This week’s extract is from A Good Father by Catherine Talbot.
Can Anybody Hear Me?
By the end of next summer, before the kids go back to school, I will kill my family.[restrict]
After I kill them, I will cry bitterly and make some freshly squeezed orange juice using the electric fruit juicer that I bought in Lidl with my daughter, Maeve. It cost €13.99. We made juice as a family every morning for two weeks, but after the initial healthy buzz, we kept forgetting to buy oranges. After I make the juice, I will put on my Lycra training gear and run up and down the Cat’s Ladder (my favourite set of steps) for a while. I often meet other like-minded people there, covered in Lycra. When I finish on the steps, I’ll make my way up to the Obelisk at the top of Killiney Hill.
Once there, I’ll see Dalkey Island set majestically, frozen to my left, and the long sweep of Killiney beach on my right. I’ll squint and make out the shaft of light that marks the beginning of the tunnel through Bray Head to Greystones. I’ll allow myself a moment to consider the similarity between the beaches in Killiney and Greystones. And wonder, as I always do, why I have never set foot on Dalkey Island, despite its proximity. I’ll start on my set of stretches taught to me by my friend Maurice, who helps me out with the under-elevens football team that I coach, mainly because my twin sons, Mikey and Joey, are on the team. These stretches encourage my muscles to retract to the place where they are more comfortable. I’ll be aware of my breathing, and if it’s sunny, I’ll be able to feel a warmth on my back while pondering why I couldn’t get rid of myself. This will provide me with the complete understanding that I am a coward. In the rural parts of this country, men who perform such acts on their families generally finish themselves off. But the truth is that they often have far better access to more suitable tools – a shotgun for starters. I might well consider how many times I have studied Jenny’s woodcutting implements and wondered if they would be suitable for inflicting sufficient self-damage. But I know that long ago, I came to the conclusion I wouldn’t be able to go through with it.
I am not insane. I am afraid. I don’t want to live and have to keep worrying about all the shit about children being bullied online and I’m holding off on getting mine mobile phones. I fear that Mikey and Joey may not make good men, and I worry that Maeve will fall for a weak man. I could leave them, I could move to another part of the country, I’ve always had a yen to set up in Connemara, but they would still be here, in this house.
I am an educated man. I do not take drugs, prescribed or otherwise, nothing to combat loneliness or a general reluctance for life itself. It’s just that I am living in fear. The fear is like a crazy person running after you as you sleep. Tearing away, you are in grave danger of being attacked, and you try to run from him but your legs won’t work. And in the dream you cannot fathom why your legs have become paralysed. They worked before, why not now, when you so desperately need them to? And when you toss and turn and try to breathe new life into your immobile legs, you wriggle in your bed, and as a child, you eventually fall out, but as an adult you simply wake up. And you start another day and the semblance of terror that you felt in the dream isn’t tangible any more but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
‘A Good Father’ by Catherine Talbot is published by Sandycove and is available in paperback online and in stores from 10 February 2022.[/restrict]