Night falls heavy behind drawn yellow curtains, as the silent face watches me grieve.
My father used to keep a small transistor radio in the kitchen, a Zenith from sometime in the 1960’s with brushed silver dials and buttons. As a child it was already an antique, the sound it created hollow and tinny, like listening to music through a steel drum. When he was alone, my father would conduct an imaginary symphony with the tip of his right index finger. Sometimes I’d catch him, lost in his own imagination, his slender digit dancing with each rise and fall of the music.
In the morning he’d turn the volume down until it was almost inaudible. Luminous in the faint early light, he savoured the solitude that his early rise bestowed on him. With my mother and I encaged in sleep, he was free to relax in the comfort of his own thoughts. The brick and mortar surrounding him was merely a shelter from the elements, a place he awkwardly cohabitated with the strangers he shared a bed and a few genes with.
Eventually he would catch sight of the interloper in checked pyjamas, a funhouse mirror version of his own face reflecting back at him.
‘What are you doing up at this hour?’
I am a voyeur wiping sleep from my eyes, peeking into a world I yearn to understand.
‘Do you want breakfast? Here, I’ll make you some pancakes.’ He would begin fiddling with frying pans and pancake batter, his movements erratic and awkward, his neurological pathways not attuned to carrying out functions as domestic as cooking breakfast. The scene before me a cacophony of spilled milk, spattered batter, and trickling egg yolk, while my father hummed Mozart or Bach breathlessly to himself. The smell of pancake beginning to coagulate would fill the whole kitchen, turning my stomach. I never had the heart to tell him I wasn’t hungry. I chose instead to sit idly by, staring at broken egg shells.
After he died, I found that old radio in a box in the loft. We’d barely communicated during the last years of his life, but as I held it the strains of his voice rang through the timbers.
‘What are you doing up at this hour?’
His charcoal grey slacks neatly pressed and a touch too large for his slender frame, starched white shirt, black tie, dark hair gelled into an immaculate part, thick black rimmed spectacles straddling the bridge of his long narrow nose like a bow-legged drunkard, constantly falling down. His eyes shut serenely, the corners of his lips cocked into a half-curled smile, until the symphony softly faded.
As I plugged the radio into the kitchen socket, a distant odour of pancake batter filled the room. I flicked the switch, expecting the sounds of Bach to sing from the speakers, but there was only silence. The face of the radio remained cold and black. An evening light began to fade behind mustard yellow curtains.
Charles Prelle is a writer and playwright based in London, UK. His plays include A Close Personal Advisor To…, The Rabbit Hole, The Whisper Network and All That’s Left which have been staged at the Bread & Roses Theatre, the Old Red Lion and the Chapel Playhouse. Charles is also a writer of short fiction, with work published in The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine and Reflex Press. He’s been longlisted in Flash 500 and Reflex Fiction. On Twitter @CharlesPrelle.
‘Hyde’ published in Ellipsis Zine
‘Catfish Blues’ published in Reflex Press
‘The Old Man’ published in The Cabinet of Heed
‘You were never good with needles’ which was long-listed in the Spring 2020 Reflex flash fiction competition
Twitter – @CharlesPrelle
Cover Image by QuinceCreative
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