Hanging With Dada
By the time I break into Mum’s place, it’s started to piss down and Geordie’s screaming blue murder and smelling like a long drop. His cunt of a mother probably didn’t change his nappy before she handed him over to Lois; that’s the kind of fucked up thing Mel does, so the first thing I have to do in my special time with Geord each week is clean his bum.
Nappies. Fuck. I drove down to Mum’s to get some space, have a decent chunk of time with the young fella, but I didn’t plan it so I’ve come with nothing.
I cut myself on broken glass getting into Mum’s, so now I’m in the bathroom, trying to undress Geord with one hand and wrap toilet paper around my thumb with the other. I’ve left a few drips of blood in the hallway but I’ll clean them up once I’ve got Geordie sorted. He’s a bit of a mess—shit from arsehole to breakfast—but at least he’s stopped crying now that we’re out of the weather. I lie him down on the bath mat to get his clothes off and he grins up at me and shows off his new tooth. Mel was stressing about him not having any teeth yet, but I knew he’d be alright. He’s only a year old, I said, plenty of time for teeth. And I was right; a fortnight ago his first chomper came through.
‘That’s Dada’s big boy. That’s right, you’re hanging with Dada, the two fellas. Dada’s going to give you a bath and clean some of this yuck off.’
Out in the hallway my phone’s pinging like a bastard, but I turn on the bath and then it’s too noisy to hear anything else; mum’s pipes squeal like a strangled cat. I wipe most of the muck off Geordie’s bum, pull off his singlet, and check the water temperature before putting him in. My own dad, useless fuck that he was, once put me in a bath so hot he just about cooked me. Mum heard me screaming and had to drive me to the hospital with my skin all blistering up. I’m always super careful to check the water before I chuck Geordo in the tub.
‘Right, Mate, you’re sorted. I’ll go and see what all the fuss is about. Don’t go anywhere.’
The bath’s filling up slowly—Mum’s pipes are shithouse—but at least his little bum’s warm. Geordie slaps his hand down in the water and makes that happy noise I love. I’d rather stay and play but I’d better go and calm his psycho mother down. Twelve text messages. The dumb bitch’s worked herself into a fit.
Lois just rang she said your 10 mins late
Lois the mediator lady. She’s that uptight.
Where are you?
Lois says you havent shown up - WTF RU?
Jay wheres GD?
Jay tell me you havent taken GD anywhere
Fucking answer me
I bet you dont even have any credit
Fuck fuck fuck fuck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WHERES MY SON
Jay Lois says i should call the police
Jay im giving you five minutes and then im calling the godam police
She’s right about one thing, I’ve got no credit. I spend at least five minutes looking for Mum’s landline. I keep calling out to Geord, ‘Coming mate, Dada’s just dealing with crazy Mummy.’ He squeals back a few times and then he goes quiet, so I figure he’s happy.
I find the phone in the fucking pantry of all places, stuck to the wall. It looks like something out of Get Smart, but there’s a dial tone so I call Mel.
She screams at me for a really long time.
‘Calm down. He’s fine. He’s fine,’ I say at least three hundred times before she stops yelling, but she’s still crying, the crazy bitch. ‘Fuck, Mel, it’s not like I’ve left him on the side of the highway! I can look after my own son!’
Mum’s pipes are still wailing. Maybe if I have a gander at them, she won’t be so mad at me for breaking her window.
‘Where are you, Jay? You’re not supposed to just take him, remember? You have to bring him back to the pickup point by four o’clock. That’s the deal, remember?’
‘It’s a dumb deal,’ I say. My thumb’s still bleeding a bit and I’ve left a bloody smudge on Mum’s pantry door. I’ll have to clean that up too. ‘He slept most of the time he was with me. If I’d brought him back by four, I wouldn’t have had any time with him.’
‘Fuck, Jay,’ says Mel, and I can picture exactly how she’s looking. Her head’s forward like a bull and she’s got her fingers out all stiff like she’s holding an invisible basketball, one she’d like to pop with her bare hands. ‘He’s a baby. He has to sleep. When he’s bigger he’ll be awake the whole time he’s with you.’
‘But I wanted to be with him now. I could tell he was forgetting me.’
Mel goes schizo again. ‘Jay, you’re breaking the fucking law! I could have the police come and arrest you for kidnapping! Now tell me where the fuck you are and I’ll come and get him.’
‘I thought we weren’t supposed to see each other.’ Come on, woman.
‘No, for a very good reason. Lois can drive me and I’ll stay in the car. Just tell me where you are.’
‘I wouldn’t mind seeing you.’
Her voice is all husky from crying, and I think about how nice it would be to hang out, just the three of us, in Mum’s little house with the rain falling outside, me and Mel on the couch and Geordie in his jimmy-jams on the carpet in front of us.
Fuck. No jimmy-jams either.
Mel’s talking again. ‘Well, I don’t want to see you, Jay. I don’t want another broken wrist. That’s why we’ve got Lois, remember?’
I hate it how she keeps saying remember like that. All sneery, like she thinks I’m too stupid to remember anything.
‘Where are you, Jay? Where’d you take him? Are you at your mum’s?’
She was always smarter than me. And better looking. And she had a job. I could never understand what she saw in me. Geordie’s still quiet in the bathroom, like the good little tacker he is. He’s always good when he’s with me.
‘Jay, where are you?’
There’s a ping on my phone.
Jaden. This is Lois Richards from Child Protection Services. I’m officially informing you that if you don’t ring me immediately, I will contact the police and report an abduction, for which you could face criminal charges.
I sigh. ‘Okay,’ I tell Mel. ‘I’m at Mum’s. Nice fucking detective work.’
‘Stay there,’ says Mel. ‘Don’t leave. We’ll be there soon. Thank you, Jay. Please don’t go anywhere.’
Her voice is weepy now, and grateful, and I think about how much I want to see her when Lois drives her down—how I’ll carry Geordie out to the car in my arms, so Mel can see how good I am with him, how much he likes me. So she sees what a good dad I am.
‘We’ll be there in forty minutes. Thank you, Jay, thank you so much.’
She hangs up and for a moment it’s just me and the rain and Mum’s squealing pipes. Then there’s an unholy racket from the bathroom. A knock, a thump of something heavy falling, a pause and then Geord’s screaming his tits off.
I run into the bathroom and the silly bugger’s on the floor on his back, gearing up for another scream. He must’ve got a leg up over the side of the bath and fallen out onto the tiles. I pick him up, feel his head, then turn the taps off. Geord’s going to have an egg like a golf ball, poor fella. The water’s nice and deep but a bit cool and flecked with yellow bits of shit so I pull out the plug.
‘Come on, you silly nutjob, come on up to Dada. What were you thinking, mate? You got to be more careful. That’s my little man. That’s my clever big boy. Stop crying, you’re alright now. Dada’s got you.’