Trudy’s father, like all 7 year olds, saw monsters under the bed. They had stethoscopes and needles and white coats, and masks full of gas that brought never-ending darkness.
But there were angels too. Their starched aprons were filled with brisk cuddles for a little boy so utterly alone and desperately ill though no-one knew why. In her father’s child-like world, there was only himself and the stuff of nightmares. He spent his young years un-mothered and un-brothered in sterile corridors where pockets of comfort were laced with terror, exhaustion and pain; trapped in a nether world.
His mother never quite got the hang of him being away but she stopped fretting so much because at least he was being cared for. Instead, she presided over illness and unrelenting viciousness in her own home with soup and cigarettes.
When Trudy’s father returned home to his wife and children, he often felt overwhelmed with love and luck and determination. But at others he could see only what he could lose in his never-ending fight with death and his anger grew.
It grew and he fed it and he knew what it should look like because he’d seen it in the shine of the buckle and heard it in the screams of his brother. He’d seen it in the chipped cup that held the tea-time whisky and in the cowering of his mother as she tried to squeeze past the dining table unnoticed. He fanned it and he flamed it; but because he felt nothing but gentleness towards his wife (who mothered him at last) and his healthy children, he railed instead at the TV; at politicians; at unfairness and injustice and at his faceless illness.
But all the while, the clock was ticking and he lived on, forgetting that the life he had was precious and he was missing it by staying alive, and furious.