The Old Man travels home on the ferry from Stranraer, catching the night train in Belfast and arriving in time for breakfast. Mam is grilling Denny sausages and Galtee rashers to beat the band before he’s taken his pea coat off.
“Come here to me, son," he cries, sweeping me off my feet and dangling me upside down, my hair brushing the linoleum.
“Did you miss your Da? Did you?"
“I did, Da. Yes." I can smell the whiskey mixed with his Old Spice aftershave even from my distant position near the ground. After righting me and giving my shoulder a squeeze he dances me around the kitchen table singing Percy French’s, “The Mountains of’Mourne."
Embarrassed, I wriggle out of his grip and plunk myself down at my chair, tipping the cornflakes into the bowl and trying hard to ignore his good mood.
“Arrah, you’ll dance with your ould fella," he says to Mam, and drags her away from the cooker by the apron.
“Jesus, I’ll be dug out of you if the sausages are burnt," she says.
“Give us a kiss."
The Old Man purses his lips and waits for Mam to give in. She shakes her head and laughs, kissing him on his bumpy nose. His hand lands on her bottom and Mam yelps like the neighbor’s poodle, the Old Man grins at her, one eyebrow raised.
“You're a disgrace," she says, smoothing the apron and returning to the sizzling pan on the cooker top. Their good mood fills the kitchen, mixing with the smell of the frying rashers and sausages, and I wonder how long it'll be before the mirage fades and the Old Man puts a lick on me with his belt, or yells at Mam for something stupid. In the meantime their happiness plays out through the fringe of hair hanging in front of my eyes.