the king my father

Dad appeared again last night
he said
waving goofily from the bottom of the bed
I sat up
drank a cup
of water straight off
‘Take the weight off’
I said
patting the bed
Dad shrugged the hood off his head
then sat
fussily folding his hands in his lap
Whaddya know?’
‘Not much.’
‘Hey – I appreciate you keeping in touch
what with being dead n’all
I didn’t put money on that at all’
‘Me either’ he said
‘I wanted a nice long lie-in instead
but them’s the breaks I guess
doomed forever more or less
to walk the earth in fancy dress…’

I don’t know if this is particularly relevant
but even though Dad was basically a skeletont
I knew at once it was really him
just quite a bit slimmer
the same ol’ glimmer
playing round his sockets
a packet of wine gums poking out his pocket

‘How d’you eat those things with your jaw?
You’d have to think it defies all laws
Wouldn’t they just fall straight on the floor?’
‘Uh-huh’ he said, waggling his mandible
‘Your concerns are understandable
But – see – these are Time Gums
Specially confected for spectral tongues
You feel like you’re chewing
but there’s nothing much doing
The flavours are crude
Your teeth come unscrewed
and the goddamn packet’s endlessly renewed
but it helps you concentrate
which is really quite helpful for a guy in my state

He sighed
flexed his glowing phalanges wide
then delicately hooked my curtains aside
and for the longest while we stared outside
the moon shining silvery, round and sweet
he said
‘And great you get this straight from your bed’

I said
sitting more upright on the bed
‘Tell me what it’s like being dead’

He turned his sockets sadly on me
and we held that connection wordlessly
until eventually
he yawned
and said ‘Well – it’s just like the time before you were born
THAT but without the cord n’stuff
I could tell you more but that’s enough
My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself
yaddah yaddah something else’

I gave him one of my probing looks
How’d he know Shakespeare when he never read books?

‘So what are you saying? Hell is REAL?
None of this sounds ideal
You’re making me queasy
sulphurous & tormenting sounds a bit sleazy’

‘Don’t take it literally
he said
suddenly leaping up off the bed
his black cloak cracking
snapping and flapping
like some dreadful, stressful, dad-sized bat
engaged in supernatural combat
screaming and crying
then finally raising his arms and flying
straight through the ceiling without even trying
pointy and quick
like he only lacked a stick
to qualify as a rocket
the Time Gums falling out of his pocket

‘Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!’
I said after I’d managed to calm myself down a bit
and got up to disarm
the dreadful clamour from the smoke alarm
then picked up the Time Gums, gave one a chew
because – be honest – wouldn’t you, too?

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