Dad’s Jacket Pocket

I must time it perfectly.

He’s sitting glued to the telly. Manchester United winning again on Match of the Day, my father ready to jump up and down when they score.That’s MY chance to score.

From his pocket. From the stash of gold one-pound coins he comes home with every night.  Coins earned with blood, sweat and tears.Well, cleaning them up actually.Blood, sweat and tears are a drycleaner’s joy – as long as you can get them out. And he does, quite successfully. At the cost of the skin on his finger-tips, burned off from toxic stain-removing chemicals.   The weapons of his trade.

My dad.  The dry cleaner.Proud of owning his own business, sending us to good schools…and turning us into spoilt brats.

“I waaaaannnn it”, I screech.If mum dares to pick us up from school without any gold coins, without the means to raid the candy store on the way home, of sherbet Dib-Dabs, lollipops and Kit Kats… for her…there is hell to pay.

Just in case she has no coins, I find a way of getting them myself. From Dad’s pocket. From the coins he brings home every night, earned from his blood, sweat and ears.

His jacket hangs on the stair banister, between the door to the TV room, where he seems to live, his finger permanently tapping on the TV remote control…And on the other side, the kitchen door. My mother’s domain.

Of frying meatballs, dinner-time dramas, loud phone calls to family back home in Cyprus, and endless streams of relatives and friends coming to be fed.

In the quiet gaps, when the house is quiet, temporarily, I steal myself to dad’s left pocket, breathing deeply, looking round left to right and into the mirror opposite…the scene of my crime….my hand dips into the promise of his pocket, and grab a couple of coins…before he has a chance to look up from Manchester Utd winning the soccer game 5-1.

Before my brother and sisters catch me at it too.This goes on for years.Sometimes the coins are so many, his jacket hangs lop-sided on the banister- times he’s in a good mood and mum seems to smile more.Other times the jacket is perfectly balanced on the banister and my hand dips in, and comes out, empty. Of anything, except, guilt.

Strange, that my guilt surfaces only when I come out empty-handed. When I score  cash, there’s no time for guilt.  Only plans and preparations of how to spend my spoils.

I must have helped myself to a few hundred pounds over the years. The weight of those coins, no doubt will be the weight I carry against entry into heaven.But there is always a place for redemption. As long as your dad has open heart surgery. And is ready to talk Real.

The night before he’s going to be sliced in two, and a pig-part inserted where his human valve should-be, we have a heart to heart.I confess. To my dad and my siblings. I’m so sorry, it WAS me who shot the rabbit with the air rifle. By mistake.I really didn’t mean for you to do a number two on the saran wrapped round the toilet-bowl that April Fool’s Day.

I’m sorry I didn’t marry George, the Greek banker. The one with the BMW, who would have made me very pregnant very quickly. And most of all, Dad, ….. well I …your jacket pocket…well, I really love you dad…

”Darlee,” he summons, “You were always the naughty one. Like me…Always. And  out of all you, YOU stole the most from my pocket”.

He puts his hand in his pocket, pulls out a coin for each of us sitting there, so proud of our father’s dry-cleaning blood, sweat, and tears. His hand dips into the other pocket and he pulls out one more coin.

He gives it to me. With a grin.