A short story
“Dad – come on now! You can’t stay in there forever.”
Looking at the crumpled, shadow of a man behind the steering wheel, made Lisa’s heart hurt. His hands gripped the steering wheel, the calloused skin blending into the worn, rough leather. Lisa kept her eyes focused on the hands that had held her safe, wiped her tears, given her away and supported her like a rock, six months ago, when they had lost the queen of their world, her Mum, Jean. She didn’t need to move her gaze to know that he was crying. The trembling fingertips and the stifled, sniffled breathing were enough to let Lisa know that her dad was broken beyond belief.
Reg and Jean had adored their campervan from the day they got her. A retirement gift to themselves that symbolised freedom, escape and a new sense of living after over forty years in the hamster wheel of work and family life. They went everywhere and anywhere with a renewed zest and sense of adventure. Nowhere was off limits and armed with their Johnny Cash cassettes, tea, milk, cushions and blankets, the UK was their oyster. Their final trip had been to the Dorset coast where they had taken in the prehistoric coastline, the famous Golden Cap, Durdle Door and Portland Bill.
Moving her gaze away from her dad’s hands, Lisa instead scanned the outside of the van. Lovingly called ‘Spot’ in the later years, in celebration of the spattering of rust spots that slowly built up in response to miles and miles of bumpy roads, torrential downpours and wrong turnings, it had held her parents safe inside during their travels.
Jean was still there. Lisa could understand why her dad found solace in sitting in the driver’s seat for hours on end. The inside panels were not papered, or painted, instead they were covered in photos and postcards that painfully documented their happiest times. The Blu-tac that bound them would have her fingerprints embossed on them. The smell of Pears soap and Nivea hand cream melded with the faint whiff of Calor gas and knitting wool – blink twice and Jean could be seen sat at the table plump and happy – keep your eyes shut and you could still hear her throaty laugh and clucking tongue. Lisa’s eyes stung. This was too hard.
Taking a deep breath, a voice bought Lisa back to the present. She looked to the back of the campervan to see an awkward looking man standing in front of a tow truck. He was frowning at his clipboard and his mobile phone while incessantly clicking his biro, trying to work out what to do.
“Look love, shall I come back another time? Only I have got another job on, and I don’t want to upset that fella anymore.”
Spot had remained on the driveway for six months and in that time, she had served as a holy shrine to Jean. Reg had been adamant that he would never take another trip again. Lisa had been equally unwavering in her opinion that it was time for Spot to go. She missed her mum but having the constant reminder of her sat outside was not helping her, or her dad to move on.
Lisa looked at tow truck man apologetically.
“Sorry. I thought he was ready.”
His frown softened as he shrugged his shoulders and jumped into the cab. Reversing back down the street, he mimed to Lisa to call him anytime and with a thumbs up sign and a roar of the accelerator, he was gone.
“Right, Dad. Come on, let’s have a cuppa, it’s cold out here. We can sort Spot out another day. Dad?”
His grip had loosened on the steering wheel and his sobs had subsided. Something fluttered down from his hand and landed at Lisa’s feet. She crouched down and carefully picked it up. Turning the paper over she saw the photo of Reg, Jean and Spot. Reg and Jean were squinting into the sun. Jean beaming with joy and Reg proudly holding onto Jean’s waist. The sun and the heat were bouncing off Spot’s roof and Lisa could see the shimmering heat and light waves, obscuring the background of the photo. It looked other worldly. Like they were melting into heaven.
Lisa crumpled and sank into her Dad’s still warm body.