>FATHERS by Chris Somerville

>My friend had a pet goat that lived in his backyard, chained to a metal stake. It was tethered to the stake by a chain, my friend said, because anything else would be eaten. He lived in the suburbs. He also had apple trees that we used to sit in and sometimes eat apples from, if the season was right. Golden Delicious and Royal Gala. My friend’s father was huge; bearded, barrel-chested. He terrified me. I once saw him throw a cat half across a room in a way that wasn’t funny at all.

Once, while travelling around with my family, we stopped in the town where Ned Kelly had been briefly imprisoned. Our hotel was a few minutes out of town, with large rooms and a view over the neighbouring farmland. I was sick, I’d caught some kind of stomach bug. My father had made us look all look at the cell, and stand in there alone to feel it. It was important that we felt it. The floor had just been plain brown dirt.

Years later I was watching an explosion from a safe distance. I was holding a clipboard and talking to people through a radio. We were pulling the buildings down in that whole section of city, and smoke and dust was thrown up in the air. It moved slowly, like sand disturbed on the bottom of the sea. I felt it then, watching this perfectly formed cloud before the wind came along and smudged it all. I figured that was what my father was talking about, this kind of unhappiness that has a way of filling your mouth like water.

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