At the beginning, it was just little things, like where did he put his watch or what was the name of that guy he went to school with. Nothing out of the ordinary. Now, his father’s voice often trailed off mid-speech. Thoughts vanished into mid-air. Sometimes, he only managed one single word. Like a machine stuttering to a standstill.
Gabriel took out the trampoline that night. A present for his eighth birthday. He wiped off the dust and carried it into the garden.
At the beginning, he found it hard to balance. He focused. Kept going. It got easier the more he pushed upwards and he remembered his Dad’s face when he’d mastered the art the first time round.
You can do it, Gab, he’d laughed. Look at you. You can do it.
Each time Gabriel jumped, his body reached higher and higher. His breathing fell into a rhythm.
At the beginning, he let whatever images come and go. The memory of a camping trip when his Dad taught him how to light a fire by rubbing sticks together.
I might try that again later, Gabriel thought as he glided smoothly through the darkness.
Dad would be proud, he thought.
When he jumped again, he pictured his Dad watching TV in their kitchen and explaining to Gabriel what industrial action meant.
At the beginning, Gabriel listened to everything Dad said.
He jumped and heard Dad shouting at him, saw Dad’s face angry and disappointed.
We had such high hopes for you, he said.
On the next jump, Gabriel levered himself further into the air, like an acrobat who had no limits. Dad was smiling, overjoyed to find that the girl he’d always welcomed into his home was soon to become Gab’s wife.
The next jump saw Gabriel and his Dad walking down a lane – the exact location wasn’t clear – but the two of them were locked in conversation. Father and son, ruminating on life in all its strangeness.
Then Dad’s tattoo from a time when art on skin was a social stigma in certain cultural cliques which Gabriel’s Dad was not afraid to enter.
There’s no shame in knowing where you come from, Gab, he said. Don’t let anyone belittle you.
At the beginning, Gabriel became a little boy again, reaching for his Dad’s hand each time he jumped. By the end, he had a kaleidoscope of memories he could take back and release, whenever he needed, into that curious lamplit room.
Gabriel didn’t say who he was when Dad looked up. It didn’t matter. Gabriel sat down by his bed. He put on a song and waited for Dad to begin singing, gently, like a forgotten blackbird in the dead of night.
Lizzie Eldridge is a writer and human rights activist from Glasgow. She’s written 2 published novels – Duende (Amazon 2014) and Vandalism (Merlin Publishers 2015). Vandalism was shortlisted for a National Book Prize in Malta where she lived for 12 years and was selected as one of the Best Books 2017 by a Glasgow branch of Waterstones. Lizzie’s also had short stories, flash fiction and poetry published in Declarations on Freedom for Readers and Writers (Scotland St Press 2020), The Edwin Morgan Centenary Collection (Speculative Books 2020), Epoch, Story Nook, Briefly Zine, Free Flash Fiction, On-the-High Literary Journal, and others.
Her twitter handle is @lizzie_eldridge