Now You See Him
by Tim Craig
My father could slip through keyholes, and similar small openings.
Sure, other kids’ Dads could do some impressive things, like fix car engines, build sheds or start campfires with a piece of broken glass.
But none of them could disappear without trace from a room where an argument was brewing, like my Dad could.
It was a superpower which served him well through the long years he spent in our too-small house, with his two quarrelling kids and too-angry wife.
Awkward conversations were no match for this legendary escapologist; at the first sign of trouble, he would slide unnoticed between the pages of his hardback.
And as for difficult questions:
“Why does no-one speak to your brother anymore?”
(this was a favourite)
“What does ‘gay’ mean?”
(this was 1976)
“What would you say if Tina brought home a black boyfriend?”
(this was England in 1976)
“A gay black boyfriend?”
(this actually happened)
… he would suddenly remember something that needed to be done in the garage and teleport himself through the wall.
But even Houdini’s luck ran out one day.
As my father lay in the metal hospital bed, strapped down like Gulliver, we closed the windows and sealed the exits; for three weeks we bombarded him with small talk, just to keep him from slipping away.
Until the moment we told him we loved him when — in a single bound — he vanished up the coiled, sucking hose of the ventilator, leaving us waiting for the reply, still.