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PARADISE ISLAND Chapter 3 (Part A)

by belka37 

Posted: 30 January 2010
Word Count: 2038
Summary: Jason struggles with his father's mood swings
Related Works: PARADISE ISLAND Chapter 1 • PARADISE ISLAND Chapter 2 • 

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Jason woke suddenly. Was that a scream? He held his breath and listened. There it was again. He bounded out of bed and hurried to his parents’ bedroom. By the glow of the nightlight he saw his father sitting bolt upright in bed, his eyes wide and staring, his fingers digging into the bed sheets. Mum was softly crooning in the way she used to soothe Genni when she was a baby. She held her husband’s shoulders and rocked him gently to and fro.

The moment she saw Jason, she mouthed the words, ’Ssh! It’s okay. Go back to bed.’

Jason returned to his room feeling shaken. For a long time he sat on the edge of his bed. What was happening? He had so looked forward to Dad’s return and everything being the way it used to be. An army liaison officer had visited their home a week or so before Dad came home. She’d warned them not to expect too much. Some soldiers, she told them, took a while to settle back into civilian life. Some experienced depression, nightmares. There were likely to be some things they would never be able to talk about. Jason realized he was only now beginning to understand what she’d meant.

He heard movement in the kitchen, then the shower running. A quiet knock on his door followed. His mother approached his bed. ‘Sorry about before,’ she said. ‘Your father had a nightmare but he’s alright now. He woke up in a sweat and his pyjamas are drenched. He’s having a shower. We’ll sit in the kitchen awhile, have a cup of tea and then go back to bed. Try not to worry. Go back to sleep if you can.’ She cupped her son’s face in her hands. ‘It will be alright, you know.’

Jason woke early and crept outside and down to the shed. He and Dad had worked on many projects down here. He remembered the doll’s pram they’d made for Lillian, the rocker for Genni. Then there was the double swing with a hood they’d made and hung on the back porch for Mum. He scrubbed down the workbench and looked around for the materials he needed for his next project - a new surf board for Dad. They would have such fun together when it was finished.

‘Jason! Where are you?’

‘Down here, Mum.’

‘Well get up here and have your breakfast.’

Jason threw the cutting blades down on the bench top. School! He’d forgotten about school. ‘Damn!’

He stamped his way back to the house, letting the door slam as he entered. ‘Why do I have to go to school today?

Mum raised her eyes and shook her head slowly as she placed a plate of cereal in front of him. Jason grabbed the milk and slopped it on, daring his mother to comment. He looked around. ‘Where’s Dad?’

‘He’s sleeping.’

‘How come he’s allowed to sleep in when he’s kept us up half the night and we’re expected to …?’ He didn’t finish.

‘Enough! Now get to school before I explode.’ Lillian started to cry. ‘Now look what you’ve done?’

Genni, oblivious to the storm gathering around her, smiled . ‘Kindy today?’ she asked.

Mum wiped Lillian’s tears with a tea-towel and coaxed her to finish her breakfast.

‘I wasn’t the one who shouted,’ Jason said slowly. He scraped his chair back, heaved his backpack across one shoulder and left.

Jason slumped into his desk. Nothing had gone right all day. He’d bated his maths’ teacher until he was given a detention; he’d spilled paint over his partner’s art piece as they’d worked together at the studio bench; and, when he’d gone to sickbay to complain of a headache, the nurse had laughed and told him to go back to class.

He thumbed through his math book in search of a problem he’d not already worked on and began doodling in the margin. He wondered how Dad was. Would he be back to normal by the time Jason got home? What about Mum? He wished he hadn’t picked a row that morning. He knew Mum had to get Lillian to school and Genni to kindergarten. ‘Poor Lillian! She always cries when people shout.’ He wished he’d kept his cool.

A hand on his shoulder startled Jason back to immediate surroundings. ‘Understand your dad came home yesterday.’

Jason lifted is eyes to meet those of Mr Thomas, his maths’ teacher. ‘Guess everyone at your place is a bit toey today. I know it’s not easy but just try to focus on school when you’re at school, eh lad? Now off with you.’

He trudged up the path. He was more than an hour later than usual. The detention had caused him to miss his bus. He turned off Pearson Street and into Goldfinch Avenue and wandered around Herdsman Lake for a bit to clear the throbbing in his head. (‘I did have a headache,’ he muttered, ‘even if the nurse didn’t believe me.’) before he walked the five kilometres home.

‘Where …?’

‘Mum, please don’t. I’m sorry about this morning. I’ve had a rotten day and I’ve walked all the way home.’

She placed a hand on his forehead. ‘You’re right,’ she said. ‘Neither of us were at our best this morning. I’ll make us a hot Milo. You must be freezing. You didn’t even take your school blazer with you.’

They sat in companionable silence as they sipped their hot drinks. While Dad had been away they’d developed a habit of sharing their day and discussing decisions to be made. It helped Jason feel grown up. Jason bit his lip. It will be different now, he guessed. ‘Where’s Dad?’

Before Mum could answer, Dad stormed in. ‘What have you been doing in my shed? I can’t find a thing.’

