One Small Step

The third step from the top of the landing had always been loose. At least it had been loose ever since the boy could remember. It was the squeaking of the step which woke him. The sound alerted him to his Da’s presence. The heavy footsteps stopped at the boy’s bedroom door. The boy closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep. The bedroom door opened and in walked his old man. The boy could smell the whiskey on his breath as he drew close. The large hand of his father shook his shoulder to wake him. “Down stairs”, was his Da’s command. The boy didn’t need asking twice.

As the boy followed the imposing figure of his old man down the stairs a knot began to tighten in his stomach. He tried to think of anything he had done which might have angered his Da. The boy couldn’t think of anything. The old lady at the bottom of the street often complained to his parents about him. He and his friends would sometimes kick a ball against the wall opposite her house. And, the old lady said the continuous thud off the ball hitting the wall upset her cats. Sometimes his Da found it funny and would tell his mum “Boys will be boys”. Other times, he gets a smack across the back of the head or his Da would give him the belt across the arse. That was if his father had been drinking. But his Da was always drinking. Always pissed. Always angry.

Before the boy entered the living room, he could hear the sound of the television. He was sure it was too late for anything to be on. His mum was sat on the sofa knitting. As the boy walked in, she smiled. The knot in stomach began to ease. His Da sat down in his arm chair opposite the television and nodded to the space below by his feet. The boy walked over and sat on the floor by his father’s knee. On the television a man was talking to the camera like they did on the news. He wore thick black rimmed glasses. The boy instinctively knew this was important. “Get us another tin” his Da said without looking at his mother. She put her knitting down and walked towards the kitchen. “Top this off for me as well”, he took a tumbler from the arm rest and finished the two fingers of whiskey which were inside. The boy’s mother walked back and took the glass. Again, he didn’t look at her. “What time is it?” the boy asked. “Watch the tellyson, it’s important” his Da replied. His mother comes back in with a glass of whiskey and can of beer. His father takes them both, cracking open the can. “It’s twenty-to-four” his mother whispers in his ear. His Da hands him the open beer can. The boy is unsure what to do. “Go on have a sip”, his old man says. The boy takes a swig and taste makes him grimace. His father laughs and passes down a bowl of salted nuts in exchange for the can of beer. The boy watches the television. 10 minutes later a man in a space suit climbs down a small ladder before jumping on the surface of the moon. The boy looks up at his Da who has tears in his eyes. It’s not until the boy is a man that he realises why his father cried. He cried because of how insignificant he felt. How little he achieved. How little he inspired.