Sunday, 13 March 2011

A Slow Boat To Thailand. And A Pretty Bad Line, Too.

"I'm bored," says Dad, about five minutes after he gets up this morning. "I don't like being an invalid."

"We don't like it much either," I say, under my breath.

"Well, can't you take me out somewhere, or something? I'm going stir-crazy stuck in here all day."

"Not today," says Max, who's trying to work out how our latest phone bill can be so high.

It may be a coincidence, but Josh is staying well out of the way. I make a mental note to check for evidence of calls to Holly's number once Max has put the bill aside. Meanwhile, what to do with Dad?

The question becomes more pressing when Sam phones to see if he can come to stay next weekend.

"Good God," I say. "We thought you were dead."

"No, Mol," says Sam. "I was just in a relationship. Didn't you see my Facebook status?"

"Yes," I say. "But I thought you were being ironic."

Max takes the receiver from my hand before I can say anything else, pushes me out of the room and shuts the door so I can't interrupt. (I know it annoys him when I butt in, but if I didn't remind him during the conversation, he'd never remember to ask for any of the juicy details. Men are bloody hopeless sometimes.)

Anyway, I hover for a while outside the door, but I can't hear anything meaningful at all, as I'm sure Max is mumbling on purpose. So I may as well join Dad in the living room instead. I can give Connie a call while I'm there.

So much for that idea - Dad spots that I've got my mobile in my hand and, quick as a flash, turns the TV on. His operation hasn't dulled his reflexes, that's for sure. Unlike what his convalescence is doing to mine.

"Must be something on before the rugby," he says.

Honestly, there's no need to have the volume up quite so bloody high, is there? The TV's rattling so much that it'll probably explode in a minute. I'd understand it if sports commentators ever said anything that made any sense,  but they don't - so why would anyone want to listen to them shouting?

I scowl at Dad, but he just winks at me and changes channel. Several times in quick succession, until I admit defeat and go upstairs in disgust. I shall lie on the bed while I talk to Connie - which will make a very nice change, given that I haven't managed to stretch out on the sofa once since Dad arrived.

"Urm, 'ullo, Murm," says Connie. Or words to that effect. She does sound a bit peculiar. As if she's being choked, or something.

"What's the matter, Con?" I say, envisaging God knows what.

"Bad froat," she says. "Thr-oat, I mean. I feel awful. I'd have come home for the weekend if Grandad hadn't been sleeping in my bed."

As if it isn't bad enough that Josh is finding every excuse that he can to stay out of the house since Dad arrived, now Connie's sick and can't come home to be looked after. And Sam can't visit while Dad's here, either. Bloody, bloody hell - I wish we had a proper spare room.

I know I said Dad must be mad for asking when he could travel as soon as he first came round from the anaesthetic, but now I'm starting to wish he'd at least remained conscious long enough to be given a definitive answer.

I wonder how soon people are allowed to fly after they've had a heart bypass? Or to sail...  Can you get to Thailand by boat?

I'm about to go and ask Max whether he knows the answer, when I hear his footsteps coming up the stairs.

"You won't believe what just happened to me," he says. "No wonder your Dad's so desperate to get back to Thailand."

"As am I," I say. "Desperate for him to get back, I mean. Not me. Anyway, what happened to you?"

Max explains that his conversation with Sam ended rather suddenly.

"You know what's he's like," says Max. "We always get cut off when he puts the receiver under his chin to light a fag. So I didn't think anything of it when the line went dead and then the phone rang again, straight-away. I just picked it up, and waited for Sam to carry on where he'd left off."

"And?" I say. There's got to be more to this than meets the eye.

"It wasn't Sam, but some woman with a funny accent. She said something like, 'Imissoo' - but it was a bad connection so I couldn't really hear her very well. The only bit I'm sure I understood was when she said, 'When oo come back Thailand? I wuv oo, big boy.'"

"Oh, my God, Max," I say. "You've just spoken to Porn-Poon. Who's bound to become Stepmother Mark IV if Dad's gone and given her our phone number as well as his own."

Max sits down on the bed, and sighs like he always does when he thinks I'm being melodramatic. Then he raises his eyebrows, and gestures for me to go on.

"You know that's how it always works," I say. "There are Dad's temporary girlfriends - the ones Dinah and I are never allowed to speak to - and then there are the other ones, who turn into his wives. They're the ones he likes to introduce us to on the phone, when he does that thing where he says, 'Speak to your new stepmother,' and then just shoves the receiver into our hands. You must remember the last time he did it?"

Max nods at the same time as rolling his eyes - which is even less reassuring than it sounds, and much easier than patting your head while rubbing your stomach. Then he says,

"Okay - maybe you're right. So what shall I do? Do I mention it to your dad or not? She didn't say her name, just that she loved me - or wuved me, anyway - and I didn't even suspect who she was until I'd put the phone down. I told her she must have got the wrong number."

"Huh," I say. "I'm pretty sure Porn-Poon's knows every man's number off by heart. But I wouldn't tell Dad about it, if I were you. He'll only want to call her back, and God knows what that'll cost -"

For once, I manage to put two and two together and actually come up with four. So at least I'm learning something from spending all my leisure time watching Scandinavian detectives on TV.

"Oh, shit," says Max, at the same time as I say, "The phone bill."

I look up our PIN number, while Max reads the instructions on how to block international calls. Far be it from either of us to stand in the way of true love, but this is my dad we're talking about.

No comments:

Post a Comment