High Striker

It was a lazy distilled summer afternoon
And boy were we hungry

Dad was deep down broke
All borrowed out
His gold in the pawn
So poor that he wasn't even able to offload 
 any of his bad luck on a horse

He sat on the floor
Up against the mouldy sofa
His legs stretched out in momentary surrender
And his shoes kicked off
Smoking already smoked tobacco
rolled up
in his old 
betting slips

I sat there too
way off to his right
Over in the cool patch by the door
Watching him
Emulating him
My feet in shoes
Three sizes too big

We sat there like that
The way poor people do
The way poor people do
The way poor people do
Waiting for a change
An opening
An opportunity to pass
Or something to further heighten 
The desperation stakes
And force things to a head

Dad sucked hard on his flat smoke
Scrunching his face up
The way he did
When they got towards the end
Burning his fingers
And lips

He sucked in 
And held
I held with him

(And the day was lazy
as was said
real real cat nap lazy
like bees giving up
and dying
in mid flight

Our half starved dog
Lay curled up in the shade,
Its chin on its hind back legs
its breathing subdued
Now and again
dreaming of food
and growling
a low down lazy growl
as the day was lazy
as was said)

And then we exhaled
I followed plumes of blue silky smoke
Rolling into each other
And spreading out
The billowing dance caught
In a dusty beam of light
That sparkled like magic
And threatened to send us
All to sleep

And in the distance
The jingle of the ice-cream van sounded
And drew louder and nearer
Until it stopped
Right outside the house
A diesel powered music box
It's peculiar engine smell
Pouring out it's whirring back grate
Finding it's way into the room
And teasing us
Something rotten

Dad closed his eyes
He had learnt not to look at such things
But even with his eyes closed
His smile gave him away
He saw just as well as I:
Mothers and fathers 
And grubby kids 
Leave the van
With FIVE ice-creams a piece
Young pink tongues
Licking at whirled quiffs
Cider-apple and Cola lollies
Melting in hot mouths
Our stomachs rumbling
'O silky Ice-cream'
And boy were we hungry then.

Dad got up
I could tell by the way he raised
With a proud stiffness
That he had some fix in the works
He looked serious
Full of fate
And walked
Like a man who knew the answer

I followed him
Out of the heat of the living room
Down the shady corridor
Into the dark back room
My young mind curious
As to how
A short handled demolition mallet
Could possibly help
Us animals

Dad didn't say a word
Neither did I
I Just follewed him more
To the door under the stairs
Which led to the cellar
From where the slugs
Slithered up by night
And where we'd once 
Stored daffodil bulbs
And other magic seeds

For just a brief moments moment
Dad looked pensive
Then he straightened straight up
Tensed the muscles in his jaw
Hardening himself hard against
Any weakness
Of thinking thought

Dad opened the cellar door
2000 years of cool mossy damp
Swept over me
I peered in
The rotting wooden steps
Leading somewhere
Into total blackness
Which had invaded
So many
Of my dreams

"Stand back, Son" Dad said
His hand against my chest
Pushing me away
Then he raised the mallet
In both hands
High above his head
Rocked back once
Three times
And brought the mallet
Crashing down
The coin operated
Electricity meter

The wrought iron casing
Cracked open
And a waterfall of silver
Poured out
Her Majesty The Queen
Crashing and rolling away
In all directions

I scrambled for the Queens' heads
But Dad said “Stop!”
And then 
“Stand back, Son”
Before playing High Striker
On the gas meter

After that we harvested the readies
I don't know how much there was
But it was a full T-shirt full
And more.

Dad didn't hang about counting either
He was in a rush 
To offload some of his bad luck
(that which I told you about earlier)
In the 3.30 at Chepstow
He promised it'd only take five minutes 
For his horse to lose 
And then he'd be back
With dog food for the dog
And something special for us

And true to his word
Dad was back 
In under five
Wearing a bright red loser's face
And carrying
A tin of Super-saver dog food
And a huge tub of Neapolitan ice-cream

It was somewhere between the second and third bowl
When the doorbell rang
And the paranoia began.


  1. What can I say other than thanks. It is so close to home, so close to actually being there.

  2. i would love to hear this read out loud by you Shane. have you made any recordings of your writing?

  3. Hey Nope, no I never record myself reading my own words... I'm a rotten narrator and my voice is uneven and is just not a voice made for speaking. When I was in school I always tried to improve my voice because I wanted to read my words out aloud and only I knew the rhythms of them and when to impart certain emotions, etc. I would practice and practice and in my head it'd sound wonderful but once recorded it was slow and uneven and laboured, without emotion or drama... and it's never really changed. I would do it if I had to... but really I think the words would benefit better from someone else reading them out. X