I had braced myself for his drunken ranting to continue after lunch. But when I walked into the lounge room I found him asleep in his chair in front of a cricket match. A couple of blowies zigzagged crazily around the room buzzing loudly. Cricket and blow files, the sound track of the Australian summer. One of them landed on the old man’s big toe and he twitched in his sleep.
Years of repressed love and anger rose up in me like bile. Silly old bugger. One day your liver will give out and you’ll die in that chair. Then those damned insects will lay their eggs in you and their babies will feast. Even in sleep his leathery brown face wore a mask of disapproval.
I walked over to the mantel piece and picked up an ancient photo of him and mum. The glass was covered in dust and little black fly spots. I wiped it on the hem of my shirt. He had been handsome once. Hard to believe looking at him now. All those years spent working in the unforgiving Queensland sun and too much booze had sucked all the goodness out of him. Now he looked like a walking corpse. All wrinkled skin and sharp bones.
Cockies didn’t wear sunscreen. Sunscreen, that’s for hippies and poofs, it was something I could imagine him saying. I smiled thinking of my flatmate Gavin back in Sydney and his vast collection of lotions.
Gavin and Denis had been beyond good to me. I owed them my life. They had helped me escape from Philip and his drunken rages. They had supported me as I picked up the pieces of my shattered life. Dad would never understand, he believed marriage was for life. It was lucky for him that mum did too or she would have left him years ago. For all his toughness he would be useless without her. He would starve to death for a start.
I looked at the photo of him and Mum. They were standing in front of a white Holden. Probably on their way to a dance. Dad had a protective arm around mum, there was a look of pride on his young face. Mum’s eyes were excited and full of hope. It was a hope I couldn't remember ever seeing. Perhaps it had died back when I was a child. With a deep sigh, I put the photo back in it's place. Life hadn’t been kind to my parents and now that I was an adult I knew how that felt. I said a silent prayer that things might be different for me. Bending down I kissed my sleeping father's forehead.