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Chapter 3

and if there was fire in the hearth I’d throw the note into it but there isn’t, just yesterday’s ashes, so I go upstairs but dad’s not there either, he’s gone and it’s been hours since I went out, it was morning when I left and he was fine, he was sleeping but we didn’t speak and I remember the radio was on the table and how last night he sat there just looking at the broken bits but I took that for nothing more than thoughts just swilling around his head not for some switch being flicked, his mind gone, and I wouldn’t have rowed out this morning if I’d thought that, why didn’t he just say something to me, something like Ark, I’m thinking about your mother, I think I might be able to hear her through this broken radio, and if he’s said something like that I’d have told him he wasn’t well, I’d have taken him to the Penny’s farm and Rick would have sat dad down, he’d have made dad stay there for as long as it took, they’ve done it before, not with dad but with this rower who came to their farm last year, he turned up at the Penny’s with a gun, a rifle I think, and it turned out afterwards that it wasn’t loaded but no one knew that when he turned up waving it about, I was there when it happened, I was with Miles and Skelly and little Harry and I remember I was looking at Sarah because she was in the barn, clearing it out, and she had this light summer dress on, I’d never seen that dress before, god knows where they got a dress like that from, a new dress I mean, I thought I knew all her dresses, I thought I’d seen her in them all but maybe Rick or Skelly even had found it down water and Sarah was standing there holding this old rake and the sunlight, it was nearly sunset, was shining on her, through her, through the dress, and I could see the cotton of her underwear, the outline, I couldn’t help but look so even when she turned and saw me I didn’t turn away but then we heard the shouting and it was the madman rower, he’d just turned up with his rifle, threatening to kill everyone so Rick just walked up to him, took the gun, so the rower started crying, he was filthy, long dirty beard and so tired looking and I think Sarah was still watching me as Rick led the madman inside and they did it with him didn’t they, they made him better, nursed him or whatever, took care of him, shaved him, washed him and they didn’t have to do half of that stuff for dad, just talk to him, if dad would’ve just told me he was cracking up I’d have taken him straight to the Penny’s farm, rowed through the rain, through night, not cared about Wavers or freezing to death, but he bottled all that up didn’t he and now it’s too late, his boat is bound to be gone and I hadn’t noticed that, why hadn’t I noticed it was gone, that it wasn’t tied there right next to where I tied mine, maybe it was because I was too busy thinking about the Wavers or that stupid hawk or the rain or Sarah or whatever and now he’s gone, dad can row for miles if he catches a good current so I run down to Father Leigh’s shed, leave the kitchen and the bashed up radio, past the ashes of Father Leigh’s books and I don’t even knock, he doesn’t turn when I go in, just says close the door behind you, Ark calmly and I tell him, shout it at him, dad’s gone! and he says I know, he told me, and he’s just sat there hunched over his desk, not even turning to look at me, his scalpel in one hand, an old bible on the desk, all that patience in him, his homemade flour glue ready to stick his stupid words on to a fresh page of his New Bible and he’s studying one of his old Bibles too, the old tattered one open beside the blank page of his new one because he’s looking for reasons, patiently, swallowed by it all, and I stand there trying to figure out what he might be looking for in those words, is he just waiting like dad must’ve been waiting, waiting for the first crack, the slip, the fall, and I can’t stand it, I shout at him and ask him why did he let dad go but Father Leigh hardly seems to notice that I’m shouting at him, just keeps focusing on the page and it’s only when I slam my hand against one of his over full bookshelves that he jumps up, looks at the shaking shelf, looks at me and still with his quiet voice, calm voice, tells me to sit down, and there’s this little stool I always used to sit on when I was younger and I’m too big for it now really but I sit down and I’m crying, not a proper cry, just tears, wetness on my cheeks, an awareness that I’m sobbing and wanting to cry and cry, but Father Leigh puts a hand on my back and tells me it’s all going to be okay, he straightens the books I’ve knocked and I can’t speak, why’d he let dad go, why didn’t he stop him, talk to him, weren’t priests meant to help people, isn’t that what he did before the water came and the silence of the shed is choking, he kneels in front of me and he takes my hands and he places them over his hands and he says your father had to go, it was something he had to do, and I’m still sobbing as he talks and he goes when I asked him why he wanted to go he told me it was for your mother and there was so much sincerity in his eyes, Ark and Father Leigh looks at me, smiles, like that’s enough of an answer and right then as he smiles, full of his own sincerity and crap, I hate that it was him who named me, that the stupid nickname he gave me stuck so firmly, that when he put me in the old box he told dad I was in my own Ark, that I was Ark from then on, not David Noon, not David ever again, that dad was happy to let that name go, that it was a name mum chose, that being Ark meant I wasn’t part of that old life anymore, I was something new and sat in the shed looking at Father Leigh, his lined face, his sincere smile, his sincere eyes, drunk on the whisky he brews himself, stinking of it, I hate that I was named by a fool and I push his hands away and stand up and he says something strange then, something I think I might’ve misheard, must’ve misheard, because as I run out of the shed he says we are here because of the water of the flood, Ark, and the words mean nothing to me and I’m running down back to the jetty, unhooking the rope, pushing my oars into water, digging them into water, I can feel my arms burn with the strain as I push out, row out, row and row without looking back because it’s not back I need to be looking, it’s forward, it’s on, and the rain starts again and it’s pitch black but it doesn’t matter because I need to row to find dad and bring him home, I need to row and it will rain like it always rains but it doesn’t matter because I’m the only who can bring dad home now

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About michaeleganpoetry

Liverpool based poet and editor. I have had four pamphlets of poetry published, most recently After Stikklestad (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010). Penned in the Margins published my first collection, Steak & Stations, in 2010.

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