‘That wily little bastard,’ Lori says, frowning. She folds her arms over her chest, leans back in the chair and crosses her left leg over her right.
Dan chuckles. ‘You gotta give him credit though, Lor. He’s clever.’
Lori shakes her head in disbelief.
Dan’s not too fussed. His nineteen year old son has always been fond of playing harmless tricks. His first joke was on his mum, when he was seven years old, pretending to be lost inside a huge suburban shopping centre. He’d snuggled behind a sofa in Tiffany’s while Lori shopped for a necklace for Dan’s mum. The boy had even watched as she turned to find him gone. He stifled his giggles as her face paled and she fainted. The centre’s security staff launched Code 4, and everyone sprung into action. It was only when Lori came to—lying on the very sofa Ollie was hiding behind—and heard his giggles, that he was found.
Dan and Lori disagreed over the incident: a joke to Dan, a serious problem to Lori. They’d never seen eye to eye on their son’s pranks ever since.
‘You’re too sensitive, Lor. He’s harmless.’
‘I doubt Siobhan would feel the same way.’
‘Her feelings should not matter to us, Lori.’
Lori nearly chokes.
‘You know I’m right. Deep down. Ollie’s our son, and our primary concern. He’s pulled off a great little joke, that…sure, maybe his girlfriend’s upset by. But they’ll work through it. They have to if Siobhan wants to stick with him. This is who he is. A jokey bloke. A prankster.’
Lori opens her mouth, but she fails to speak. She stares at Dan, who’s gazing back at her. His face unreadable.
Dan stands. ‘I’ve got work to do. See you later this afternoon.’
He leaves through the side door that leads to the garage. Cranks the engine of his ute and begins to reverse out the driveway. Once he’s in the street, he changes into first gear, but doesn’t drive off straight away. Instead, he turns up the radio—it’s Flame Trees by Cold Chisel—and sings along, enjoying the memories the song brings of his youth. Doesn’t hear the splitting and cracking sound of the hollow tree on the footpath, that verges onto their property. Doesn’t see Lori on the verandah, waving her arms like a goal umpire.
He feels nothing as the widowmaker falls and crushes the roof of the ute.
He doesn’t respond when Lori bangs on the bonnet. Can’t hear the sirens coming to his aid moments later. Doesn’t feel Lori’s lips press onto his stone cold skin, nor her tears that fall onto his face.
Dan is gone.