issue 51: January - February 2006 

| author bio


David Ramos Fernandes


      that morning he was ready to do it.
      getting up early, mark tip-toed to the bathroom and ran hot water against a towel, wringing it tight before pressing it to his forehead. he returned to bed. an hour later, his father knocked on the door, waiting for him to reply.
      this time mark kept quiet.
      his father knocked again, then pushed open the door. he was dressed in his work uniform, his tie hanging loose from his pocket.
      what’s wrong?
      i think i’m sick dad.
his father stood over the bed, looking down at the school shoes by his feet. he noticed that they weren’t polished. can’t you come downstairs?
      i don’t think so.
he nodded, reaching for his tie. it’s okay. i can do it myself.
      mark gave him a weak, struggled smile. sorry dad.
      his father shrugged, stretching out the tie, straightening the creases. he did this for a while, until mark leaned up from the pillow and took his father’s hand, pressing it against his forehead.
      see? i’m all clammy.
      he felt his father gently pull his hand away. yes. yes. well.
      i’ll be alright. i’ll make sure i drink plenty. an’ i’ll have some of that tinned soup that’s downstairs.
      yes. yes.
he looped the tie around his collar, judging the distance between the two strands by lining them up against the buttons on his shirt. he did this a few times before he was finally satisfied enough to begin knotting the tie. when he finished, he turned and walked towards the doorway, his hand reaching out to close the door behind him. yes. that’s a good idea. he paused. so.
      mark closed his eyes, waiting for him to leave.
      yes. well i better - as the door slowly swung shut.
      mark listened as his father made breakfast, the kettle hissing, the toaster jumping, the same plate and mug knocking into the kitchen sink to soak, his footsteps creaking from the linoleum to the quiet hush of the hallway carpet, the silence of him standing by the front door, wanting to leave, but needing to say something, i’ll see you later then, and then nothing.
      lying still, mark watched his bedside clock flicker through the morning until he thought it was safe to get up. dressed in his pyjamas, he walked downstairs and opened the small door underneath the staircase, reaching up for the plastic boxes where he knew his father hoarded all the things and bits that didn’t belong anywhere else. he took one of the boxes down and carefully poured out the contents, dragging his fingers through old screws and rusted nails, strips of copper wire, burnt fuses and broken plugs, a ring of insulating tape, matches, an old nametag from his father’s last job.
      he worked his way through the pile until he found the key, placing it in his mouth while he put everything else back, careful to pick up even the smallest shavings of wood that had spilled out.
      running up to his room, he left the key on his bedside clock and quickly undressed. once he was naked, he ran into the bathroom and showered, making sure that he scrubbed behind his ears. he brushed his teeth, then washed his hands and face, twice.
      when he was satisfied, he went back to his room and slowly put on his school uniform, correcting the length of his tie by measuring it against the buttons of his shirt. taking the key and the clock, which he placed into the pocket of his blazer, he picked up his shoes and took them into his father’s bedroom, where he found the blackened cloth and can of polish his father always liked to use.
      after a while the shoes began to gleam in the sombre light.
      he put the shoes on, wiping around the soles to make sure he didn’t mark the carpet with polish. walking over to his father’s wardrobe, he opened the door and looked at himself in the full length mirror, tugging his shirt a little to even out the creases on his chest.
      in the kitchen he found his father’s stepladder which he carried upstairs and positioned underneath the attic door, shoving some of his school books beneath the legs of the frame.
      he took a deep breath.
      taking each step slowly, he climbed the ladder and pushed the key into the small lock his father had left there, turning it softly, listening to the catch as it sprung open.
      the door shuddered. dust curled out from around its edges.
      he took another step up and pushed his shoulder against the weight of the door, lifting, then swinging it back against a wooden beam. he stared into the cold darkness of the attic, across the strips of insulating foam and water pipes, looking for the stack of cardboard boxes he had found the week before.
      for a moment he thought they had gone, and he froze at the sudden image of his father hiding in the darkness, waiting to catch him.
      then, as his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he noticed the thin shafts of light breaking through the cracks in the roof tiles above his head. he saw the old boxes piled up against the water tank; the words printed across the sides. goodmans. golden apples. bells.
      easing himself up into the attic, he balanced his way across the beams towards the boxes. placing the clock on the water tank, he began to lift the top three boxes off the pile. old toys stared up at him, a grey teddy bear, action figures with missing arms and legs, chewed up pieces of lego, scraps of paper, a crayon picture of a small house with three stick people standing over it, with circles for faces sand dots for eyes.
      he opened the last box, slowly reaching in and taking out each object, arranging them in a set order around him. a baking tray. an oven glove. faded, half-torn books. a cardigan. an empty make-up bag smeared with powder and pencil lines. a broken tube of lipstick. cassettes. a cheap plastic hairbrush. some old coins.
      crouching down, he examined each object in turn, running his fingers against the smooth curves of the tray, thumbing through the books, reading over the same words, the coins dropping from one palm to another, the small stump of bent, broken lipstick, rolled back and forth, gently moving against his thumb, the warmth of the gloves. he breathed in the smell of the empty make-up bag, the same scent of perfume he thought he could smell on the cardigan, his head buried in its folds, the arms tucked around him.
      by the time he looked up at the clock it was mid-afternoon, but he stayed, crouched there in the darkness, for a few more hours, the hairbrush in his hand, dragging the tender needles across the stubbled dome of his head, making her up.

© David Ramos Fernandes 2006

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author bio

David Ramos Fernandes grew up in London, but has since lived and worked around the UK and Europe. He has three pairs of jeans and one crumpled suit. His poetry and prose has been published in anthologies and literary magazines. Although young enough to know better, he affects a bald patch.

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issue 51: January - February 2006


Niall Griffiths: Coming of Age
David Ramos Fernandes:
Nora Pierce:
Guess Who Loves Me Now?
Caroline Kepnes:
Katie Arnsteen:
Long Ride Home

picks from back issues

Pete Duval: Fun With Mammals
Adam Johnson:
Trauma Plate


James Meek


Harold Pinter
answers to last issue’s quiz, Harry Potter

book reviews

The People’s Act of Love by James Meek
The Blind Rider by Juan Goytisolo
Borrowed Light by Joolz Denby
Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol

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