Son of my Father by Daniel Brown is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://waffleandwrite.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/administrative-notes-about-the-license-my-work-is-attributed-under/.
It was a grey and miserable afternoon. It suited his mood perfectly. Scott had been driving his dad’s old estate car all day, trying to find a lake or reservoir to fish in without success. Two weeks after the funeral he had gone on a massive bender, waking up 48 hours later, inside his sleeping bag in the back of the Volvo, somewhere in the Scottish borders as it later turned out. After spending several minutes thanking God, Buddha, Allah, Gitche Manitou and any other deity he could think of, that he hadn’t killed anyone or been arrested, he looked around the car and besides empty beer cans he could find only his old fishing rod and a bottle of Glenlivet. The same rod his dad had bought him for his twenty-first birthday, and a bottle of the old man’s favourite tipple. Realization dawned, harsh and cold.
Dad was dead.
That’s why he was on this road trip. One more day getting pissed and failing to catch anything, except maybe a cold. One more day when he could try to feel his dad’s presence. One more attempt to cry, to sob, to pull at his hair and beat his breast like a biblical widow. Anything to ease the pressure in his chest, to stop the dull ache every time he thought of the old man.
He had decided to head south immediately. Considering his dad’s pathological dislike of the Scots, it didn’t seem right to fish in his memory anywhere north of the border. He had re-entered England over a little road bridge, part of a network of back roads and country lanes that criss-crossed the border seemingly at random. It wasn’t long before Scott had found himself hopelessly lost. He had gone round in circles, doubled back on himself, crossed back into Scotland twice that he knew of, and finally found himself in Cumbria. He knew it was Cumbria because he had passed a signpost pointing him towards Dent. He had passed through that particular hamlet once before, when he and the old man had got lost looking for Harrogate in Yorkshire. Quite an achievement really, since they lived in Northumberland and had done so for their entire lives.
The ache in his chest worsened, the more that he thought about the complete absence of directional sense he had inherited from his dad. He remembered the many occasions they had got lost trying to find somewhere, how hopeless the pair of them were when they left the motorway. Between them they couldn’t find their own arses with both hands and an A to Z, as his mother had been fond of telling them both. Usually when they were travelling to their caravan in Whitby, often via Rotherham or Scunthorpe.
Fond memories of the old man cascaded through him, unbidden and painful. He reached over and flicked on the stereo in an effort to distract himself. Instead of the radio, the stereo was set to C.D. mode and the disc started before he could reach out and stop it. The music surrounded him, while the thought occurred that this might well be the last song his dad had listened to, and so, he let it play. The song that washed over him was “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything”, the same song that his dad, pissed as a fart, had climbed on stage to serenade his mother with at their silver wedding party. He gripped the wheel until his knuckles turned white as tears sprang to eyes and he pulled over to the road side, turning the volume as high as his ears could stand.
He cried then, finally, at the side of a country road in Cumbria. Not gentle rolling tears, but great chest heaving sobs. Primal wails of rage and grief, interspersed with Barry White as he sang along at the very top his voice, until his throat was raw, bellowing his despair and loss to the universe through song. All the way through Barry White, the Rolling Stones, Slade and Marc Bolan he carried on singing, letting the hollow space inside fill up with the music his father cherished. He eventually stopped at Queen, feeling instinctively that if his dad could see him, he would think it was a bit too obvious to sob his way through “Somebody to Love”. He subsided into normal tears and stayed that way for the best part of an hour as he let the home-made C.D. run to the end.
Just as he thought the disc was finished and was leaning forward to switch on the radio, an accordion sounded and the theme tune from Captain Pugwash blasted itself from the speakers. Then, as clearly as if he was really there, the image of his dad sitting in the passenger seat, bopping from side to side with the music and an idiotic grin on his face appeared in his head. He recalled all the old gags the two of them used to make, “Seaman Staines”, “Roger the cabin boy” and the like and he started to laugh. Really laugh, long and hard, so much that the tears turned from heartache to joy and for a brief moment it was like the old man’s spirit filled the car utterly. As the song ended he switched to the radio, changed the station from radio four to radio two and restarted the engine.
