Keep In Touch
As soon as he wakes up, he checks the monitor to be sure it has charged overnight. He leaves it on the edge of the sink as he washes his face, back on the bedside table as he dresses, and it’s in his fist as he goes downstairs. Just static, the infinite hiss of nothing happening, far away.
He makes a simple breakfast of toast and tea. The tea he makes too strong, thinking to finish up the bag of tealeaves, but it’s too strong. He drinks it anyway. The baby monitor sits on the kitchen worktop, the dining table, beside him as he eats. Occasionally, it bursts with a crackle, and then static. Low wave frequencies moving.
He reads his newspaper – delivered late again – he must talk to the newsagent about that – and then thinks he should get the weeding done. He’s put it off too long already. The sky is overcast, but it’s not too cold – it needs doing, and he could stand the exercise.
The monitor sits on the odds and ends shelf in the potting shed while he gathers the hand tools he’ll need. It sits on the border of the lawn as he works. He’s onto the left hand flower bed when the constant susurrous dips to silence, and then her voice.
“Dad? Are you there?”
He lays the trowel on the edge of the lawn, and turns slowly. He brushes the fine dirt from his hands and picks up the monitor.
“Hello, munchkin. Of course I’m here. How are you?”
“Good. I’m good. Tired, of course. How have you been?”
“Not bad. Mustn’t grumble.”
“That doesn’t usually stop you.” He imagines her smile, canted to one side. Honest.
“No, you’re right. My shoulder’s still giving me trouble. Old age isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
The monitor falls silent, and he thinks she’s gone.
The static rises and falls, waves of dead sound.
“I’m here. Thought I’d lost you. These old baby monitors are wearing out, I think.”
“What have you been doing, munchkin. Still keeping busy?”
“You have no idea. We’re still at the dig in Kawai, but I had to go back to the university. You remember my old professor, Dr Malcolmson? He’s retiring and they’re looking for someone to take over. He’s recommending me, but there’s a million hoops to jump through.”
“Helen, that’s amazing!”
“Yeah, it would be. I want to still get away for field work if I can, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass up. I didn’t want to mention it until I had a firmer idea.”
“No, I’m glad. I’m happy to know it’s happening. You’ll get it, I’m sure.”
“Don’t! Don’t jinx it!” She laughs, an infinity away.
“Okay, I’ll shut up now. But best of luck. You don’t need it, but best anyway.”
“Thanks, Dad. Look, I have to go now.”
“Of course – you’re busy.”
“You know it – these pots won’t dig themselves out of the ground.”
“You take care, love.”
“You too, Dad. I love you.”
He manages to whisper with the little breath choked in his throat.
“I love you too, munchkin. Best of luck with the university. I’ll talk to you later.”
He puts the monitor on the edge of the lawn. Over the wind in the leaves and the hiss of the traffic passing, the lawnmower down the road and the distant babble of the school playground, the monitor plays static. He hears it when he sleeps.
He’s proud of her. She’s done everything she always said she would, and everything he’d hoped. And the baby monitor that once had alerted him to her every cry and giggle keeps her to him to this day.
He doesn’t know about other dimensions or parallel worlds where events happened differently, or paranormal activities that allow the dead to speak to those who love them. He’s tried to read up on them but he doesn’t have that sort of brain.
He just has his small house, and his garden, and his daily routine. He likes tea and toast and reading the newspaper. He must remember to complain to the newsagent that the paper is often late. He has all these little things, and a baby monitor from thirty years ago that still works, because he looks after it and keeps it charged, and keeps it with him, so that he can talk to his daughter as she tells him the life she could have had, or would have had, from a world that sits so very closely to his own.