So I went in and told him. No one’s flashing owt at you Dad said and it’s too late to be outdoors now. He sparked his lighter and said do you think you could see that from the postbox? Well then. He’s left the lighter on the sofa. I tell him to put it back in his pocket and he looks guilty.
Sarah said she loves stars, we should reach for the stars, they show that we should believe in ourselves and I know this don’t make sense but there is no point telling her.
Reach for the stars she says again and then she runs off to find her book with stars on the cover and I wish I hadn’t said it when she was in the room. She gets stuck on a word and it’s like she just pulls out all the stuff she’s heard people say about things.
I know I have a few secs before she comes back so I try Dad again but he says it is a massive coincidence that it spells anything any anyway why would they know Morse code? Maybe it is alien Morse code and it’s really spelling beggar off.
Sarah’s thumping back down the stairs now, breathless, back with her star-covered notebook. Rainbows and stars and a picture of Callum from 5SOS in the middle. Now she wants to do her star dance for us, she’s even dressed in a costume which is too small for her and my chest gets tight because we have to watch, Dad flashing his eyes over to me for a tiny second. When it finally ends we tell her she’s a star. A superstar adds Dad and she giggles and runs back upstairs for her DVD. It’s getting dark says Dad and he puts the lights on. Past your bedtime and he cracks open the tin and I go.
I wonder how massive that big old star must be to send its light all the way to Earth. I grip the covers, blotted with spit stains and I ache inside, crawling into sleep.
I have got so good at dreaming I can make anything I want happen. Of course mum is there and in my dream she changes my sheets and builds a stage for Sarah in the lounge and then Sarah wins The Voice and the audience go mad, whooping and cheering, happy faces.
It’s Saturday and Dad lets me use the computer for the internet so I can do my homework then find out about the star. I try really hard but I can’t work out which one it is. The twinkling is caused by Atmospheric Interference. Like clouds getting in the way. I remember the nursery rhyme now and sing it with Sarah, her big hands spreading and pinching above her head. We sing the silly version – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star My Dad Drives A Rusty Car and guess what that is what we are hearing all afternoon but I don’t mind.
Near bedtime I go to see if the star is still flashing and it is. Dad’s come out, tells me he’s only going to smoke on the patio now and I make him promise. He does his cub scout salute. I show him the star and he says it’s not a star it’s a planet. Mars. Named after the God of War and a grumpy old git too, even worse than your Dad he says.
Going to sleep, I feel like I’m coming through the clouds, like when we were in the plane and it was a dirty grey day but the sun and the blue sky was hiding above – so clean and bright like it had been washed, mum beside me on the plane, pointing down at the clouds like a new duvet below but now I know she’s not real, even when I’m dreaming. She knows too, says she’s sorry.
Next day I draw a picture of Mars with Dad’s felt tips. When you’re a little kid light means happy don’t it with sunshines smiling in the top of every crinkly painting. Never think about how it can make you see horrible things or get in your eyes and make them crease up so you’re blind.
But it is real. Even the twinkling stars punching their light towards us, it’s like they are proving they are there.
I watch Sarah sorting the pens and think that maybe the light is here with Sarah and her stupid dances and Dad and his lighter. All the things that are wrong. Maybe the light is here.
This quick bit of prose was a writing exercise from the Rum of One’s Own Writing Group.