“So long dad, I’ll miss you, you daft old bastard.” He muttered to himself before putting the car into gear and pulling away.
The roads in the Cumbrian countryside were, in Scott’s opinion, the most repetitive looking, badly signed and poorly surfaced in the U.K.. He had driven around for hours without seeing another car, passing through a village, or even spotting a hiker striding across one of the many barren looking, sheep strewn hilltops.
He had a headache, he was hungry, and the only thing to drink in the car was the whisky. Not wanting to be in less than full control on such twisty roads, he thought the alcohol best left untouched. He was desperate to find a village or somewhere before nightfall. More than anything else he could think of at the moment, he wanted a bath, a shave and a hot meal. Although he was reluctant to give the thought full voice, he also wanted to be indoors as darkness fell. Something about the countryside around the area gave him the creeps. He glanced at the clock on the dashboard and saw it was almost two-thirty, only a few hours before dark at this time of year. Resolving to stop for the night at the first suitable place he found, he put his foot down a little harder and tried not think about the growing unease. He couldn’t see himself driving much further before finding somewhere to stay, this was England after all, not Siberia. It seemed like unbelievable luck to get this badly lost in the first place.
Ninety minutes later he was beginning to doubt his earlier certainty. The hills seemed to be getting higher and more forbidding, with noticeably fewer sheep on them. He even thought he had seen a herd of goats cropping the sparse grass on one of the peaks. The shadows were lengthening, and the high hilltops added to the gloom, so much so, that he already had his lights on full beam to avoid plummeting down the side of the steep uphill road he was crawling up in first gear. The feeble excuse for a crash barrier was little more than a low dry stone wall, without even the light reflecting tape on the corners that modern drivers were so accustomed to. Scott wasn’t feeling so much lost any more, as dislocated; this was the kind of road he hadn’t thought existed any more in this day and age. The highway authorities had long since signed and labelled every road, to the extent where remaining lost for more than hour or so without some sort of sign post telling you where you were headed towards, even if you weren’t sure where that was in relation to anywhere else, seemed impossible to him. As he neared the top of the rise his heart sank at the thought of a bloody great valley, filled with nothing but claustrophobic high sided fells and more bloody sheep, staring balefully at his passing car as if every bad thing in creation was somehow his fault. He had never an opinion before, but these past hours had taught him that he hated sheep vigorously.
He crested the rise, turning left as the road swung round less than halfway up the full height of the fell itself. Below him the valley spread out for what looked like fully two miles in length, although from side to side it was maybe one third that distance, more of a gorge than a true valley. It was just like all the others he had passed through that day, though. An enormous dip in the landscape covered with unhealthy looking grass, filled with huge grey rocks, and here and there the ubiquitous sheep, looking like some sort of fungal growth at this distance. The only thing that seemed different about this particular gorge was the lights from the village in the distance. Hang on, – he thought, a village!. It was all he could do to resist flooring the accelerator and tearing down the hill at full throttle, but the steep, winding road was a little too unforgiving for trying that in a huge estate car. Instead he drove sensibly downhill, unaccountably relieved at the thought of human contact; the radio had been poor comfort for the feeling of isolation and in the end it had to be turned off, so that he could concentrate fully as the roads had become narrower and more treacherous.
It took him what felt like an eternity to reach the base of the fell, tapping the steering wheel in frustration all the way down. On reaching the bottom he opened the Volvo up as much as was possible on such a narrow road and hurried on towards the village ahead. There were no signs to tell him what the village was called, but the odometer told him he had travelled nearly three miles to get there because of the way the road contorted itself around the sides of the gorge. It wasn’t until he was entering the settlement that he saw a weather-beaten sign telling the world that the place was named Ingleton.