My father leaned against the front gate and let out a whistle of disbelief.
It frightened me when I looked into his eyes, but it wasn’t because his moustache had more salt than pepper since the last time I saw him; it wasn’t because his beer gut oozed through the holes of his Star Wars t-shirt. I was staring into the eyes of a split image of myself.
“What’s all this then, Kevin?” He scratched a raw spot on his forearm where the hair had fallen out.
We had the same colour eyes, my dad and I. Green, seaweed-held-up-into-the-sun green, or blue, depending on shirt colour. We had the same chins (my mother described them as ‘chicken assholes’, or ‘pope’s noses’ when we had guests); we had the same dark-blonde receding hairline in the shape of married couples’ hearts shrinking over time.
“Kevin? I asked you a question. What’s all this shit in your mother’s front garden, son? It looks like a fucken scrapyard.” He took out a Chesterfield plain and lit it.
“It’s a 1967 Ford Capri, Dad.” I wiped my hands on my overall and reached for my own ciggie behind my right ear. It wasn’t there, so I started searching in the carnage that lay spread out before me on the lawn.
“1967 Ford Capri, my anal beads. It’s not a 1967 Ford Capri until you put it back together.” He smirked.
That was just the thing about my father; he had this awkward way of expressing himself that would either make people burst out laughing, cringe with disgust, or punch him in the sack.
My father was a lonely man.
“Well, obviously I have to put it together first. What do you think I’m doing?” I was walking towards him, searching for the lost cigarette, when I tripped over the Ford’s gearbox.
“I heard you dropped out of university. And here you are restoring cars. Is this your master plan, Kevin? I’m not saying there isn’t money to be made restoring vintage cars, mate, but you have to know what you’re doing. You obviously don’t.”
“Cheers. I’m trying to restore the car so that I can go and find a job. I’m not planning to do this for a living. And thank you for mentioning me dropping out. You forgot to mention the part where someone couldn’t afford the tuition fee.” I still regret those words.
The laundry was flapping in the wind on the balcony overhead while we just stood there and looked at each other. The sun peeped out behind the clouds for a brief moment and then disappeared again. The Nutbeans’ baby started crying next door, and somewhere down the road a dog barked.
I spoke first: “I need to stay busy, Dad; keep my mind occupied. I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do.”
“Let me just say this: there’s no way you’re going to put that car together by yourself. You’ll need a hand, mate.” He flicked his cigarette into the middle of the road. “Even one pair of hands can make a helluva difference. Here, I bought you a pack of cigarettes. He tossed me a pack of Peter Stuyvesant filters. “Give me a ring if you need a hand. Believe it or not, I actually know a thing or two about cars.”
“You know that’s not going to happen, Dad. Mom will never allow you into the front yard. You’re lucky she doesn’t call the cops when you drop by every now and again.”
“Come on! I call it a knee-jerk reaction. Christ, I can’t believe she’s still pissed at me. It happened seven years ago in a fit of rage, for fucksakes! And don’t you for one minute believe that I am the guilty party. It takes two to tango.”
“And only one to cut off a finger,” I snapped.
He ignored me. “Give me a ring if you need help. I’m serious. And tell that little sister of yours to come and visit. I miss her. Tell her to come and have some fucken spaghetti at my place, eh? Tuna.”
“Right. Gotta get going. I have a pool game in ten minutes. See you later.” He walked away.
“Thanks for the smokes, Dad” I said.
“Don’t tell your mother!”
He waved good-bye like he didn’t mean it and disappeared behind the Vibacrete wall. The sickening gray suburbia streets swallowed him whole.
words by Ramon Ramirez
art by Craig Hopson