‘Cherry red,’ said Dad, his thick boilermaker’s finger stabbing at the colour
chart. ‘It’s a lucky colour.’
So it was decided. The roof would get a new coat of paint.
This year there would be no trips to Dawson’s, the demolition yard where he went for weatherboards
every time he replaced the dry rot.
Dad had had a win on the horses, just enough to cover the cost of the paint.
There was a bit more in the Christmas Club.
Mum had told us what she’d buy with the Christmas Club money. Candy walking sticks for
the tree, a box of El Dorado chocolates, bottles of Coca Cola for Christmas Day. They sat around the kitchen table and talked
about it when they thought we were in bed.
Dad said: ‘We can’t afford everything, and that roof’s going to leak like
hell next winter.’
I’d watched the paint peeling off, leaving islands of bare metal and spots of rust bubbling
through the surface.
On the first day of his holidays Dad was up early, whistling snatches of songs. He went out
to the shed, then I saw him in the back yard in his old herringbone trousers tied up with a piece of twine.
He started at the back to catch the morning sun. He got Mum to rub olive oil over his back,
and when I saw that slab of skin covered in freckles and hair I knew it’d turn redder than the square on the colour
chart by the end of the day, and he’d be getting her to rub it with Q-Tol.
He was up on the roof, clattering about, scraping the paint with a wire brush, sweeping the
dust and flakes into the spouting. I went inside to escape the drone of the Plunket Shield commentary, and the races, and
Dad calling ‘You beauty!’ if someone took a wicket, or one of his horses came in.
There was a crash, then silence.
‘Bugger it! Bugger the bloody thing. Patrick! Michael! Dad went through the names of all
his children, but I was the only one around. I climbed the ladder and helped him pull his foot out of the hole in the roof.
‘The whole side,’ he said to Mum. ‘The whole bloody side is as rotten as hell.’
Mum made some tea.
‘Will we have to replace it?’ she said.
‘We can’t replace all that iron,’ said Dad, stuffing a date scone in his mouth.
‘It’s too dear.’ He slurped his tea.
‘What are we going to do?’ said Mum.
Dad turned the transistor on, and looked out the window. Mum took the Christmas Club book from
‘We’ll think of something,’ she said.
‘Quiet,’ said Dad. ‘I’m trying to listen to this. I’ve got a quid
on ‘Cherry Red’. It’s paying ten for a win. If it comes in….’,
And he turned the transistor up.
Copyright 2005 © Tony O'Brien