to speak to you. You set your jaw.

You discovered the bottle was corked. The port ruined.

I got a UK work visa. I got a job in an art gallery. I met someone, married, moved to Spain.

We talked over Skype. You sat behind mum. You let her tell me about your lumbar cortisone injections, your heart, the medical alert beeper you must carry at all times. Meds made you fat. You repeated anecdotes. You slurred. I had to stop myself from finishing your sentences. Then the diagnosis. I asked a thousand useless questions. From Spain there was nothing I could do.

You watched workmen refit the house. A raised toilet seat. Handles in the shower. Ramps. You said, I’m no bloody use to anyone now. You grizzled about quacks. At the shops you parked in the reserved spaces. Mum started to drive. Spittle flecked the corners of your mouth. Trembling colonised your chin.

It was inevitable.

You are nursed. Mum visits you three times per week. Sometimes she takes her laptop. You no longer recognise me. I announce you are going to be a grandfather. I hoped my words would release memories of when I was born. But you are no longer there.

Troy Dagg is a Western Australian writer now based in Barcelona. He has had stories previously published in Indigo Journal, LINQ Magazine, BCN Ink, and Westerly.

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