by Jesse Thompson
Ryan sat on the carpet playing with his legos. He liked the world of coloured pieces. He liked to click them together, making order out of the chaos laying jumbled in his lego box.
Ryan would show his lego lands to his mother who’d say, ‘That’s my boy’ and ‘Well done, baby,’ before taking a long drag of her cigarette.
When Ryan’s dad arrived home he would rush to put his legos away. His dad didn’t like the mess around the front room. His mom would stash her cigarettes in his lego box, a secret they kept together.
Ryan was good at building legos, but he was also good reading his dad’s temper. He knew when to stay quiet, when to talk when to run and hide. If his dad was happy he’d tap his feet to the radio. Tap, tap, tap. Heel, heel, toe. If his dad was tired he’d put on the TV and ask Ryan to bring him a beer from the fridge.
One day, Ryan’s dad came home and sat on his sofa. He didn’t turn on the radio and he didn’t ask for a beer, he just sat, staring at Ryan’s mother, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together.
Ryan’s mother was frying pork chops in a pan in the kitchen.
‘You want mashed or roasted potatoes for dinner?’
Ryan’s father didn’t reply. He sat, staring, rubbing his fingers together.
Ryan knew what this meant. Quickly, he ran to the fridge and grabbed a beer, putting it on the side table, and he clicked the remote on the TV.
‘Dad, American Idol’s on tonight.’
‘Do you think I give a damn what kind of potatoes we’re having?’
Ryan’s mother didn’t turn from the stove. She tightened her grip on the pan, ‘Fine, mashed it is.’
‘Dad it’s the final, with that blonde girl and…’
Ryan knew he had to hurry. The last time his dad had rubbed his fingers together like that, Ryan had to stay at his grandparent’s house for six sleeps. Ryan ran over to the radio and turned it on.
‘Dad, do you…’
‘Quiet, I said.’
Ryan looked from his mother to his father, his little feet prancing back and forth. He knew better than to speak again after his father’s second warning.
Ryan ran into his room. He’d usually hide deep under the covers of his bed, but this time he stopped and, looking down at his lego box, he got an idea.
‘Dad, look out!’
Ryan burst into the kitchen, threw open the lid, and chucked his lego all over the floor. It scattered across the tiles like shards of rainbow. Then he ran into the front room and hurled the empty box at the window, cracking the glass into a web of broken reflections.
Ryan’s father slowly turned to look at him. Letting go of his mother’s wrist pinned against the counter, he picked up the steel frying pan. Tipping it slowly, he let the sizzling meat fall with a thud atop Ryan’s lego land before heading for the front room.