Dad is staring at the back of the house where the wall has been repaired. He is worried that the house is going to fall down. He looks at the wall every evening when he comes in from work to see if the fissure in the bricks has opened. He stares hard and long as though he’s looking through the wall at something hidden deep inside himself. My brother Joey looks at me looking at Dad looking at the wall. Joey is wearing sunglasses and a mohair suit and his hair is cut short. He shimmies as he watches me and claps his hands and sings ‘Mustang Sally’.
Joey goes to stand beside Dad and says everybody knows that worrying about something bad happening is a sure way to make that bad thing happen. Dad doesn’t answer and keeps on looking at the wall. Joey says at least now Dad only worries about the wall and it’s just one thing whereas before he worried about one damn thing after another. Joey jumps in the air and claps his hands and sings ‘In the Midnight Hour’.
While Dad looks at the wall I see Mum. She’s wearing her best blue summer dress. It hangs loose on her frail body and she has smudged lipstick around her mouth and her hair is a mess. Her hands shake as she stumbles down the garden path towards me and says, “It was just a dream, it was all just a dream.” Then Joey has gripped me by the shoulders and is looking into my eyes and says I’m having another waking dream. Dad and Joey don’t see Mum, only I do.
Sometimes I think I am my own dream. I don’t remember Mum before she was sick. Perhaps she has always been sick. I don’t remember Dad before he started looking at the wall. I wonder why I don’t remember the things I shouldn’t forget.
Next day the police came to the house to arrest Joey. They found his box of blue pills hidden in the airing cupboard. Joey once said that when you’re lost it’s best to find a river and follow it and even though you don’t get to where you want to get to, you get to somewhere. When they took Joey out to the police car I shouted to him to run and to keep running and to find a river and follow it until he got to somewhere. But he didn’t run. He turned round and said everything will be all right but I know it won’t.
James Coffey lives in Coventry. He has enjoyed and endured a long and varied working life but has now withdrawn from that particular battlefield. In his spare time he enjoys trying to construct flash fiction. It is a form which limits his tendency to say too much at the wrong time. He has been published in Dogzplot, Molotov Cocktail. Yellow Mama, Literary Orphans, Nottingham Review, Riggwelter Press, Hypnopomp, Burning Word and the 2017 NFFD anthology ‘Sleep is a Beautiful Colour’.