Joe and His Father

The sun was going down beyond great banks of cloud which were full of orange-pink light. It would usually be time for Joe to be going in but he didn’t want to go back if Aunt Daisy and Uncle Ted were still there, because his mother would only send him straight to bed out of the way. So he turned away from home and walked down the lane past the football field, kicking a stone before him at the risk of scratching the toes of his best brown shoes. A couple of dogs, one large, black and smooth-haired, the other smaller with a long black and white coat, played on the edge of the field, running round, jumping at each other and sometimes rolling over and over together, totally content in each other’s company.

Joe watched them for a moment or two and walked on. Twenty minutes later he was on the riverside and half-way round the circle he had set out to walk from the town and back again. On his way he had passed several couples and one or two family groups returning from their Sunday evening walk; but now there was no one about except one man resting on the grass between the path and the river bank. When Joe realised that it was his father, his surprise was so great that he stopped. Then his father, who had been leaning on his arm and looking into the river, looked round, but did not seem surprised to see him.

“Hello, Joe”, he said dully. He went back to staring at the river. The fact that he was wearing his best clothes somehow added to the strangeness of his sitting there alone like this, and as Joe looked at him he was conscious for the first time of a sense of his father as not his father, but as someone without connection with himself: as a man, with thoughts and feelings outside their existence as father and son. He saw, for the first time, his father as a person carrying about with him a world of his own, and he had an indefinite sense of this world of his father’s extending back to a time and a life before he himself was born. He was only a part of his father’s world, while his father belonged in the center of his, Joe’s world. And things were far from well in his father’s world, he knew.

He moved a few steps nearer, and his father did not look at him. “They’re all at home, wondering where you are,” said Joe.