At last Dad came home, while we were in school, and that evening we were each allowed a few minutes in his room.
A face turned purple.
Mottled and bubbled and lumpen, one eye closed like a boxer’s.
An ogre, a brute, a fairytale monster.
Underneath was my Dad.
Still strong, with hard hands, and black, wavy hair.
He sat up in bed, beneath the bobbly green blanket, toenails curling black, peeping out. I felt secure as he pulled me onto his knee.
“Are you scared to look at me, son? I’m your Dad.”
And I wasn’t scared, it was just strange.
“Don’t you worry, Paulie. Did your mother tell you what happened?”
I nodded, but he saw me, unsure, and he knew me.
He went on and spoke words Mum hadn’t. They each tried to protect me, my parents, in different ways. He felt he was protecting me now.
He told me he’d been attacked by men with hammers. My eyes widened and I curled into him, Old Spice and cigarette-scented, as he told me the moral of his story.
“There are only two people who could’ve known, son, that I’d be walking at that time in that place, with that money in that bag. One of them set me up. I’m going to find out who. And he’ll be sorry.”
And I felt good because everything was right with the world again. There was nothing my Dad couldn’t fix.
He had no idea I had betrayed him.