Mum stood up and put her hand on her husband’s arm. ‘Martin, you’ve been away for three years. Of course, Jason’s used the shed. You used to encourage him.’

Dad snorted. ‘Can’t be trusted for five minutes, either of you. Whose idea was it to repaint our bedroom or get new furniture in the lounge?’

Mum did not respond. Jason watched her. He wanted to answer back but he’d caught the warning expression on Mum’s face. So, instead, he leaned back in his chair and studied his cup as he tried to recall some of the things the army liaison officer had said. He could hear her voice now. ‘It’s not going to be easy for either of you. You will both have changed. You are not the same boy your father remembers you being. You’ve matured in many ways. You’ve had to take on responsibilities of which you Dad has no knowledge. And you need to understand that the reverse is also true. Your Dad is not going to be the same man he was when he went away. He, too, will have matured and had experiences that you know nothing about. Most importantly, some of those experiences are of sights and sounds and smells that may haunt him for a long time - but about which he will be unable or unwilling to speak.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Terrible things happen in war zones. It’s not like a Rambo film. It is real. It’s immediate and it’s accompanied by images, sounds and other sensory input - taste, smell, touch - outside the scope of what a camera can present.’

Jason remembered staring at her, his head full of questions but no words in which to frame them.

She touched his knee. ‘I don’t want to frighten you but I do want you to understand there may be times when your father behaves in ways that are strange - even scary. He may get angry without reason. He may have nightmares. He may not want to be around other people.’

Jason flicked his hair back, got up from the table and carried his empty mug to the sink. Yes, he thought, she was right. It’s happening. He sighed deeply and took his backpack into his room to check out his homework.

When Mum called him for tea, he was surprised the girls were not there. ‘Where are Lillian and Genni?’

‘Gone to stay with Auntie Sarah and Uncle Bob for a few days,’ she said. She leaned toward him and spoke in a lowered tone. ‘Lillian is finding being here at the moment too hard. She got so upset at school today I had to go and pick her up when I collected Genni from kindy.
Aunt Sarah suggested a holiday might help.’ She smoothed Jason’s hair back. ‘I know you’re doing your best. It’s just that an senior officer from the Defence Force called around today to tell Dad about the official welcome home on Friday. He didn’t take it well.’

Jason gasped.

‘No, it’s alright. Dad didn’t go off the deep end in front of the officer … but as soon as the man left I could tell he was pretty het up at the thought of it. He never was one for pomp and ceremony and this homecoming is all the harder because it was not with his own squadron. He’d been deployed to another section. Now he feels out of place. He doesn’t know these guys. They’re not his mates.’

‘Did he do something bad? Why was he de-deployed?’

‘No! No! Nothing like that. He’s a specialist signaller and he was needed.’

“What are you two whispering about?’

Jason jumped. He’d not heard his father come into the room.

‘We were just solving a small problem. Jason’s got a new maths’ teacher and his way of explaining something was a bit confusing. But come, sit at the table. Tea’s about ready.’

Tea was a silent affair and Jason escaped to his room as quickly as he could on the pretext of finishing his homework.

Apart from the noises and wakings in the night, the next three days passed uneventfully.

The Welcome Home ceremony was scheduled for 2.00pm Friday afternoon. Jason was allowed to miss school and Auntie Sarah and Uncle Bob offered to bring the girls to the venue.

All morning Captain Martin Dugan fussed over his uniform. It had to be pressed three times before it was right. Jason almost laughed out loud the third time but was stopped by Mum’s warning look.

They got to the Swanbourne Barracks much too early. But Captain Dugan was fanatical about not being late. He reported in and then came back to join Mum and Jason. By this time Auntie Sarah and Uncle Bob had arrived with the girls. Jason was relieved to see the warmth with which Dad greeted Lillian. He even walked her around the gardens while they chatted happily.

As the crowd assembled, Lillian returned, all smiles with Dad in tow, to join the family.

When the ceremony was over, Dad looked at Mum. ‘Let’s get out of here, Alice. I’m done.’

Even as he spoke, Jason noticed how grey his father’s face looked and the heaviness with which he walked. What had that mysterious war assignment done to him and would he ever be Jason’s adventure-loving Dad again?

Jason wished he could take him back to Rottnest—to Charlotte Point. That place held a mysterious healing magic he could not yet understand.

Jason led Lillian and Genni back to Auntie Sarah’s Holden . ‘Are you having a good time?’ he asked.
Lillian smiled. ‘Yes,’ she said softly, ‘but I really want to come home soon. I don’t want Dad to forget me again.’

Jasom squeezed her hand. ‘He won’t,’ he promised. He turned to Genni. ‘And what about you, Miss Muffet.’

Genni giggled. ‘Uncle Bob is funny and Auntie Sarah doesn’t make me eat all my vegetables.’

Jason pinched her cheek. ‘Spoilt brat. Have fun. See you both next week. Bye.’

He hurried over to where Mum was helping Dad get into the car. She looked up. “The girls alright?’

‘They’re fine. Lillian’s a little afraid if she stays away too long Dad will forget her.’

