Gravel – Tim Jamieson

I loved planes, I mean really loved planes. I had over 120 models; about the only things I could afford to buy, or that my dad let me buy, with my pitiful guilt filled pocket money. To be honest though, I wouldn’t have bought anything else anyway even if he had let me. They were one of the few things that made me happy.

I hunched over at my desk, subconsciously taking up as little space as possible. It was very cold; I could even see my breath. My dad didn’t like putting the heating on. I had the curtains drawn in my bedroom and they were keeping out most of the grey afternoon light. I knew what was coming. I didn’t want the sky to tell me what time it was.

Gluing was my favorite part of the model making process. You could pretend you were on an assembly line. Depending on the model, you could be a vital part of the war effort in Europe or an expert engineer designing a secret stealth jet, or even be the inventor of the first plane. War planes are the most interesting though. I liked painting them too. That’s when you could really appreciate the beauty of what you’d accomplished.

My dad didn’t like planes. He liked sports, and drinking. That’s what he thought I should like too. He hated that I’m not an athlete. He told me most nights when he lashed me with his belt. He never hit my face but usually I couldn’t walk properly the next day. All the kids at school thought I had a walking problem. Not that they spoke to me anyway so it didn’t really matter. He never even wore a belt. He kept it specially for me. It was my fault though, I’m only good at math and English. I’m not good at sports.

This one particular model was really cool. I wish you could’ve seen it; an intricate Bristol Fighter biplane from World War 1. I added cotton thread to the wings to make it look more authentic. It even came with little figurines waving white handkerchiefs. It was my favourite one yet. It was going to take pride of place next to my reading lamp on my bedside table though I didn’t really have any books then; just the ones in the school library. We’d started learning Romeo and Juliet in English class. I didn’t know how I felt about it but everyone has heard of William Shakespeare so it must be good.

I was thinking about the Montagues and Capulets when I heard it. The slow crunch of four wheels on the gravel drive. The signal. The sound I hated most in the world. The car door opened and slammed. Then it was the walk, the stones crushed under his footsteps. Fast. It was going to be bad. I felt it. I followed his path with my mind. My hands shook so much I smudged the paint on my model. He didn’t even get a beer from the fridge. I could hear everything in this damned house. It was a whiskey day.

The stairs creaked under his weight and I heard his bedroom door open and slam back on its hinges. I prayed he would just pass out in bed and forget me. I didn’t make a sound. My door slowly opened and my heart pounded so fast I thought it might explode. He didn’t even say anything as he threw me against the wall.

Afterwards I didn’t sleep much. I never really got to sleep much. There was always too much pain. I don’t know why I did it that night above any other, or others that would have come. I don’t know why I’d never done it before. I had never even thought about it really. I think it was that model though, the family seeing their loved ones off to battle. I couldn’t take it anymore. I let anger consume me.

I crept into my dad’s room. Musty and dark, the clock on his dresser gave the room a blue glow. It dawned on me I’d never been in there before. He’d always said he’d kill me if I went in his bedroom and I didn’t doubt it. I saw it then, on the chair. The creased leather I knew so well; discarded next to his suspenders and day old socks as if just another piece of clothing to be worn again the next day. I reached out to touch it. I didn’t feel anything. It was just a tool. I picked it up and walked over to my dad. He was snoring softly as I slipped it around his neck and pulled with all my strength. Eventually his drunken struggles met with a final defeat of silence. The first and last time he ever wore a belt.

I remember walking back into my room. My models lay in pieces on the floor. I had destroyed them. My anger was gone then and peace flooded my chest. I never made another model after that but neither would my dad ever disturb the gravel again.

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