Father’s Day

Road trip with Dad
a visit to the lake
maybe fishing
a braai with steak and boerewors
but just a quick stop first
at the friendly bottlestore
Cheap box wine
and Mainstay cane
the all-day-breakfast of champions
Fishing started well then stopped for food
My dad more engrossed with liquid than the fish
His ham-fisted attempts to fight the fire with flames
Charred meat, soldered sausage
I didn’t mind just happy to spend
quality time with my father.
Bored and rummaging in the car’s cubbyhole
for playthings I pulled out
his gentleman’s pistol
a small Czech-made James Bond wannabe
the budget-bargain Walther PPK if you prefer
He sometimes joked about ending it all
saying farewell to this cruel cold world.
I checked the magazine,
loaded with shiny puny bullets.

A few hours later we started packing up
Always way too drunk to drive
but that never stopped him trying.
Weaving our way back
along a dusty dirt road
my mouth stuffed with
salt and vinegar crisps
and soggy chunks of hot-dog roll
I wondered if I’d make it home alive

Home to a bruised-emotionless mother
Home to an eating-disordered sister
Home to a defiantly-inflamed brother
who skulked in the shadows of
art homework and rock music.
Home where the heart never beats
Home where friends were not welcome
Home where every family gathering
was dissolved by the ninety-percent proof libations
of my father’s dedication to
holistic inebriation.

The drive home was liquid
the booze sloshing around
the old man’s body like the
dozens of empty liquor bottles
rolling beneath the car seats
and the steady streams of
tears and terrified snot
that poured down my
nine-year old face.

Quality time with my dad
consisted of this sea:
buckets and buckets of liquid
beating like angry waves
between the shores of
a drunk’s lead-lined liver
and a child’s eternal hope
some day things might
turn out different might
end up okay in the end.

More than thirty years later
I’m a father myself
I’ve done extensive research
on the cunningly-baffling
personalities of Cape wine
and Polish vodka
have started the journey of
one thousand and twelve steps.
Sunday is Father’s Day
Here’s hoping I’ve learned something.


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