by Mario Brassard
illustrated by Suana Verelst
Dad died today.
I feel like I’m in a dream, only it’s a nightmare. I can’t believe it. There must have been some mistake, a misunderstanding, a door I can open to get out of here.
Everything can be fixed. That’s what Dad would say to cheer me up whenever I broke a toy. There must be a way for things to get back to normal, for Dad to come back home. Night can’t start in the middle of the day, can it?
I’m not asking for much: all I want is enough fingers to pinch myself, to rub my eyes and wake up in his arms again.
It was Grandad who told me when I came home from school.
I was surprised and happy to see him because he lives far away and doesn’t visit often. But when I saw him sitting on the edge of the couch, still wearing his rain boots, and he didn’t smile at me, I knew it was soon going to start raining at home.
Mom looked up at me, her head down. She couldn’t speak. She trembled like a tree being shaken by the wind. Huge tears rolled down her cheeks and fell right on the spot where Dad always sat.
But Dad wasn’t there. All we could see was that he wasn’t there. I closed my eyes. A second was all it took for my tears to find their way in the dark, washing everything away with them.
A car accident.
He was going fast, too fast. That wasn’t like him. He must have been afraid of being late for work, Grandad thinks. All I know is that he left much too early.
Dad left his life at the bottom of a steep drop about ten kilometres from our house. He took the same road to work every day. The police say he lost control going round a bend because of the rain. That he wasn’t able to brake in time because the road was very slippery. His car went off the road and into the drop head first.
Dad’s body is a write-off.
The rain has stopped falling for an hour or two. As though the clouds were sorry for what happened. I’m sorry, too. It’s partly my fault.
This morning I hid his keys to play a trick on him. I was laughing up my sleeve. He looked in his coat pockets, in the pockets of his other coat, in Mom’s old purse, behind the cereal box, everywhere. He even looked in his bowl, just in case.
“Junior! I don’t have time to play now…”
I gave him the keys and he took off like a car thief. Without even saying goodbye. I should never have given him the keys. I should have run off with them instead. I should have run away. Faster than I have ever run in my whole life. Even faster, to get there before the end of the world started.
I should have thrown the keys into the drop with all my strength.
If Dad was here to rummage around in my eyes this morning, he would find nothing but tears. I cried most of the night. I filled a whole pillow. Mom hung it up outside to dry. It looks like a cloud in a bad movie. At the end, Dad dies every time.
I don’t have to go to school today. Or for the rest of the week. It’s like I’m sick. As though my Dad dying might be contagious for the rest of my class. The principal told Mom he was with me in this difficult time, to take as long as I needed. But I would rather have gone to school. It would have moved my gloomy thoughts around. It feels funny to think that the chair behind my desk is empty.
Just like Dad’s chair at the end of the kitchen table.
Translation by Peter McCambridge