Mum died, so dad took us on a holiday to France. Brittany, to be specific. The Côtes-d’Armor. A nothing town called Lancieux, nestled into a crumbling cliff.
Pretty for about five minutes.
Jess and I played: Stick our noses in our phones for as long as we can.
Dad played: Binge-listen to Seventies songs on my old-ass Ipod.
“Let’s walk the walls. We’re gonna walk the walls,” dad said, pulling out his earphones.
Dad marched out in front, keen to catch every angle. He touched the walls, breathed in the salt air.
The walls rose out of the water. Big, thick ones. Meant to repel invaders—not doing a very good job then.
Generally, dad tried too hard.
In a café on a slanted street, we drank coffee and watched street performers.
Dad slowed down.
Each of his sips was a journey.
We hung off each one, hoping he would say something of substance.
Just say some thing.
In front of us, a puppeteer dropped his puppets into a cardboard theatre, and the growing crowd laughed as the miniature people acted out an ordinary family scene: the father, with his diminutive briefcase, arriving home from the office; the mother, preparing a meal at a tiny stove; the daughters, playing with their own very small puppets, oblivious to the crowd around them, to a world beyond cardboard.
The mother puppet paused, threw down a dish rag the size of a coin.
We watched her, hardly breathing.