See that flower patch over in my garden? Funny story about that. I was deep in a dream about locusts as big as buses taking over the world, eating everything, my friends, family, wife, kids and car, their mandibles clicking like axes tearing into trees. It was a good dream. A noise made me snap out of it, groggy and grumpy and full of hell. The noise sounded again, a scratching from downstairs. I turned to Maureen, but she was laid out like a bearskin rug, pumped full of Valium. In the darkness I made my way through our bedroom and over the landing.
My baseball bat was in my hands, the grip already slippery from my fear-sweaty hands. It’s tough being a dad – ask anyone. You’re not only expected to take care of yourself, but to look after your brood. And if it came to a struggle, a real life-and-death fight, do you think they’d do the same for you? No, it doesn’t work like that. You’re the provider and the protector. The traffic flows only one way, dad, and you’re in the driving seat.
The stairs creaked too loudly for my liking as I made my way down them. Reaching the lounge, I flipped on the light and boomed, ‘What do you want?’
A fat guy I didn’t recognise – in retrospect it’s obvious who it was, but you try making a decision at three in the morning – spread his arms and said, ‘Ho, ho, ho!’
I swung at him, thinking he was coming for me, and connected with his head.
He went down immediately, rocking the house as he landed.
Blood began to pool around him, matching his shirt and hat, seeping into his beard and cuffs and turning them pink.
A man could let a situation like this get the better of him, but not me. He was on my property, an intruder, and I wasn’t about to start crying over a mistake he had made in messing with the wrong homeowner.
He did look forlorn, I had to admit, as I dragged him by his polished boots out to the back. But I managed to harden my heart again as I thought of all the years growing up that he had passed by my house without calling in.
After clearing up the problem on the roof with a hacksaw, I began to dig. He made a noise that might have been an ‘Oomph’ as I rolled him in. In any case, the fall would have finished him off. The hole I filled with churned-up soil, a helping of compost and a sprinkling of seeds. My next job involved a mop, bucket, rubber gloves and bleach.
By the time everyone got up, I was exhausted, lying aching in my armchair with my legs stretched out before me and a cool beer in my hand. It was worth it though, just to see the looks on their little faces.
‘Kids,’ I said, ‘we’ve got reindeer steak for breakfast and all the presents you’ve ever wished for – even some you haven’t.’
Originally from South Africa, Andrew Dawson lives in North East England. He has a novel available on Kindle called MiG-23 Broke my Heart. Links to the book and to more of his writing can be found at http://www.akdawson.co.uk