The Dead Man watches his father break walnuts open over the newspaper. He recognises a method: adjusting for grip, a squeeze, a dental snap, maybe two; his father puts the tool down then holds the freed hemisphere up to the light for a quick inspection – then eats it. They sit on the balcony, in the shade of pot plants and fresh washing hanging from the lines around them. A hot gust ruffles the newspaper, scatters peelings of seed coat across the type and into the Dead Man’s lap. His father – chewing, tonguing his teeth – wipes his fingers on his pant leg then takes coins from his pocket, coins for gum or the washing machine, smooths the pages out and piles the coins on the paper’s four corners as paperweights. Settles back in for reading. Crimes and business; from across the table, the Dead Man can see, between walnut shells, a story about snakes. Someone has stolen a snake or was bitten by a snake or was called a snake.
It’s not yet summer but when the sun sets, the street holds its heat, strangling or strangled. Boys in too-loud cars begin to drive in reckless ways. Trying to outrun the clatter of horns and tyres, chased by bass-lines. A chirrup in the back of the skull.
Walnut scraps cover the pages and the Dead Man begins to understand that the reading is not the point. In fact, his father is barely taking pleasure in any of this, yet it’s clear he is content, or at least at ease. Yes, there is something about being in the world. Out in the world with time to think.
Tristan Foster is a writer from Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Letter to the Author of the Letter to the Father and 926 Years, co-authored with Kyle Coma-Thompson.