What Mean Father?
HOB WENT TO THE SURFACE for rope and then he came down again and worked in silence. He ignored the pleading and roaring which alternated from beneath. He hauled the Colman lamp up and hung it from its peg. He untied the bucket and tied on the new length of rope and he tied off the other end to the line on the winch. He flung the bucket down the hole and left the rope to play out how it would and started to climb out again.
That be better, said Jack Delfan, when the vessel splashed down next to him. He felt about in the dimness and found the bucket and reached up and took hold of the rope. He took a good breath and he hauled himself up hand over hand until he was nearly clear of the water. He hung there a moment and felt about with his foot and after a little cursing he got that appendage into the bucket so that it bore his weight.
He hung and shivered and rotated slowly. He saw in the dim glow that filtered down that the lake was longer than it was wide and that the cavern containing it might lead on to others for there were places at either end where he could discern no concluding wall. So the patriarch revolved in one direction and then another and then he yelled for Hob and got no answer. He tried, as form of communication, to jump a little on the rope. A rock came down in answer and it struck him on the skull and came close to concussing him. When he had finished howling he felt a slick wetness flowing over his forehead and into his right eye. He tasted it on a fingertip to confirm that it was blood.
Hob, he bellowed, haul me out for the sake of the living world.
But his cries brought no reply and when finally the rope jerked upwards it came as a surprise to him and he nearly lost his grip and then he began to rise and spin more freely. The rope was snagging on the rough surfaces of the hole and biting into the rock and Delfan began to fear that it would work its way into a crevice and jam or fray to parting. And indeed as he rose to the hole he could see that the rope was close to giving way and then the upward motion stopped.
Hob, he yelled. Hobby? Hobblet?
There was no sign, no sound, from above. Delfan stood tall and reached through and took the rope above the place where it was about to part and pulled himself up and as he did so a slab of rock gave way and he nearly followed it into the waters.
Jack Delfan’s mood was in no way improved by the time he emerged from the shaft to see Hob squatting in the shade cast by the trunk of the rapture tree. Delfan stood bent with hands on knees and reloaded stores of breath and then he straightened to point a finger at the boy.
You’d blackmail me with drowning?
You only listen when you need help.
Whose fault be that?
Delfan pacing towards the boy. Searching for a line of enquiry less open to blunt rebuttal.
Blackmail. Where learnt you that?
Hob standing quick and turning to climb the trunk.
From you. Like everything else.
The boy leaping for the branch the Qhilika hangs from, scrabbling upwards as Delfan reaches for an ankle. Which is pulled out of reach. A desperate game developing. Hob dropping a foot in and out of range. Delfan growling below as he jumps to grasp it. And does. Hob kicking savagely so that his heel impacts the top of Delfan’s nose. A new stream of blood issuing from his left nostril to compliment the dried matter above his right eyebrow. The patriarch a fearsome sight now. In tattered trousers and rope belt like a castaway. A brown and hairy torso topped by a battered cranium. He stands with feet apart and knees bent and ready to spring. His bloodied head canted back on its vertebrae.
Hob stares down and Delfan roars and leaps and grasps the branch. Hob skipping up branches above. Like a jack tar on familiar rigging in a book from a world long gone. Delfan grunting as he gains the lowest branch and stands and looks up and commences climbing. So that he forces Hob higher and finally there is no branch that will take Hob's weight and he lowers his groin to the one he stands on and begins to shift along it. And turn with much trouble to face his father. Who advances out towards him by the same method of hands and arse.
Why won’t you listen to me?
You don’t listen to me, says Hob.
I am your father!
What means that?
What means that?
Delfan leaning forward as the boy edges back, lunging to take him with one hand by the shoulder. Father and son precariously joined on their perch.
I’ll show you what means that.
He releases the boy’s shoulder and draws back his hand to form a fist and launch a straight right which Hob evades with an elegant and instinctive sway of the head. Delfan toppling forward to takes his son about the chest and hug him like a bear. As they begin to turn together on the axis of the branch. Coming to a halt entirely inverted. Hob wriggling in the patriarch’s embrace. Their four thighs and bended knees losing their precarious grip on the bark. And they tumble. Locked together and grunting from branch to branch. Landing in the sand with Delfan below and Hob clasped yet to his bosom.
Hooooo, said the Patriarch. Hooooooooo.
His breath was entirely knocked from him and he was uncertain if he would ever be able to recover it.
Hoooooo, he said. Hooooooooooooooo.
Hob had the best of the landing and it was he, as he freed himself from his father’s embrace, who saw the Gcwi.