The “healthy option gut-buster breakfast ” at the Belvedere Cafe in Fetter Lane consisted of 15 eggs, 12 sausages, 10 rashers of bacon, 22 slices of fried toast, five black pudding slices, a catering sized tin of baked beans and a tomato. Daniel’s father had opted for the standard version which omitted the tomato and was in the process of licking the empty plate clean. He had been crying since taking his first mouthful and the egg yolk that had not yet surrendered to his tongue had dripped down the side of the plate onto his shirt and tie. Only three people had ever completed the gut-buster breakfast and all suffered from severe personality disorders. When Daniel’s father ordered a second, the left hand of the cafe’s owner had hovered over his telephone with thoughts of calling in local authority Mental Health Services, but he decided that having customer’s sectioned for eating his food would, on balance, be bad for business.
Neither Daniel’s father nor his stomach, actually wanted him to eat this tsunami of calories each day - this was not a diet, it was an assault, but his capacity for self destruction outweighed his sense of self preservation and his buttocks outweighed everything else.
It had not always been this way. As a child he had been sinuous and perpetually in motion, as much to evade his father’s fists as his mother’s embrace. He survived life in his parent’s world where there were a hundred different words for pain. He was not inherently aggressive, yet once he discovered that he could deliver violence as arbitrarily as he received it he could not stop.
Special occasions came and went as anonymously as pigeon’s on a telegraph pole in a home without empathy. On his 14th birthday, having received a jar of marmalade from his sister and a tangerine from his brother, the only gift he could reasonably have expected from his parents was a brief period of respite - an armistice in the field of parental combat. Jonah had beckoned him over, handed him a present and retired to a safe distance as if it were a small bomb. He reasoned that it might be, but that would have belied the true nature of their relationship. To have made his son explode would have been a tacit admission that he cared enough to disassemble him. It was the absence of caring that made his slaps sting more than the weight of their delivery.
As he tore at the wrapping paper he had to admit that the gift was not what he had been expecting, even from a father who slammed his own head repeatedly in the kitchen door if he got a question wrong on University Challenge. It was a loaded 10mm Glock hand gun.
“I want you to stop her ” said Jonah nodding towards Bernice, who stepped backwards as if she had been head butted.
Jonah tutted as his son held the gun by the tip of it’s nozzle as if it were the leg of a tarantula that was rearing up to bite him.
“I want you to stop her” he shouted, yet despite it’s volume he could barely make his voice heard. Jonah and his children stood at either end of the floral patterned settee with the curry stain on the arm, yet it felt like they were a thousand miles apart on a lake of ice which was cracking beneath their feet.
Guiding his brother and sister behind him, he placed his hand around the pistol grip and tried to point the gun at first at his mother and then at Jonah but he could not lift it - it was the weight of every broken promise that had ever been made to him.
Jonah wondered why the children were not crying, but tears were just another symptom of love and they were immune to it. He had eaten away at them from the inside until they were empty.
“It’s been a while since we went dancing Jonah” said Bernice, smoothing down her dress, her hands smearing a blooded smile on the bleached white cotton. “Dancing is the only time you look at me with joy and hold me without malice.
“Kill her and then kill yourself.” Demanded Jonah but when he looked down at the tattered carpet he could see that the ice below his feet had broken. When the bullet hit him, it took his breath away.
The image of Jonah’s expression that night, like the face of his dead son never left Daniel’s father. They were superimposed one upon the other, the features morphing and evolving. Today their eyes were the yolks of two eggs, their mouths were a cumberland sausage and their noses were a rasher of fried bacon.
His second gut-buster breakfast only half finished, Daniel’s father looked into the eyes of the police constable who stood over him, with the kind of disgust normally reserved for peculiarly spectacular roadkill. “Have you finished” asked the young officer somewhat uneasily.
Daniel’s father straightened the lapels of his police sergeant’s jacket with eggy fingers, put on his cap, pushed the plate away and began the first of the fourteen stages involved in raising his audacious bulk from sitting to standing, each one ushered in with a different verbal obscenity.
“You finish it for me” he snarled, grabbing the young officer by the scruff of the neck, and smashing his face directly into the remnants of his breakfast.
For a second, just before his face hit the plate, the policeman thought he saw the face of a young boy staring back at him.