One Father's Day Like This

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Craig was the best dad he could be to little Ronnie. Sometimes life got in the way, that was all.

Craig Farley downed the last of his pint of lager. He placed it down on the table and sighed in satisfaction. There was nothing quite like a few pints on a Friday night. Finishing work for the weekend was like the end of term for Ronnie, his eight year old son. The weekend stretched out in front of him like Ronnie’s summer holiday.

‘Same again?’ he asked his friends.

The lads nodded. Craig rubbed his hands together in anticipation of more drinks and the night continuing, and headed for the bar. The Friday night session had been a tradition for years. Craig went out with his mates every single Friday. They drank beer and whiskey, had a laugh and tried to forget about the stress of the week. Some of the lads had stopped playing out on Friday nights, after they’d got married and had kids. Craig had been out every Friday even when Denise had been pregnant with Ronnie. He was a bloke, he wasn’t about to change just because he had a wife and a son on the way. Maybe if he’d reigned in his boozing, he and Denise would still be together. But the pub, the lads, the footy, the banter, that was all part of who he was. Why should he change for anyone?  Ronnie had still been in nappies, when, after one argument too many, Denise had thrown her hands in the air, and told him they were over, that she couldn’t do this anymore. Craig considered himself to be the best dad that he could be. He saw Ronnie every few weeks, depending on the football fixtures. He could hardly be blamed, if having already made plans to see his son, one of his friends had managed to get tickets for the cup game, or if it was a mate’s birthday booze up that day.

On his way back from the bar, he stopped at the juke box and pumped a fistful of change into the machine. As he reached the lads and placed the beer tray down, Supersonic by Oasis started playing. He picked up his fresh pint and took a swig. This was the life.

The next morning, feeling a bit fragile from the beer he’d downed the night before, he dressed quickly in tracksuit bottoms and t-shirt and left the house. The fresh air was like a bucket of cold water in his face. He tugged the zip of his tracksuit jacket up another inch. He needed a bottle of full-fat fizzy pop, a toastie loaf and the morning newspaper. Just wanting to be back on his sofa, he went through the automatic doors of the mini market.

Armed with his carrier bag full of groceries, he trudged back towards home. Trying to forget about how lousy he felt, and hoping to distract himself from the thoughts of throwing up, he glanced in the high street shop windows as he went by. There was a tech shop displaying a variety of gleaming, albeit dated, technical equipment. Mobile phones the size of house bricks was on display next to a selection of 90s games consoles. Next to the tech shop was the florist. The flower shop always pitched its window displays at whatever public event was next on the calendar. Craig always thought that the place should have been called Valentine’s Day Massacre, judging by how much they charged for a bunch of roses every February.

Today’s window display was full of flowers and teddy bears dressed as footballers. The sign seemed to speak directly to him. Don’t forget Father’s Day this Sunday. Feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning, he stared at the sign. His boy Ronnie would love to see him on Father’s Day. In the past he’d been given a hard time from Denise for missing birthdays and Christmases. She was always accusing him of breaking that poor boy’s heart. With the best of intentions, Craig would inevitably insist he would make it up to him, and just as predictably, he would never get around to spoiling his son, and all the promises went unfulfilled.

But this weekend, this Father’s Day, he would see his boy. It would be real father and son occasion. It would be a special day, they both would remember for years.

Having had tea and toast, and having downed the fizzy pop, he felt much better. He took out his mobile phone and dialled Ronnie’s mother. Craig doubted she would be happy to see his name pop up on her phone, but this time he was being nice. For once he was doing the right thing. Even his own mother sympathised with Denise for being involved with him. When she chastised him in her thick Dublin accent, Craig felt like a child once again, and would insist he was doing the best he could.

‘Hello, Craig.’

‘Hi, love. You know it’s Father’s Day tomorrow?’

‘I’m aware of that.’

‘I was thinking, I could see Ronnie. I’d like to see him, if that’s okay?’

‘It will have to be first thing. We’re going to the theme park with my parents. He’s really looking forward to it.’

‘I can do first thing. Does nine o’clock sound okay?’

‘That sounds fine. I’ll tell him you’re coming over. We could have some breakfast before we leave for the theme park.’

‘Wonderful. Thanks Denise.’

‘See you tomorrow.’

Craig hung up and punched the air. This was it. He would prove himself as a father, as a decent human being. Who knew, maybe there was even a chance for him and Denise to give it another go.

