Wash and Ready

Geist - - Findings - JAMIE FITZ­PATRICK

From The End of Music. Pub­lished by Break­wa­ter Books in 2017. Jamie Fitz­patrick is a host and pro­ducer at CBC Ra­dio. His first novel, You Could Be­lieve in Noth­ing, won the Fresh Fish Award for Emerg­ing Writ­ers in New­found­land and Labrador. He lives in St. John’s.

The tele­phone rings, and Sam re­sponds, singing non­sense words from his perch at the kitchen nook. He’s ig­nor­ing his toast, though it’s been cut into shapes, the way he likes it. An­other ring.

“I have to pee,” says Sam. He scram­bles to the floor and strips off his py­ja­mas. Sprints up the stairs us­ing hands and feet. At the top of the stairs he shouts, “Daddy! An­swer the phone!”

It’s How­ley Park. What if they want to shift Joyce to the place down by the lake? He can’t blame his mother for fear­ing the prospect of di­a­pers and spoon-fed tapi­oca and bod­ies slumped like dead in­fantry in the TV room.

The third and fi­nal ring. Carter watches through the win­dow as a car hits the dip in the street and creaks like an enor­mous mat­tress. He can imag­ine the stream of in­vec­tive from the driver. Lo­cals know to slow down when they ap­proach 19 Vick­ers Street, with its nasty hol­low. The sub­di­vi­sion is barely a decade old, but its roads are sink­ing in spots where they weren’t prop­erly graded.

Up­stairs, he finds Sam in his favourite un­der­wear. Nau­ti­cal blue, pat­terned with white­caps and or­ange fish. “Sam, where did you get those?” “Where’s Mom?”

“She had to go to work early. Tell me where you found those un­der­wear, please.”

“In my room.”

“In your laun­dry bas­ket. What have we told you about tak­ing clothes from your laun­dry?”

Sam tur­tles, face down and rear end raised, the curve of his white back shield­ing the un­steady heart. The fish on the un­der­pants swim front to back, around the side and across the cheeks.

“Sammy, you wore those un­der­wear yes­ter­day. They have to be washed.”

Squirm­ing and slid­ing, the boy dan­gles his head over the side of the bed. “My other un­der­wear are fake.” “Fake how?”

“Fake on my bum.”

“Come on, Sammy. You know bet­ter.”

“I don’t!”

They’re call­ing it his de­fi­ant phase. Though Is­abelle sug­gests it might not be a phase at all. Maybe it’s the real Sam. “It’s gone on so long now,” she said. “It could be part of his per­son­al­ity com­ing to life. A con­trar­ian streak.” How might they ex­plain this in the child de­vel­op­ment books? When your boy acts like an ass­hole, the par­ent might as­sume it’s a pass­ing phase. But we should con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that maybe he’s just an ass­hole.

“Time to go see Miss Kris­ten.” “I have to pee!”

“You just went.”

Any men­tion of Kris­ten sends him dash­ing to the toilet. He has loved her un­con­di­tion­ally since his first day in the three-year-old room. It was never this way with Miss Tricia, though he adored her as well. When he switched rooms, the shift in his af­fec­tion was quick and ab­so­lute, and went straight to his blad­der.

Carter leaves him to the bath­room and re­turns to the kitchen.

A mes­sage on the phone.

“Her­bert? Could I speak to Her­bert please?” His mother’s voice be­gins loud, then soft­ens. The swish and rus­tle of a hand against the mouth­piece. “This is Joyce Carter and Her­bert Carter is my son. He was raised on Al­cock Street. My hus­band Arthur is passed away. There are no other chil­dren.”

Some­one in­ter­rupts her. A man nearby. “What?” says Joyce, her voice drift­ing. “Talk right into the phone, my love,” says the man.

A de­lay. Then she speaks slowly, mea­sur­ing her words. “Can I speak to Her­bert, please.”

“Daddy!” shouts Sam. “Daddy!” Muf­fled voices. A tum­bling hangup, his mother strug­gling to match re­ceiver to cra­dle.

Carter saves the mes­sage. Sam crashes into him, face to crotch. Tugs at the zip­per of his jacket. “I can’t. I can’t.”

Carter fixes the snag. The zip­per runs smooth up to Sam’s throat, prompt­ing Sam’s first smile of the day. “Who you talk­ing to, Dad?” “No­body.”

“Was it Mommy?”

“No. Where’s your knap­sack? You still need pants, Sam.”

When Carter leans in to buckle the car seat, Sam ex­udes a mild stale-wa­ter scent. Not only has he es­caped the house in his or­ange-fish un­der­pants, he’s pulled his en­tire wardrobe from the laun­dry bas­ket.

“You’re dirty,” says Carter.

“You’re dirty,” says Sam. “We didn’t brush teeth.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.