That night Kel was on edge. The air inside the house was the mingling smell of his cigarettes with the rich and unusual odours of the cooking. In the kitchen Marian felt Kel’s nervous to-and-fro behind her as she combined ingredients, and later, outside in the yard, rifle underarm and cigarette in hand Kel witnessed things she couldn’t see—shouldered memories of Vietnam, which she’d seen him do at times before, and also something extra now—he wore a suspicion of things, had lost his natural sense of direction like a headwounded mammal.
“Mum, when is dinner ready?” said Oliver, satisfying his compulsion once again during a commercial break.
“Here, honey, take something out to your father for me,” she said, quickly pouring a whiskey. “But don’t drink it, it’s a special drink for Daddy, to help him relax, it’ll make you very sick if you do.” Marian added sugar and cinnamon, something Kel did in high-school but which he rarely did any more, then a few ice-cubes and handed it to Oliver.
“Go on,” she said. She hurried back to the kitchen window and watched in anticipation, heard the back door open. Kel, turning, laid down his gun before sweeping Oliver up to his hip. Marian sighed, relieved. Oliver poked at his father’s cheek to watch his mock-angry reaction, run his little hands over his jaw’s returning stubble.