Rod’s favourite boyhood toy was a train. Turn the key, set it on the tracks and watch it go round. Simple. It’s still working and our son, Josh, loves it like he did. They’re so alike.

It’s Rod’s first visit back to the house. Josh has the train set out, making choo-choo noises and giving rides to toys.

We sit, uncomfortably, either side of the table bought by Rod in anticipation of a big family. ‘You OK?’ I ask. Stupid question.

His chin quivers. ‘Am I allowed to say I miss you?’

‘God, Rod. Say what you like. We’ve got to be honest.’

‘I suppose I’ll be alright.’

‘That’s not what I asked.’

‘I’m OK.’ His voice cracks.

‘Bullshit, Rod. You’re nearly in tears just thinking about it.’

There’s a squawk from Josh. Rod jumps to help. ‘What’s wrong, Darling.’

‘It’s not working.’

Though the wheels are turning the train’s not going anywhere. Rod picks it up to check. But I can see, from where I am, it’s not the train. There’s a kink in the track. I wonder if he’ll figure it out. He wants so much for things to be reliable. To stay the same.

Josh looks up at him expectantly. ‘Fix it, Daddy. Please.’

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)

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