It was impossible for my father to move off the bed unaided: overnight he had turned into a kite. He lay motionless covered in garish red and yellow panels, such a contrast to the sober greys of his customary three-piece business suits.
"First Mum, now this," I said. "What were you thinking of?"
"Check me out," he said. "High-performance rip stop nylon sail, graphite spars and an eight-foot wingspan fully extended." He sounded 20 years younger.
"So, what was wrong with your old life?" I asked.
"Reaching for a hand that's no longer there?" he said. "Sitting hollow-eyed in front of the TV night after night? Lying awake alone?"
"You didn't consider my feelings?" I said. "You're the only family I have left."
"I'm counting on you," he said.
It was a fresh October morning. We had chosen a nearby beach. "Keep your back to the wind," he said, "and hold me up till the current catches my sail."
I hurled him upwards. He hovered momentarily before falling to the ground.
It's no use, I wanted to say. Not enough wind. Let's go home, try again another day. But I felt his gaze, like something heavy pressing down on me.
Placing him on the ground this time, I moved back, feeding out his line from its winder. Fifteen feet away, I waited, the wind gusted and I tugged hard.
He soared skywards, his long tail streaming.
Searching for Venus
After his wife left him, my neighbour built a treehouse in his garden. Mr Ortega spotted me admiring his handiwork over the fence one night when I couldn't sleep. Five meters off the ground, the place had a shingle roof and paneled timber walls. Yellow light burned from a window.
"Must be a great view of the neighbourhood from up there," I said.
He invited me over.
Inside, the treehouse smelled of pine sap. Mr Ortega had furnished it with an old barstool, a hat stand and a camp bed.
"My new sleeping quarters," he said.
I understood, I told him.
Around his neck he wore a pair of binoculars. "Here," he said and he handed them to me. "The cloud has cleared. You can see Venus tonight."
I trained the binoculars at the night sky, but didn't spend long searching for Venus. My gaze drifted lower, to the master bedroom in my house, to the black lacquer jewelry box on the dressing table, by the brush that still held strands of wavy blonde hair, to A Room of One's Own on the bedside table, next to the old listings magazine with a red ribbon marking the page of a film to see.
Behind me a floorboard creaked. "Can you see it yet?" Mr Ortega asked.
Digby Beaumont writes short stories and flash fiction. His work appears widely in magazines and anthologies, both online and in print, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology. He has made a living as a nonfiction author for many years, with numerous publications, and lives in Hove, England.
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