After Dinner

“Do you want a cup of tea, Mum?”

“Piss off.”

I make one anyway.

She doesn’t mean it. Dad’s no-show upset her. 

I perch on the armchair opposite, as the girls nestle into Mum on the settee, sharing an unspoken solidarity from which I’m excluded. There’s an empty pack of biscuits on the carpet. My stomach rumbles.

The News at Ten chimes in.

“Poll tax riots in London today.”

Trevor McDonald, admonishing tone.

A broiling throng, raised banners, clenched fists.

“Protest in Trafalgar Square escalates into running battle.”

Riot police, traffic cones hurled, a bandaged head.

“Scenes among worst in living memory.”

Dad tears across the screen, dirty sleeves rolled up, dark locks flying.

A crunching blow, policeman’s jaw, helmet arcing through the air.

Trevor’s mouth, moving, Mum’s face, pinching, one second, two seconds, three.

We’re fighting to keep it down, but in one great surge pride erupts, spilling over the barricades. Dad, hitting a copper, and I’m doing an A-Team dive across the carpet while Lucy bounces on the settee and Elizabeth falls off it.

“That’s it, get to bed, all of you.”

“But Mum, come on, it’s amazing.”

“Fucking now!”

Her tone shatters our frenzy like a truncheon breaks a rib. We go.

“Night, Mum,” says Elizabeth.

The house is consumed in silence.

Too excited to sleep, I run action-replays in my head, waiting for Dad to return, like an Irish Father Christmas, down the chimney.

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