'On Finding Your Father Is a Ventriloquist: A Guide' by Digby Beaumont

Say, "Hi, Dad. Who's this, then?" when he opens his front door cradling a dummy in his arms. The dummy will stare at you with its huge blood-orange eyes. "Name's Josh. Good to meet you," it will say, its voice high-pitched, and your father will raise its pink, vinyl hand. High-five the dummy's palm. Say, "Nice one, Dad. So how have you been?" while you follow him into the kitchen. The dummy's head will swivel between your father and you. "Watch this," it will say, its jaw no longer flapping. "See my lips? They don't move. But wait! Look at Dad's lips. They don't move, either. What's happening here?" Try to smile. Tell your dad, "I'm sorry I haven't been in touch. I know it must have been hard—" "I've got a good one," the dummy will say. "What do you call a cowboy with a dinosaur on his head?" Say, "Come on, Dad." "Have you heard that one?" the dummy will ask. "Here's another one. You'll like this. Sherlock Holmes and a salt beef sandwich walk into a bar—" Say, "Dad, can we stop with the dummy, please?" Get up from the table. Look out of the window, at the garden, your mother's joy. Remember the last time you stood here, three months ago, the morning of the funeral. Upstairs in the bedroom your dad was dressing. He let out a wail and cried out, "Don't leave me, Kitty. Please don't leave me." He didn't say another word that day. Turn and stand behind your father. Rest your hand on his shoulder. Tell him, "The garden looks wonderful. Mum would be so proud." Still facing away from you, he'll reach up, cup the back of your hand and hold you. You'll hold each other.

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