"The Point" by Ian Denning
Coffee pot, toast, warm enough to eat outside. There’s a tenon saw and a tray of coriander seedlings on the patio table and cobwebs catching the light. The coffee is how I like it, the cobwebs are untouched and – yes! – Nick Cave is on the radio. This is a good day.
Rhodri appears through the kitchen door. He’s still in his pyjamas, barefoot.
‘No bare feet outside.’
‘But mam said you can take me camping by the waterfall.’
‘No bare... she didn’t did she?’
Lyn’s voice, sing-songing yes she did, comes from the kitchen as she snaps the radio off.
I call in to her, ‘Point is, I’ve got plans. Stuff to do.’
‘You can teach me to make a fire.’
I take the coffee pot into the kitchen and turn the radio back on. Courtney Barnett is playing. Lyn says, ‘Do your stuff before you go.’ Then, ‘Point is, you need to do this.’ Her words cue uncomfortable recent footage in my mind.
‘We can catch our dinner and cook it.’
Put me on a pedestal - I’ll only disappoint you, says Ms Barnett, before Lyn flicks the switch again.
We’re walking the path up the gorge. I’ve got sausages and a tin of beans in my rucksack; newspaper to start the fire. All afternoon, Rhodri talked endlessly about camping and cooking trout and did nothing about packing the stuff he needs. Now he’s repeating the names of the rivers – Mellte, Hepste - that feed the gorge. Over and over. It’s getting late.
When we get to the spot above the waterfall I pitch the tent under the trees and send him off to gather firewood. He comes back with a handful of sticks and some green leaves. I send him off again, gesturing the size of the armfuls we need. He comes back with another tiny fistful. He looks disappointed when he sees me balling sheets of newspaper.
‘I want you to show me how to light fires like this.’ He’s rubbing a couple of twigs together.
‘Not this time. We need to get it done. Get some water will you?’
‘We never get to do the things you tell me about.’ His face tightens and he kicks at the firewood pile, then stalks off toward the river. I turn my back to him, start on the fire. I really can’t be arsed with this. I can feel that knot tightening in my stomach, like before. The before that Lyn was thinking of.
When I turn back Rhodri is standing on the lip of the waterfall, at the point where the rock strata fractures and the river drops in a sheet. He’s looking down, tiny against the sheer rock, at the churning, mesmeric pool below him.
Later, he’s curled against me with his plate, licked clean, on the stones around our fire. There’s an owl, and river sounds. His steady breathing, the smell of the smoke.
I get it now.