EDitorial ± 27-Jun-2007
"C'mon kids, how many times -- seatbelts off!"
"But Mum says ..."
"Mum ... isn't here." Tom stared dead ahead at the distant waves through the misted windscreen, gloved hands at quarter past three. "I'm the Daddy. I'm your Daddy. So pur-lease, do as your old Dad says." His smile was pleading, as insipid as his too-milky latte. Of all days to get the final stamp on your customer loyalty card. He'd sure miss caffeine.
Wiping the window with his sleeve, he looked out at the Costa branch that now sat behind the railings. Used to be a craft place selling little wooden beach huts and other gewgaws when he'd been Daisy's age, sliding around on the leather back seat of that marvellous Morris Oxford. Grandad would pull over at the top of the hill and ceremoniously turn off the ignition. Releasing the handbrake, the azure blue motor would inch forward and slowly, thrillingly gain speed. Halfway down, the old man would shout Check Your Brakes Now!
Closing his eyes to the drizzle outside, Tom tried to recall how the sun felt on those gloriously hot Sundays. Couldn't do that either. Couldn't do a lot nowadays, that much had become clear.
Daisy piped up: "Dad, I don't know what to write on my card."
"Not to worry. As long as you put lots of kisses." He turned up the blower a notch. "Why don't you do Mum a nice picture?"
"I dunno. I thought you were the one with the imagination. A boat? A big stick of rock? Laura, any bright ideas?"
"Whatever. Done mine." Laura handed Tom a picture postcard with an underexposed shot of the nearby winter gardens. He flipped it over to find a hastily scribbled "Weather grotty. Wish you were here instead of Dad."
"Hey Laura, that wasn't really which I had in mind." Too late: earphones in, iPod on. At least Daisy had dug up a battered box of crayons and was giving it her best shot.
Tom would have liked nothing better than to have given it -- something, anything -- his best shot. Face it, he was aimless, without ambition, a plodder: Jenny had told him that often enough. Middle-aged, if 41 counted as middle-aged, and coasting through a spectacularly uneventful life. College, marriage, kids, yada yada. From way back when, advice from his driving instructor surfaced -- stay in control of the vehicle at all times. Unwittingly, that had become his mantra.
Today the drifting would cease. No more waiting for that mythical flash of inspiration that would give his life purpose. No more endless patience. No more.
"Finished!" exclaimed Daisy.
"Great: thanks, Daisy. I'll just pop these into the letterbox. Back in a jiff."
He so wanted to see Jenny's reaction when she heard the news, and again a day later when the postcards arrived.
Glancing in the coffee shop window, he saw a reflection of Daisy waving as the car began to gain speed down the hill.