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Go Your Own Way
Go Your Own Way

Go Your Own Way

JPYoungJPYoung

Leichhardt, New South Wales, 1980

‘Where are you off to this time, Philip?’

‘Rio de Janeiro, Mum!’

‘How wonderful! I love Carmen Miranda!’

Phil Danté sang Chica Chica Boom Chic from That Night in Rio and danced the samba. Mum ecstatically smiled and moved her head in time; Dad glared,

‘Where are you going after that? Gold hunting in the Amazon?’

‘Johannesburg…’

‘Off with Major Disaster again…When you get both your bloody legs blown off by a landmine don’t come running home to me!’

‘I won’t, Dad.’

‘Will you be going out with Tatie after dinner and Jean’s telephone call?’

His tennis star sister was his father’s tag team partner in putting him down; as she was away in training or playing, she kept in touch with prearranged telephone calls.

‘Yes, Mum.’

‘Yeah, you do that…my sister feels sorry for you.’

‘That’s another thing I love about you, Dad; you don’t feel sorry for anyone.’

‘I feel sorry when your sister loses a match. She does something useful!’

‘Hitting a ball’s useful?’

‘It is when it makes people happy, and they pay for it.’

‘I make people happy…and they pay for it.’

‘For killing the ones they don’t like.’

‘Killing’s my living, Dad. You’re the one who told me, “there’s only two sure things in life…death and taxes”…and I’m not an accountant like you.’

‘Then why don’t you be an undertaker and make some money at home?’

‘I’m used to floppies, but I’m too much like you’, He accurately imitated his father’s voice. ‘“I’ll give yer something to cry about!” Smacko! I’d be bashing all the crybabies.’

‘You’ve got an answer for everything…smartarse!’

‘Don’t you du..ad.’

‘You’re a disgrace!’

Home is the place where they shout at you the loudest…

Mum spoke in Her Majesty’s calm voice of disappointment and woe-is-me-with-a-son-like-mine.

‘It isn’t easy for us to have a son who’s a vagabond...’

Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a mannnnn…’

‘Ever since they invented the aeroplane village idiots don’t stay home anymore! Why don’t you kill yourself now to save money on airfare?’

‘You should write funny suicide notes for John Sands Greeting Cards or jokes for Graham Kennedy, or better yet, take his place on telly!’

‘He’s a poof and a boof!’

‘Remember how Philip used to love Delo and Daly?’

‘Can your Major sing?’

Phil’s leader Major ‘Hellfire Hugh’ Williams telephoned him that they had employment in Southern Africa. After finishing private investigation work in Honolulu, he had enough time to visit home.

His clean room was kept exactly the way it was since he left, no doubt his family told everyone he’d been at the cinema since he joined the Australian Army, then kept travelling around the world joining other armies.

‘Why do you even bother coming back here?’

‘Don’t you know?’

‘Thirty years old with no career, no home and no family of your own…’

‘No despondency, depression, self-loathing, debts…’, Phil sang I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin, ‘You don’t want me hanging around here on the dole?

‘You will be!’

‘Say something nice about your son, Peter.’

‘…At least he doesn’t put his country down like those ratbags Clive James and Germaine Greer.’

‘Say something nice about your father.’

‘Didn’t I buy you that box of corn flakes with the toy submarine inside?’

‘Let Philip answer…’

‘He puts up with a lot…’

My oath I do!’ Dad stormed off to his back garden shed, ‘Ratbag!’

‘Just a chip off the old blockhead…’

‘You’re too much like your father. Go to his shed and have a talk.’

‘That was always off limits to me.’

‘You’re a man now Philip, talk to him without sarcasm.’

‘We’ve always talked…we’ve never conversed.’

Phil endured his tirades and made quips.

His mother’s eyes blazed as she pointed towards the back garden,

Va chez ton père!!!’

Mum’s order would be the nearest he’d get to trespass on Dad’s sacred ground. It was the first time he’d been invited to Dad’s shed since his childhood.

He knocked on the door, Dad was listening to a talkback show on the wireless.

‘What do you want!’

‘To talk, Dad. May I come in?...Please?...Mum suggested it…’

There was no answer.

En français…’

The door opened; Dad wore his usual Homicidal Maniac of the Year expression that had well prepared Phil for army life. They looked at each other without speaking, Dad used his head to signal him into the Great Unknown Territory. Hic sunt dracones

Phil looked at the tables and tools of Dad’s Mr. Fixit workshop. The walls were adorned with pictures from the past; Dad, Mum, Tatie, and their parents before and during the war with Dad in D.C.L.I battledress, Phil and Jean as babies, in school uniform, Jean’s tennis exploits whilst Phil’s most recent photograph was his first Army photo in his slouch hat; taken so long ago

It was the place where Dad could be himself and see the world as he wanted it.

‘I’ve always been afraid to come inside…’

‘You were as great a handyman as you were a sportsman.’

‘I don’t mean to piss you off, Dad. It just happens.’

‘Yeah.’

Phil kept quiet to let Dad start speaking. Instead…

‘Like a beer, Phil?’

‘Please.’

Dad produced two stubbies of Toohey’s from his Eskie.

‘Thank you.’

‘You’ve Mum’s manners…’

‘But yours kept me alive…’

‘And our prayers…’

Mille merci…’

‘I’m glad you came back…I’m worried I won’t see you again.’

‘You’re a great Dad. You looked after us. Sorry I didn’t turn into what you hoped for.’

‘Your mother always wanted you to get married. We can’t boss you around all your life…We never saw you with any girlfriends when you were in school, sometimes I wondered about you.’

‘Overseas girls are easier…’

‘And sleazier’, Dad smiled, ‘They were then, they are now…I’m sure you’re different when you’re overseas.’

‘I’m more at home in the Far Away than here…’

Là, tu es quelque chose, ici, tu n'es rien...’, Dad said in resignation and realisation.

Sauf qu'avec je suis avec toi, Maman et Tatie.’

‘She thinks the world of you, and stands up for you, “He’ll be right”, she says, “Just give him time.”’

‘She’s your cheerleader too, Dad.’

* * *

The men were singing Bless ‘em All when they heard Tatie and Mother banging on the shed; both men looked at their wristwatches and couldn’t believe the time had passed.

‘We thought we’d let you men catch up with each other.’

‘We did, Mum, we did.’

Dad put his arm around him.

He’s me mate, Marie!’

FIN

Author Notes: Happy (USA) Father’s Day!
My 100th submission! (including one by Jean-Leon Gêrôme) Thanks very much for reading my scribblings and your support.

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JPYoung
JPYoung
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Posted
12 Jun, 2024
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