by Clare F Davies
On Sunday morning, as Mum cooks breakfast and my sisters lie in bed, unconscious, I crawl under my parents’ duvet and lie on the sheet with Dad. Together, we take off on a ride. As long as I keep my eyes closed, we can fly anywhere. This seems feasible to me as Dad is often jetting off across the globe, and in the summer holidays he takes us to hot countries where I grow gobstopper-sized blisters and do not speak the language. After landing back in bed from our travels, Dad gives the signal. Rolling over, he asks, “Walk on my back, love?” The curly grey fluff on his chest pokes out above the sheets. He lies like a soft, beached whale on the cream bed sheet, wiry hairs sprouting up from his fleshy back; the blue duvet rippling around him. Dutifully, I take my place on his backside, arms out and rigid like airplane wings; toes squishing the duvet into his fleshy rump. Then, with one foot either side of his spine, I walk up the length of my father’s back, one vertebra at a time, pushing the soft tissue away from his skeleton, squashing warm fat with the balls of my feet. My bones dig in between his shoulder blades.
“Just there,” he drawls, his voice like slack elastic.
Beneath my skin, I sense the warm life of my father and the strangely pleasurable tickle of jelly moles between my toes as my heels work the flesh near the nape of Dad’s neck. A step higher and I could crush his skeleton, another more and, beneath my foot’s weight, his face would squish and sag. But I raise my leg and, with perfect balance, swivel, placing a foot once more on my father’s torso. Then I walk back down all seventeen stone of him, repeating my journey until Dad waggles a finger in the air and I fall to the mattress with a giggle.
“You do wonders for me, kiddo.”
My father, whose heat I bask in and salty scent I breathe in, which drifts up like fog from his armpits, feels soft as gum in my arms. The chain of his gold medallion - resting in the silvery hair between his nipples – coils, snug, around my little finger. Sunlight warms the sheets. I hear my mother’s footsteps on the stair. She appears in a cloud of vapor at the bedroom door, her ringed fingers clutching a tray with pictures of spaniels on. Powder-blue house shoe tap, tap, tap the carpet. My father yawns; I cling to his heat a few seconds longer. Mum straightens her arms — and I spy two shiny white bowls. In one, a warm island of milk, oats and white sugar, the other a steaming swirl of cream, porridge and salt.