 

Just after two o’clock that afternoon, his mobile phone pinged. One new message. It was from Denise. Craig beamed in delight as he read the text on screen.

Ronnie says he can’t wait to see you. He’s making you a special Father’s Day card. Act surprised, okay?

Craig was about to reply when he received another message. His friend Rick had text him.

We meeting in the pub later?

What’s that? Craig replied.

He didn’t recall making any firm plans for the evening. The chances were he would call in for a pint with the lads later but he had no concrete plans. Seconds later his phone rang.

‘Are you coming out for the game then?’ Rick asked.

‘What game?’

‘England play Germany at eight o’clock. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten?’

‘No, of course not.’ Craig lied.

In his excitement over Father’s Day, and in his hangover haze, it had completely slipped his mind.

‘I’ll be there.’ Craig said. ‘I can only come out for the match, though. I’ve got an early start in the morning.’

‘Okay, fine. First round is on you, then mate.’

Craig agreed, then hung up.

 

The pub was packed, the excited chatter in the air mixing with the booming television commentary. Craig had butterflies in his stomach. You just couldn’t beat watching the match in the pub. Beer and football just went so well together. He ordered a pint of Italian lager and went to find his mates.

The lads were huddled around a tall table, all eyes fixed on the large screen, their faces tinted green in the glow of the football pitch on TV. The conversation was mostly centred on the game and the manager’s team selection.

By half-time the game was nil-nil, and they were forty-five minutes nearer the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Craig was a nice level of drunk. The world seemed a hazy, wonderful place. As he took the head off another pint, he reminded his friends that he would be making a move after the game.

‘You are joking?’ said Rick.

‘I told you this. I’ve got plans in the morning.’

‘We were going into town after the match.’

‘Sorry, I can’t.’ Craig said.

‘Hey,’ shrugged Rick. ‘if you’ve got plans then that’s that. You’ll be missing out on a great night though, mate.’

‘I’ll be out next week. We could even have an afternoon session.’

‘Yeah, I’d be up for that.’ Rick said.

Rick patted Craig on the back in agreement before making his way to the bar to get the drinks in.

Rick handed out the beers and the lads clinked glasses. Craig took a swig of lager. The whole pub groaned as England hit a shot off the crossbar.

‘If that had gone in we’d be winning now.’ one lad said.

‘Talk about stating the obvious.’ laughed Craig.

 

The referee on screen blew his whistle for full-time. The pub crowd clapped and cheered, despite the match taking place hundreds of miles away, and no way the players could hear their applause. Craig finished his pint. As the cold lager hit his stomach, a wave of nausea washed over him. Suddenly, he didn’t feel well at all. He was sweating, yet freezing cold at the same time. He leaned on the table for support as the room swayed.

‘You okay, mate?’ asked Rick.

Craig shook his head.

‘You need some fresh air. Come on. Your mates will look after you.’

Things seemed to have a dream-like quality to them. It was as though he had stepped onto the set of a Tim Burton film. Everything was twisted and distorted somehow.

He stepped outside, gasping at the air. His limbs felt like they were being controlled by someone else. Rick flagged down a passing taxi. The black cab pulled up to the kerbside next to them. The lads helped Craig into the back of the cab and climbed in behind him. Craig was about to thank them for helping him get home when Rick game told the driver to take them to a bar on Deansgate in the city centre.

‘Home, please.’ Craig muttered.

‘You’ll be fine.’ grinned Rick.

Wondering quite when the world had got so surreal, Craig stared out the window as the taxi set off on the way to Manchester city centre. He stared out at the dark streets sweeping by and tried not to think.

The bar was busy but Craig, Rick and the others managed to find a couple of unoccupied sofas. Rick placed Craig gently down on the brown leather. A glass of whiskey was pushed into his hand.

‘I don’t want a drink. I want to go home.’

‘Drink up and relax. You are with friends.’ said Rick.

There was a mischievous edge to Rick’s smile that was almost sinister. In the pulsing red bar lights he looked evil.

‘Rick, what have you done?’

His friend laughed at Craig’s fear and discomfort. Craig’s heart pounded in his chest. Weak and feeling as though the real world was slipping away from him, Craig clenched a fist. His hand felt like someone else’s.

‘I’ll swing for you.’ he growled.

‘Chill, Craig. I’ve given you a little pick-me-up, that’s all.’

