Geoff hasn’t seen much of his son for two years. The ex-wife took Davey to live on the other side of the world, and they only got back recently.
In the run-up to this Father’s Day, Geoff gets out the last card he had from Davey, a crumpled affair from two years back. Clearly made at school, it says
Dear Dad, Happy Father’s Day
Or, more exactly, Hapy Fathers Day.
The colours have long faded but he can still see it’s signed Love, Davey.
“I’ve got your room ready, Davey,” Geoff says brightly on the phone during the week.
There’s a pause on the line before Davey says, “I’m Dave now.”
“Let’s just make it a day visit,” says the ex-wife. “Easier all round. It’s been a while, after all.”
She’s probably right, concedes Geoff. Davey – sorry, Dave – has been away a long time with his mother and a man who isn’t his father.
So Dave is deposited at Geoff’s on Father’s Day.
Holding his son close is the same as ever. The best thing in the world, bar none. Of course, Dave has grown. He’s seven years old, wears a Cricket Australia T-shirt, and needs a haircut. But he’s surely the same inside.
“What would you like to do today?” Geoff asks Dave. He asked the very same question on the phone a few days ago, and got nothing useful.
By way of response, Dave pulls something flat out of his bag. That’s when Geoff realizes he’ll be playing second fiddle to an iPad mini.
Geoff is about to lay down the law, but the kid has only just got here. Cut him some slack, he tells himself.
Sure enough, Dave puts the iPad away for lunch.
The boy is quieter than he was, and has a wariness about him. To be expected, of course. He’s older and hasn’t seen his father for months.
After a massive pizza, Dave returns to his iPad.
“What are you doing there?” Geoff hopes he’s not being groomed or downloading porn.
“Killer Diller,” replies Dave.
“It’s a game?”
Geoff glances at the screen, where aliens are running about. He curses Sonya for allowing Dave to bring the damn thing, but it could be worse.
“Right. Well, don’t play Killer Diller all day. We could go to the park. I’ve got a new football.”
“I’ve got my iPad,” Dave reminds him.
“Well,” says Geoff. “Maybe a bit later we can have a kick-about.”
“Cool?” says Dave without looking up.
“Want some juice?” Geoff has stocked his fridge with Dave’s favourite tropical juice drink, the kind that strips tooth enamel faster than battery acid.
“Got any Seven-Up?”
“I don’t think so.” That’s another dental disaster, but the occasional can won’t hurt. “Do you have Seven-Up every day?”
Eventually Geoff prises Dave off his game with the promise that they’ll stop for some Seven-Up on the way back from the park.
It’s sunny in the park, and Dave becomes almost animated, but that, Geoff reasons, is probably because he’s letting him get all the goals. Dave is barely trying.
The day passes so slowly that Geoff can hear it creaking. Dave doesn’t want to talk or play with Lego so he goes back to Killer Diller. Is this what it is to be a dad in today’s world?
At 6 p.m. Dave’s mother comes to collect him.
“Did you give Daddy his card?” she asks.
Dave gets out a mass-produced envelope and hands it over without expression.
Geoff hugs him.
Geoff and his son are just two of the characters from my forthcoming novel Hampstead Fever, out on June 30.