“There now, don’t yer just love that,” Raz said as he carefully withdrew the plastic spoon from Charlie’s mouth.
“Mashed banana and peanut butter. Why, you eat better than I do.” He stood up and his knees cracked like two dry sticks. He went to the kitchen sink, from where he could see through the window over the fence into Mr Dawkin’s japanese-style garden — its grey board walks and pond lilies made him frown.
“Though, I never could cook like yer momma,” he said. “No-one could cook like her, that was one of her good points. But that don’t matter now does it? It’s just you and me and she’s gone to hell. She’s probably being judged right now, don’t you think? What’s that? You think she deserves it? I couldn’t agree with you more. Not that it makes any difference: come December, we’re all goners. We’re goin’ have planes dropping outta the sky, fire all over the place, you just name it. Just gone lucky that we’re on the right side this time, you and me, we’re goin’ see it over.”
Raz picked up the baby and held him over his shoulder. He was so full of love he wanted to squeeze the child’s tiny frame and bite into his rolly arms; he didn’t know if it was a gift or a test but it didn’t matter, he knew what he had to do without anyone else having to tell him. “We’re not like the others are we, Charlie? Not like those staring know-it-alls, like that old hag Miss Pryor who came a knockin’. We’ll show ‘em the door or better still, draw a bead on their bonnet next time one of them nears the gate, then tell ‘em they can take that back to the department, won’t we? People like her don’t know what’s comin’ to ‘em. A fiery end if they’re lucky or somethin’ worse, somethin’ that me or you can’t think up ourselves, but you bet, it’s goin’ be eternal.” Raz held Charlie up to his face and studied his creased features and wriggling nose. “Ha! You know it, I can see yer smiling. Say again? You wanna know what momma’s doin’? I don’t know, boy, I told you already. Say, you remember that time she came home after her ladies’ day, in a right fit she was, cussin’ and throwin’ a fuss like she’d been bit on the toe by a wasp. Came runnin’ into the house to give ol’ pappa a piece of her mouth. And what’d she do? She went and left you outside, she did. Too busy tryin’ to tell her ol’ man off like he was crazy or somthin’ when she’s the one who left a cryin’ baby in the back seat of a truck middle of December. Well, I could have beat her black and blue. Lucky pappa was there or you mighta caught yerself a cold!”
A dog barked somewhere in Mr Dawkins’s garden. Raz placed Charlie gently back into his high chair and went over to the window. “You know, Charlie, we’re goin’ be alright. We’ll be rid of that nut too. Nothin’d be better than to see him on the rack. Yeah, I know. I should know better than to judge but I just gotta do the best with what I got. Ah well, what the heck.” Raz shooed an invisible fly away with his hand. He opened the refrigerator: empty, save for one can of beer. “That’s the way it works,” he said and closed the door. He returned to the table and sat himself in front of Charlie. “I can’t wait to see you all grown up. There’s goin’ be a lot we’re goin’ be able to talk about, like girls, cars, all those things you never saw. You don’t understand, but it ain’t your fault, it ain’t no-one’s fault. What? You what? Well, you don’t say!” Raz’s eyes began to water and swell. “I love you too, son.”
Charlie kicked and swam in his chair as if he was trying to reach something. He gave out a low gurgle and then burped up lump of vomit. Raz jumped in his chair. “Well, I’ll be,” he said. “We’ve got another burper in the family. Now you gone and got it all over Mickey Mouse. There you go, all clean, all clean.” Raz gave a final look out the kitchen window, then placed a trembling hand on the table. He moved his index finger, then his whole arm forwards until he felt the cold grip in his palm. He didn’t need to think about it this time, and smiled as he let his calloused finger slip over the trigger.