Craig went to speak but the words wouldn’t come. He flopped back, sinking into the creaking leather sofa. Quite unsure of what else to do, and unable to stand, he took a sip of whiskey, and prayed for the evening and whatever trip he was on, to be over soon.

 

Craig woke and rolled over in the narrow bed, blinking in the daylight spilling in through the thick glass window. The events of the previous evening that he could recall came flooding back to him. Things had slipped out of control so quickly. It was then he took in his unfamiliar surroundings. He wasn’t in his own bed. He wasn’t at a friend’s, in their spare room. He was in a small grey room. Except it wasn’t a room, it was a cell. He managed to sit up. Considering what he’d had to drink, and whatever he had been drugged with, he felt surprisingly awake and fresh.

Keys rattled in the thick cell door. The door creaked open and a uniformed man appeared in the doorway. He had a day’s growth of beard on his jaw and bags under his eyes.

‘Morning, pal.’ the officer said.

Craig simply nodded.

‘Have you come round, then?’

‘Yes, thanks. What exactly happened?’

‘You were off your face. You got into a fight in a bar in town. We were called and you were brought here to sleep it off.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Craig said. ‘I don’t remember anything. I think someone spiked my drink. Am I in a lot of trouble?’

‘No, not really. You were more of a nuisance, than anything. You insulted the officer who brought you in. You kept banging on about his bald head, but apart from that you were alright.’

Craig buried his head in his hands and groaned.

‘Come on, let’s get you discharged.’

Craig apologised again at the front desk, as he signed for his possessions. He pocketed his wallet and mobile phone. He spotted a Father’s Day card pinned to a notice board behind the counter. He swore to himself. The large clock on the wall said just after eleven o’clock.

‘I’m sorry for everything.’ Craig said.

He stepped out into the morning sunshine. He dialled Denise’s number. Unsurprisingly, she did not answer. He had to get round there. Maybe they were running late, like he was. She could be ignoring his call but still at home having a brew with her folks. He had to get round there sharpish. He stumbled along the busy city centre street, looking out for passing taxi-cabs. Nothing. There was no point in waiting for a bus. Sunday service meant that a bus could turn up any time or not at all. He staggered as quickly as he could, in the general direction of Denise’s house. It was hopeless. He was miles away. He felt like a drowning man, lost at sea, too far out from the shore.

He passed a coffee shop. On the other side of the large shop window, the customers sipped expensive frothy coffee and laughed and chatted. A bicycle had been left against the window. It was an old-fashioned bike with a basket mounted on the handle-bars. A thought occurred to him. Could he? Should he? Yes. This was an emergency.

Moving as quickly as he could, he scooped up the bicycle and a second later was peddling furiously down the street. He darted between cars, bounced up kerbs, weaved in and out of pedestrians on the pavements. Despite the burning in his legs, and the pain in his chest, he pushed on and on, peddling hard. It may all turn out to be futile, but he had to try.

Finally, breathing hard and with sweat running down his face, he swerved into the estate Denise lived on. Almost there. He tossed the bicycle to the pavement and sprinted the last few yards.

He stopped. He stared at the empty driveway. They were gone. It was too late. Tears burned his eyes.

He was in the back of a taxi on the way home when his phone rang. He rummaged in his pocket for his phone, hoping it was Denise returning his call. Rick’s name flashed up on screen.

‘Rick?’

‘Hey Craig. How’s the head?’

‘You spiked my drink.’

‘It was a good night, though, wasn’t it?’

‘I got arrested. I woke up in a police cell.’

‘Yeah, a wild night, mate.’ Rick laughed.

‘I’m not laughing, Rick.’

‘Don’t be like that, mate.’

‘Mate? I’m not your mate. Do me a favour, don’t call me again.’

Craig hung up.

 

Later that afternoon, having had a sleep and a shower, he felt much more human. He made himself a cup of tea and, pacing the living room, dialled Denise’s number.

‘Hello, Craig.’

‘I’m so sorry about this morning. Let me make it up to you. How about we go for tea tonight? Father’s Day isn’t over yet.’

‘We’re shattered, Craig. If you’d have really wanted to see us, then you’d have been here this morning.’

‘I really am sorry.’ Craig said, his voice choked with emotion. ‘How about I come over and treat you guys to takeaway pizza?’

Denise said nothing.

‘We can slob out on the sofa and eat pizza straight from the box. You won’t even have to wash up. How does that sound?’

‘That actually sounds really nice.’


Submitted: July 07, 2021

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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