Half-eleven on a Friday night and I’m at the window watching out for him. Twenty-four hour opening hasn’t hit the pubs round here, they’re old men’s pubs mostly, still stop serving at eleven. He’ll have been tossed out of the Duke at about quarter past. Billy reckons that gives folk long enough to drink up; if they can’t drink a pint between last orders and closing time, they should have got a half, and if they can’t drink a half, they should have gone home. Time it takes him to stagger to Kebab Korner and back for his supper, he should be coming up the street any minute now.
He’ll be in a right state, he’s been out all day. Leastways, there was no sign of him when I was home at dinner. I ate me pastie then picked up after him, put his empties and the crisp packets and that in the bin. After that, I hoovered round then grabbed me PE kit and legged it back to school. He’s a lazy bastard, he never does nowt. That’s why me mam went off with that bloke from Cash Converters.
It looks cold out. Coming up to the May bank holiday and lovely through the day with that global warming they keep moaning about. I think it’s a good thing, me, if it lifts the temperature. Trust the folk who can afford to go somewhere sunny to begrudge the rest of us a few rays. Cold at night, though, especially if there’s no cloud, and it’s clear as anything tonight. Big, fat moon like a spotlight in the sky. I’ll clock him no bother under that.
I check me watch. Here he comes, the old fucker! I can see him turning into the street, doing that pissed bloke walk. Getting round the corner he looks like a pony doing sums, counting the answer out with his hoof. One, two, three, stagger and turn, then he’s on the home straight, looking like a lardy carthorse attempting dressage. He’s in an even worse state than usual. I finger the bruise on my cheek then clench my fists. I hope he’s not in a fighting mood.
I nip down to the kitchen when I hear him fumbling with his key, trying to get it into the keyhole. If Dosser was with him, he’d do his shit joke about how they should put a bit of fur round it, get it in first time every time then, ha bloody ha. The door swings open and he crashes into the house, bounces off the wall, gets his feet in a knot and lands on the floor in a heap, whump, the breath knocked out of him.
I run upstairs. He’s still on the deck, kind of gurgling in his throat, when I get back. I stare down at him. He looks pathetic. Lank hair, stubbly chin, trousers peppered with fag burns, shirt collar frayed and gray. He’s on his back, his parcel of chips, fried rice and curry sauce just out of reach, but it hasn’t burst, thank Christ. I stand next to him, over him, clutching the pillow with both hands, marvelling at the contrast between the clean white linen and the grubby old man. He breathes noisily, sucking air in through his mouth, spit bubble in the corner ballooning every time he exhales. His teeth are brown and pitted and his breath would shame a camel. He’s a fucking health hazard. I stoop, take a handful of his hair and raise his head high enough to slip the pillow underneath. I roll him onto his side so he doesn’t choke then, as he starts snoring, chuck a blanket over him. He looks so sad and old, worn out and fucked up. Packs a canny punch, mind. But not tonight. I kiss him on the cheek then go on up to bed. Whatever else he is, he’s still me dad.
This story first appeared in Flash Pan Alley in 2007.