He rubbed weird oil on his hands from a tin after working on one of the many old bangers that cluttered our garage and driveway. I remember seeing him at the sink, hands black and soapy all at once, until the soap won the battle. The strong tar smell. I don’t remember what sort of clothes he wore, did he have overalls? He had a stubbly beard, a moustache, a solid physique. He’d rub his beard off me as he did rough and tumble with my sisters and I on a Friday night after being away for 2 weeks. I’d hate it, yet loved seeing him and the plastic bag full of sweets he bought for each of us. Sometimes, I’d catch a smell from him that made my stomach heave, a bitter sourness. This smell became later his aftershave, his soap, his toothpaste.
He played bowls, wore a blazer with gold badges, smoked a cigar, then later cigarettes, Drunk beer, whiskey, laughed with his friends. Threw me into the deep-end of the pool. Had hairy varicose vein legs. Cracked his toes, in his sweaty navy socks. Drunk out of tankards, pint glasses with circular indents and a big chunky handle that was heavy to carry. Heavy when filled with water for him the morning after, when you’re 8, 9 or even 10. He once grabbed a boy, from a local gang, by the collar and threw him against our car. I’d started hanging out with the gang and was convinced we’d have our windows thrown in that night. I don’t know what dad said to him, what the threat was, but our windows stayed intact. He told us when we were younger to kick someone in the shins if we got bullied or picked on. I never did, although the latter occurred often and in particular after he left.
Women liked him. I remember fainting once in a clothes shop as he piled up clothes in my outstretched arms. The sales assistant was attentive, perhaps more so to my dad and I remember being marched out once I’d regained consciousness, to a fancy shop to buy chocolates to take back to her. Women gave him photographs and letters, which I found. He was charming, a good laugh. Fun at Twister, grabbing the slender ankles of my Auntie Kathy trying to pull her off the red circles.
Post-forty, he changed up his style, shaved off his ginger tash, wore slip on beige moccasins, pale blue chino’s (that he peed down accidentally once in Spain) Nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana Pee-man, we sang. He had new friends round, smoked weird smelling cigarettes, had a house party that he threw us out from on a school night. He liked sex. I heard the grunts, thumps, smelled the smells even in his final last days. He liked pills, lots, swallowing. Ambulance rides. Recuperating before pulling his bowling blazer with the gold badges back on.
I woke him many times and shouldered his weight out of late night taxis, stepped over him in the morning lying on the cold back steps, tried to not notice his flaccid penis as it hung out his trousers when he lay haphazardly on the sofa.
The day he left he chased my sister up the stairs past the patchwork door he’d punched holes in and fixed years before. He slung his never played guitar over his shoulder and picked out his LP’s (Boney M, ABBA, The Stones, Blondie) and walked out to the woman waiting in the silver car pretending to read The Sun.
Rhona Millar writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She is currently studying on the MLitt Creative Writing programme at Glasgow University. Her work has been published in journals such as; Gutter, Litro, Quotidian, Octavious, and Ink Sweat and Tears. You can also find her writing online at Mindbodygreen and Elephant Journal. She enjoys running, cycling and getting out into nature. https://twitter.com/rhonamillarr