Read of the day
(a short story)
His parental right had been determined by the court as ‘half a day each week to be with his daughter.’ In large green letters it was written on his calendar with a large tick beside it.
As arranged on the dot of two-thirty every Saturday he rang the bell. Almost immediately the front door opened and Mary Lou, who was already standing in the hall ready for this moment, was passed out to him by his ex-wife, without too much of an acknowledgement at all.
Mary Lou dressed in her blue dungarees, yellow anorak and red sneakers stood shyly beside her father with her head bowed and eyes fixed firmly on the ground as she hunched her shoulders and shuffled her feet.
“Hello rainbow girl,” he said each time as he bent to kiss her, but even now, after several weeks, she was still reluctant to say anything in return and when he tried to hold her hand she would pull it away.
“Your father’s not forgotten to bring his rainbow girl her favourite liquorice strips!” He winked at her and she watched his hand delve into a bulging jacket pocket to pull out with the flourish of a conjuror a small white paper bag to give to her.
“Off we go, for the park is calling to us to see what is going on.” It was the sentence he always used, as together they began to take steps away from the house and make their way towards the park, Mary Lou walking a few steps behind him happily twirling the long strands of liquorice from the paper bag round her tongue and fingers.
He knew his ex-wife was behind the net curtains watching until they were out of sight to note for any signs that they might not be getting on together. He always encouraged Mary Lou to look back towards that window and together with him blow her a kiss.
The progress made before Mary Lou had finished eating was not very far and inevitably she needed his handkerchief to wipe the liquorice off her face and hands. She would almost hesitate to use it, and then when she’d finished wiping her face clean she never gave the handkerchief back to him, just drop it on the ground. He was a little hurt by this but did not want to upset her should he attempt to express this.
“Here we are,” he said, leading her through the park gates “As always I shall buy you your cornet ice cream.” Mary Lou found it difficult to eat this and walk straight without bumping into things, so together they sat down on the grass while she finished it.
“You know a father and a daughter should always be best friends and happy to be together. Your mother wants us to be good friends, I’m sure you know that,” he said, as they moved towards the pond to stand and watch the ducks.
“Look the baby ducks are growing up,” Mary Lou said.
From his other jacket pocket he withdrew a small bag of broken bread, but Mary Lou wasn’t interested in throwing it to the ducks or deciding on names to give each of them and he threw them the bread while she pretended to be bored and swung on the railings instead.
“We’ll make for the playground now, ” he said to Mary Lou and with a click of the fingers to encourage her attention and bring a smile to her face once more he produced for her, again from his jacket pocket, a large sherbet dab. “Keep the stick,” he smiled, “who knows, one day it may grow into a tree if we find a secret place to plant it in the ground.” This made her smile and he tried to take her hand but no she preferred to walk backwards, by herself, while she watched a dog playing with a ball.
“Come on, careful” he said, “look where you’re going.”
She turned and seeing the swings not far away shouted out “oh, we’re here.” and excitedly ran towards them.
“I’ll push you,” he said, puffing up behind her, but she didn’t want that and ran off to the slide. “I’ll catch you,” he said, standing at the bottom of the slope, but Mary Lou just giggled and retreated down the steps.
Her extra energy beat his and before he could stop her she was far too high up on the climbing frame. Hardly had he said “Mary Lou it’s too dangerous up there, come down” when her foot slipped and he had to prevent her falling and help her safely to the ground.
Mary Lou, a little flushed and shaken sat down beside him on the nearby park seat. “No more shocks, let me do your shoelaces up and let us enjoy the short time the court allows us to be together. I understand how it hurts you that your mother and I now live apart, in separate houses. I’m hurting inside too, you know, just as much as you are. But I still love you very much as she does too. Next week you’ll feel different about things, I’m sure you will, I’m sure.” he said. “This is our park. Our special place to be happy and have a laugh together. Here we are, your usual two-pound coin,” and with a wink he tucked the coin into her yellow anorak pocket. “Best Friends you and I. High Five. Yes….Yes! Three cheers for us and the park.”
Together they retraced their steps, Mary Lou a step or two behind her father holding on to the back of his jacket and not yet his hand. SLQDaily
Blast from the past
Give me your love and build me a castle
A haven where secure from the barbs
Of a wicked wanton wasted world
I may sit and revel in the bliss of your being
Send out your spirit to seek mine out
That commingled, intertwined, we may as one
Withstand these turbulent clouds of life
Floating together, borne as one unto
The joys that await us
Up, up above.
‘Demand Note’ by Ike Anya was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, March 2003
SLQ Competitions update
Our last poetry competition closed on the 31st of July and all the poems will be sent to the Judge Terry Jones on Tuesday 4th August. Our target date for the announcement of results is 31st August 2020.
The SLQ Poetry Competition (October 2020) will be judged by Roger Elkin. The competition is now open for entries here.
Submit poems up to 50 lines long, short fiction and book reviews up to 1,500 words long, short plays/sketches up to 5,000 words long. Target decision time on all submissions is two weeks. Send all submissions with a short bio and a photograph of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org