This is a flash piece I wrote a long while ago, as yet unpublished.
My father always had holes in his pockets and nobody knew why except me. My mother used to think it was down to the cheap trousers he bought from the market. She scolded him like a child, but always darned them anyway. She was wrong as it turned out.
I first noticed something was up when I was 6. Giving him a surprise leg hug, I felt a sharpness press into my cheek. I was offended, and slipped my hand into his pocket to see what it was, but he caught my wrist and slid it skillfully out again. Then he tipped me upside down, and blew a raspberry of punishment on my bare stomach. He said I was trying to pickpocket his coins. But there were no coins in there, I would have felt them.
When I was 8 he took me and my brothers swimming. I had gone back into the changing rooms, supposedly to go to the toilet. This time I was pickpocketing his trousers for coins. I reached into his pocket, the inside thick with my mother’ stitches. I found no money, just a small, brown nail. I watched my father often after that. I could see him picking at the threads with the nail under the fabric. It was something only I knew about. I didn’t mind. The next time we went swimming I found it and made a mark with blue crayon. I looked for it again some months later and the blue mark was still there. It was the same nail. They were not the same trousers.
When I was 12, and we were on holiday, and my father fell over on slick grass, and pierced the fat muscle in his leg with something sharp, hidden in the grass so he said, we all had to go to the hospital together. As he was being stitched up, my mother gave him a look that meant she did still think about what it would be like not married to him, even though she had promised not to. I didn’t say anything about the nail even though I’d known about it all along, and had imagined all these things happening before they actually did.
When I was 35 and my brother Jack found me going through the pockets of our dead father’s sad suit in the hospital room wardrobe, and I cried because I found only holes and no blue tipped nail, it was not an easy thing to explain.