Gravy. Dad stirring it from cloudy to clear. Mum staring at the certificate; blowing off like the pressure cooker whistle.
“Jesus H Christ. He was supposed to be called Colin.”
Dad’s voice small. “I just wanted something special for the lad. It’s not everyone born at the exact time man landed on the moon.” Dad stroking my cheek. “Maybe you’ll be a great astronaut, lad.”
Mum’s neck strained; tendons about to snap like apron strings. “For Christ’s sake, he’ll never be able to take one small step for a man on this bloody planet, let alone in bloody space.”
Dad cleaning gravy from woodchip. “She’ll grow to love you, Jupiter lad.”
Matey. Dad churning white water with my chaotic limbs. Mum taking out rollers: hair into waves.
“Why do you have to make such a bloody mess?”
Dad rinsing off my foam beard. “We’re rafting the Zambesi. The exercise will strengthen his muscles. He loves it.” Dad fighting two hippos and an alligator, “Maybe you’ll be a great explorer, lad.”
Mum pulling the plug. “Explorer my arse. He’s crippled for Christ’s sake.”
Dad watching mum go out: bingo on a weeknight now. “She’ll come ‘round, Jupiter lad.”
Bubbles. Dad holding a circle prompting soap and a sound. Mum putting on stockings and Avon; painting a pout with Full Stop.
“If you think that’ll work, you must be as retarded as he is.”
Dad dipping the wand in his tea, distracted by thighs. “But the physio said this might help him speak.” Dad wiping silent dribble from my chin. “Then maybe you can tell us what you feel.”
Mum spraying Charlie: overdressed for a Tupperware party. “The boy’s a vegetable. He feels bugger all.”
Dad holding my face to his chest. “She doesn’t really believe that, Jupiter lad.”
Wind. Wobbling my cheeks: salt and fish air in my mouth. Dad building a castle: sand in his ice-cream. “I want our lad to have the best life he can.”
Mum holding a brochure, following trails in the sky. “We need lives too.” Mum sucking a finger; touching dad’s lips. “We could even go to Spain. A fresh start.”
Dad crushing the castle: mouth tight and straight. “As long as we do what’s best for our lad.”
Years. Dad’s body going bad; painful and slow. Mum’s on plentiful others; knees in the air. Mine: useless and abandoned on urine-stained plastic. I travel most of the time now, watching from a ceiling or a cloud or a breeze. Waiting for a soul.
Earth. Pattering on oak. Mum taking off her ring; glancing at the driver. Dad stirring gravy from cloudy to clear and rising in a bubble. His joy bursts loud as our astral bodies meet.
“I knew you were special, Jupiter lad.” And for the first time Dad hears my voice. “Let’s raft the Zambesi.” We stir up a wind and rise together: Jupiter lad and Colin, his dad; astronaut and explorer.
Mum fades to a dot and wafts away. Earth to dust.