Father and Son

This is a short story I wrote for my local writing group, back when it was running. Hard to believe I wrote this almost eight years ago. It’s not my best work, but it was written to a fairly tight deadline and I feel it deserves a bit of air.


He’s sat on the sofa, arms folded, not looking at me. Perhaps he’s still angry about me missing his birthday last month. But it’s not like I had a choice.

“How was school, Sammy?”

“Fine.”

“I’ve got some bottles of lemonade if you’d like some. Bought them specially. We’ll take them with us.”

He doesn’t reply.

I’ve not seen him for six months. My little boy. I’ve missed him so much. I used to read bedtime stories to him when he was small. I’ve missed the afternoons we spent in the park, just having a kick-about with the football I got him during the World Cup. I miss letting him win the games we played together. I was going to take him to the zoo one day.

I’ve missed him so much. And now he won’t even look at me.

“I thought you’d like to spend some time with your dad, Sammy. We’ve not seen each other for a while. What do you want to do?”

“I want to go home.”

I can’t really blame him. Even I don’t want to spend much time in this dingy flat, with the 1970s wallpaper and the sagging sofas and a damp problem, but it’s all I can afford on my salary – especially with the child support payments to his bitch of a mother. I haven’t seen her for three months, and that was in court. Her and Simon, that long-haired arsehole with his vegan diet and his sports shop on the high street.

“Not yet, mate,” I reply.

“I want my console, and my computer. This place sucks. You don’t even have a proper television.”

“And who do you think paid for that console?” I snap, instantly regretting it, wanting to take those words back. I don’t want to argue with him. I want him to remember me as a good dad.

He’s right, though. The television is some cheap second hand thing I found advertised in the newsagent’s window. Most people buy and sell things online these days, but I can’t afford a computer. I can barely pay the phone bill. It’s got a cheap Freeview box and picks up about six channels, just about. Nothing like the six hundred or so she has on the satellite system. The one I paid for.

“Well, we’re not stopping here long,” I say, forcing a smile. “I thought we could go to the zoo. I always said I’d take you, didn’t I? But we have to go now.”

“Dad, I’m twelve,” he says. “I don’t care about the zoo. I want to go home, and hang out with my mates. I’m not a little kid any more.”

“What about something for tea?” I try. “I’ve got some fish fingers in the freezer. You used to love those. Still, we’ve don’t have time to cook now. We have to get moving. There’s a pizza place down the road, we’ll call in there.”

He doesn’t reply. I’ve been frozen out again. Is he too old for fish fingers? What do twelve year olds do for their dinner? Surely kids still like pizza?

“Look, son, I’m trying. I’m really trying. You know what your mother’s like – she won’t listen to me. What has she been telling you about me?”

“She doesn’t talk about you at all,” Sammy says. “Just says she’s glad you’re out of our lives.”

And that hurts. I’ve done everything I can to make things right. She asked for space – and I moved out. She said she hated my drinking – I’ve not had a drink in four weeks now, and I still attend the meetings. But nothing I do is good enough for her.

She said she wanted Sammy to have a proper father to look up to. I’ve done my best on that one, but it looks like she’s decided it wasn’t enough. Well, I’m not having bloody Simon taking my place. That lanky git is never going to be Sammy’s father.

This is my last chance. I already know the next hearing is going to go the same way as the last one. By the time I get to see him, he’ll be an adult and I’ll be nothing to him. This is my last chance to show him who his father is. And I’m running out of time.

“Dad, did mum really say you could pick me up from school today?”

“Of course she did,” I lie. “You know I’ve been fighting for custody rights. You’re my son, and I love you, and I don’t want you to forget me.”

Check I’ve got everything. Keys, wallet, jacket. He hasn’t even taken his jacket off since we got in. I don’t blame him. He doesn’t want to stay, and besides, I can’t afford to put the heating on.

“Simon was going to pick me up,” Sammy continues. “He said so this morning. It’s not like him to forget something like that.”

Oh, Sammy. You definitely got your mother’s brains, not mine. I can’t lie to you, can I? I can’t even organise a sodding trip to the zoo for you. Some father I turned out to be.

“I want to go home, dad.” And now he looks at me, and my heart breaks. “Please can I go home?”

I hear cars pulling up outside. A pounding on the door.

“Alright, Sammy. You’ll be going home very soon.”

The door to the flat bursts open. One swift kick would break the crappy lock on that door – why would I need better security? I’ve got nothing worth taking. Just my little boy, and he’s not even mine any more.

“Dad? What’s going on?” He’s scared. I put a hand on his shoulder to reassure him.

It’s all over. Sammy is going to go home now, going for a ride in the back of a police car, and I realise this is probably the last time I’ll get to see him for a long time.

“It’s okay, Sammy. They’ll take you home. Say goodbye to your dad, now.”

Three police officers enter the living room, lots of shouting and noise. I don’t hear them as they speak to me – probably reading my rights, or something. All I care about is Sammy, being led out of the door. He turns to look at me as he goes, tears on his cheeks, and then he is taken away.

Goodbye, Sammy. I’m sorry.

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