‘Guess which hand,’ said dad, as he held out two large fists, and going on a still unpleasant gut feeling, I chose the fist which, yesterday, had punched me at the dinner table, giving it a gentle slap – and this time, instead of charging me like a rhinoceros, it opened up like an oyster shell, its hard exterior, usually clasped tight, revealing now its soft interior, at the centre of which was a one pound pearl.
For a moment, I simply gawped at the coin that looked as if it was held in place by a pair of pincers – dad’s life-line and heart-line, two lines that were much more dark and distinct than mine and which continued to grip this one pound prize despite the palm having opened up.
‘Go on, take it,’ said dad, so I snatched the pound as deftly as a plover snatching a morsel of food from between a crocodile’s open jaws. Hard experience had taught me to always be cautious: These jaws – that defined dad’s life and heart (and, for now, remained wide open) – were prone, at any moment, to snap shut tight and do some serious harm.
Today, though, dad was in a buoyant mood. It looked likely I’d get through today unscathed. But tomorrow – well, who could say?
A punch or a pound: I could never be sure which way it was going to go.