Say, “Who’s this, Dad?” when he opens his front door cradling a dummy in his arms.
The dummy will stare at you with its huge blood-orange eyes. “Name’s Josh,” it will say, its voice high-pitched. “Gimme five,” and your father will raise the dummy’s pink, vinyl hand.
Reach out and push its palm. Say, “Nice one, Dad. So how have you been?” while you follow him into the kitchen.
The dummy’s head will swivel between your father and you. “Watch my lips,” it will say, its jaw no longer flapping. “See? They don’t move. But wait. Look at Dad’s lips. They don’t move, either. What’s happening here?”
Try to smile. Tell your dad, “Listen, I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch.”
“I’ve got a good one for you,” the dummy will say. “You’ll like this. What do you call a man with a spade on his head?”
Say, “Come on, Dad. Can we stop with the dummy, please?”
“Doug,” the dummy will say. “And what do you call a man without a spade on his head?”
Here, get up from the table. Look out of the window, at the garden, your mother’s joy. Remember the last time you stood here, five months ago, the morning of the funeral. Upstairs in the bedroom your dad was dressing. He let out a wail. “Don’t leave me, Kitty. Please don’t leave me.” He didn’t speak again that day, except to say goodbye.
“So, how’s about that garden?” the dummy will say. “Look at those borders. Aren’t they something? Dad’s discovered green fingers he never knew he had.”
Turn and stand behind your father. Rest your hand on his shoulder. “The garden looks wonderful,” tell him. “Mum would be so proud.” Still facing away from you, he’ll reach up, cup the back of your hand and hold you. You’ll hold each other.
Digby Beaumont’s stories have appeared in many fine publications, most recently Flash Frontier, Bartleby Snopes, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Jellyfish Review, Camroc Press Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, 100-Word Story, Boston Literary Review, 34th Parallel and Olentangy Review. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology, and he is currently working on a flash fiction collection. He has worked as a nonfiction author for many years, with numerous publications, and lives in Hove, England.