Captain Dugan gave a tired smile and pulled the front passenger door closed. Jason climbed into the back and Mum turned the ignition key.

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 20:49 on 01 February 2010  Report this post
Poor Jason! I was really rooting for him when everything was going wrong at home and school...

I really enjoyed this and I think your dialogue is great - I also loved the aussie touches (what is a milo?! what happens when you are toey?) - they were unfamiliar words but didn't distract from the action, they just added to the ambiance, and I kind of got the picture. I was imagining horlicks

There were a couple of bits that I felt could do with tightening up - the flashback to the army liaison officer was a little confusing as it was mainly in the same tense as the rest of the action, so I wasn't sure when it ended. Using past perfect is clunky for long flashbacks but I think you could get away with it here as it's so short. Using "she had said" and "she had touched his knee" etc would make the cutoff clearer.

The other thing was that I found it a bit odd at the end when you switched to calling Jason's Dad "Captain Dugan". Since we're still seeing the action from Jason's point of view I felt that maintaining "dad" would have been more natural - if you want to make the point that his dad is going into army mode I think you could do that differently, by maybe saying something like "somehow in his uniform, Dad looked less like just Dad, and more like Captain Martin Dugan" or "when Dad spoke he sounded different, more like Captain Dugan and less like Dad".

But that's nitpicking really ;

Issy at 19:40 on 02 February 2010  Report this post
This is a very strong and topical subject, a father returning from war, and it is not one that is dealt with very often, yet there are many families that are suffering and adjusting to the changes wrought.

I am absolutely convinced that this story, written so sensitively, and with such a strong emotive story line will find a publisher, partly because it is a fresh approach.

We are with the mc all the time, trying to understand, scared, rebellious, and very caring. He is growing up too. This strange man is not the father he loved, but he knows he must adjust. He is almost like the man of the house that he has been, and yet must move over.

Deeply thought provoking.

Only point I hesitated was about the ceremony which wasn't described at all. I did want to know what happened and how the father coped with it, and that the mc went through agonies with him.

ShellyH at 12:21 on 03 February 2010  Report this post
This is a strong chapter and well written. I really felt for Jason throughout, you've captured his feelings of just wanting his dad back.

I agree with Florapost about calling him 'Captain Dugan,' it jarred with me and I think it may be better to stick with 'Dad.'

Just a couple of things I noticed,

Would he be back to normal by the time Jason got home? What about Mum?

I think 'Jason' should be 'he'

You’ve had to take on responsibilities of which you Dad has no knowledge.

your Dad

It’s just that an senior officer from the Defence Force

a senior officer

Really enjoyed this, good stuff.


Freebird at 14:17 on 04 February 2010  Report this post
Poor Jason - you've captured his confusion and mixed emotions at having his Dad home. very brave of you to tackle such a thorny issue.

There were only a couple of minor things (FloraPost has already mentioned the Captain Dugan thing ... it seemed as though a different man had joined them)

I didn't quite believe that Jason would forget he had to go to school!
And I don't think you really needed to tell us that the next three days passed uneventfully. You could just leave a paragraph break and take us straight to the ceremony.

Very strong chapter


belka37 at 08:56 on 05 February 2010  Report this post
Thank you all for your most constructive comments. I'll certainly work them into my next edit ... try to see how past perfect sits; fix up the Dad/Captain Dugan bit

Would he be back to normal by the time Jason got home? What about Mum?

should probably read: Would Dad be back to normal by the time he got home? Jason wondered. What about Mum?
Otherwise, there is no way of differentiating which 'he' is Dad and which 'he' is Jason.

About the ceremony, Issy. I have a confession to make! I've no idea what happens at such an event. I'm hoping to get in touch with a soldier who has actually experienced it. Then I can insert.

Again, many thanks one and all.

Mabel K

funnyvalentine at 16:40 on 05 February 2010  Report this post
Hi Mabel
Sorry to be late to this and I have not read the comments above. I did enjoy it - getting to know Jason and the family and particularly liked the feelings between him, his mother and his sisters.
I found this piece a bit difficult to read as you zoom over your transition bits such as - it feels as if he is suddenly in class and the day has already passed. Detention is not mentioned until we find he is late to come home. Mum launches on him a bit suddenly too and I am just wondering if you need the ceremony scene at all? You could maybe just allude to it - as nothing happens within it. It might be because of the spacing of the paras - maybe put up a star for time passing, but I do think you need to watch the timing of things.
Otherwise I enjoyed it and look forward to more.

belka37 at 09:30 on 06 February 2010  Report this post
Thank you Funnyvalentine, for tuning in. I really appreciate all the feedback I can get.

I'll watch those transitions and see what I can do with them.
About the 'detention', I think you must have missed the first reference to it.

Jason slumped into his desk. Nothing had gone right all day. He’d bated his maths’ teacher until he was given a detention; he’d spilled paint over his partner’s art piece as they’d worked together at the studio bench; and, when he’d gone to sickbay to complain of a headache, the nurse had laughed and told him to go back to class.

But I guess that may indicate I passed over it too quickly.

Bye for now

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