This is my August 2021 entry for the Australian Writers’ Centre’s monthly Furious Fiction competition. This month the short story had to include the following: the first sentence had to be four words long, the story had to include something being shared, and it must include the words “PAINT”, “SHIFT”, “WAVE” and “TOAST”.
“Where is that man?”
Mum was angry. The pitch in her voice rises as the clock ticks.
“He’s not that late.”
I speak quietly and calmly, just like the counsellor said.
“He’s late. He’s always late! And it’s disrespectful – to you and to me.”
My ploy fails, again.
“Why don’t I make you some tea, or I can start on dinner for you?”
“Thanks Bub, but I can’t relax. I’m just going to have toast, I think. I’ve been called in to do an extra shift at the hospital… Is that your father outside?”
“Yep, it’s him. Bye Mum. Have a good night. See you Wednesday,” I yell, picking up my bags.
“Wait, I want a chat with him first.”
Dad and I cross over on the path, eyes meeting. He looks as tired as her, and he’s covered in tiny flecks of blue, green, yellow and white paint.
“It’s alright mate. You wait in the car and I’ll try to make peace with your mum.”
Good luck with that.
“How hard is it to turn up on time for your son? We’re supposed to be co-parenting, but instead of sharing responsibility I feel like I’m trying to raise two teenage boys, Tom!”
“I know, Maeve. I’m sorry. I lost track of time.”
Blinds move in windows around the cul-de-sac. C’mon Dad, let’s just go!
“I was working, and I didn’t check the time. I really am sorry.”
“I thought you had weekends off so you could sort your issues out. Argh! Don’t bother with an excuse, just go!”
The counsellor taps her pen on the pad, staring.
“James, did you hear me? I asked how the new home situation is going.”
“What? Oh sorry. You mean with Mum and Dad?”
“Yes, how are things since your dad moved out?”
Just as crappy as when he lived there, except now I live out of a bag. I wish they would stop hating each other. Maybe I could sell that drawing Grandpa did and pay the money back.
“It’s ok, I guess. They still fight, but they’re tired from working.”
“Why do you think they work so much?”
“What? Oh, Dad had some debts and some were in Mum’s name. How much do you think that Brett Whiteley drawing Waves V would sell for?”
The drawing is worth about $30,000, the articles say. I think that might be enough. Then they’ll stop stressing. Dad knows art dealers, he’ll help me.
“Hey mate, I’ve cooked spag bol. And after we eat, I’ll show you something that will make everything better for us. All of us.”
“I’ve got a better idea, Dad. I’m going to sell my drawing.”
“Nah mate, that’s yours. Come and see why I’ve been so busy.”
I follow him to his studio. Inside there must be 25 or 30 paintings, all depicting the ocean.
“Galeria Aniela is going to sell them all. One has already sold for 1.2.”
“1.2 million! It’ll fix everything.”