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Monday, 18 April 2016

Wet Floor

Fiction | Milo

Courtney’s father was a very busy man, so busy in fact that many of her memories of him existed in a written rather than verbal form. Every Happy Birthday! was reduced to a birthday card, every Congratulations! a sticky note on the fridge, and whilst these hurt Courtney she gradually grew to tolerate his absence on those milestone days. He worked for a company who operated as a proxy for another dozen or so companies, and so his job title was a vague melange of nouns that meant little to outsiders. She knew that he imported and exported large quantities of penicillin into and out of South America, before switching to tyres out of Germany, and then trucks and other heavy machinery through Taiwan. She would have asked him about every aspect of his job, were he around to answer her questions and willing to answer her phone calls.

   What Courtney couldn’t understand, however, were the inane and oddly specific species of notes and memos her father left around their home. Sometimes dates would be circled on the kitchen calendar that meant nothing to anyone but him, and they all knew he wouldn’t be home for it to act as a reminder. Some days he would be gone before anyone awoke and a note would be on the fridge to "buy more milk", other days it was to apologise for finishing the cereal. Of all these notes, however, the one that bothered Courtney the most was one that simply said: WET FLOOR. Wet floor? She tore it from the fridge and ranted to her mother about it for a few hours; why did he leave such a stupid and silly note? If he was forced to leave a note, surely the floor would be dry by the time anyone was around to see it, making it redundant? If not, he surely could have waited to tell one of them in person that the floor was wet? To an extent she could understand his inability to attend family celebrations, because these required time, planning and for him to miss his flights abroad, however she couldn’t accept that anybody could be so busy as to need to leave a note warning about a recently mopped floor. Her indignation was such that she called him to complain, however, as was to be expected he never answered the phone. 

   When Courtney’s father landed after a long flight lasting many hours, he casually checked his mobile phone. He saw a missed call from their home phone and listened to the voicemail, and what he heard was a five minutes long admonishment from his eldest daughter. He sighed as he deleted the message and continued on his way, too busy to contend with another argument that would slide into shouting. What he was too busy to admit to himself, however, was that he left such notes around the house because he was afraid of being forgotten. For months at a time he would be abroad only to return to see a young lady where before had been a girl, and whilst she had grown up without a father he hadn’t grown at all since she had been a child. He was afraid of his own inability to connect with a woman he didn’t really know at all, but in a twisted sort of way needed to do something to keep her asking for him. So being the selfish and puerile man that he was, he found ways to ensure his daughter would always slip if she tried to run away from him.           

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