‘Leave to remove is granted’. The verdict was not a surprise. Papers were being slid into brief-cases and the court was rising to go as Bobby hung suspended in the moment of losing his kids. If this was a new life to be grasped then it was a stillbirth. ‘It is probably for the best, less messy,’ whispered the social worker, squeezing his elbow to steady him. He nodded, silent, crushed by the juggernaut of his dead marriage.
His plan formed salamander slow in the bath as it cooled, and he remembered the fathers in superhero tights crawling up public buildings as ex- wives drew their children to their breasts and turned off the television with a remote. He could block his wife’s route to the airport, he thought, and, with eyes blackened, a white stripe painted on his nose, the bathroom mat round his shoulders and a bottle of tomato sauce in his hand, he was ready for his stunt. Left with no room to grow into he dad he might have been, he fell into a run, little comfort in the drama he planned. Stepping onto Princes Street behind the number twenty-three bus, he spread eagled himself on the road, appearing in a cloud of exhaust fumes as badger road kill. He squirted sauce by his head and then lay pressed into the tarmac as brakes screamed. A wall of traffic loomed above him as people ran to his rescue, then stood uncertain whether to touch him, transfixed by the sight of his raw pain which dripped as tears onto the ground and pooled there – each tiny pond the love for his lost children in the Andean grooves of the road.
He never felt the ambulance men lift him up. He never felt the orderly tuck him up in bed. He never felt the nurse’s needle sedate him. He was floating free. In a distant corner of his mind, now an empty room, he remembered he had had something important to say, an important message. Now he lay mute, tucked up in a perfectly laundered bed that no one was allowed to sit on. He longed to be held but no one came. The day crawled in sun shadows across the counterpane, his body the finger of a sundial, and the nurse washed his face and left water for him in a beaker.
Writer: Victoria White
Illustrator: Majh Helen Alander