The closest I had to a father growing up was a pink vibrator I found in my mother’s underwear drawer when I was ten. I had no idea what it was, and brought it downstairs to ask her. She decided to go “all-in” rather than be embarrassed and make up an excuse: she said that this vibrator was a toy Mummy kept around to feel less lonely, and that it was a better partner than any of the men she had dated.
The dildo would often accompany us at dinner after that fateful day. My mother would set a place for it, get it a drink and some cutlery, and when we had a roast chicken or turkey she would ask it to carve the bird. She would fix a carving knife onto it with duct tape and turn it on, pointing it vaguely at the poultry. It barely did more than provide us with a couple of shavings before wobbling off the table and cutting up one of the chair legs, but my mother said that at least it had tried.
On Saturdays Mum would say that the dildo needed some alone-time to watch the game on TV, so we would go out for ice-cream, and it quickly became my favourite part of the week. We would go out as a family on Sundays, usually to walk along the river and feed the ducks. Mum would switch “Harry” on and use him to mash up the bread into manageable chunks, which we would throw to the birds, Mum placing pieces of bread on the tip and shaft and then flicking them into the water to simulate Harry throwing the bread himself. We would often go to the play-area in the park afterwards, where Harry would roll down the slide after me, angrily buzzing, and where other parents kept their distance.
One night I was woken up by Mum yelling, and after I tiptoed to the top of the stairs, I realized she was arguing with Harry. Had he been looking at other women? Why was he always drunk? I didn’t know. I went back to bed and squashed my ears between two pillows.
At breakfast Mum was quiet, and when she poured me some juice I noticed a bruise around one of her eyes. She didn’t want to talk about it and she was very irritable with me. She glared at Harry, who sat proudly at the head of the table.
A few days later I came home from school and there was a bigger, blue vibrator sat in Harry’s usual spot. Harry was on the floor under one of the chairs. Mum said Mike had kicked Harry’s ass for what he had done to her. Mike would be living with us now. Harry needed to get his shit and get the fuck out. Mike knew how to treat a woman like a woman. I swear I saw Mike spit at Harry on the floor there.
Simon Pinkerton is a writer living in West London-ish (an affordable, shittier area) and formerly of Minneapolis. He writes short-stories and humour and is a contributor at McSweeney’s, Queen Mob’s Tea House and Maudlin House amongst others. Please love him, and follow him @simonpinkerton on Twitter and at www.simonpinkerton.tumblr.com for his humour and other-bullshit blog.