Stillness befalls the darkened house and Jonah slips from the warmth of his bed, the cold night air encircling his tiny frame. In a well-rehearsed ritual, he silently pads from his room to the landing at the top of the stairs. He trails an old shawl of his mother’s behind him. It has been colder these past few nights. He carefully negotiates the top stair, avoiding the spot that creaks and complains when placed under pressure. He slowly descends and then squats, feeling the stubbly prickle of the carpeted step through the thinness of his cotton pyjamas. They are hand-me-downs but from whom, he is not sure. He has no brothers or sisters.
Through the slats of the banister, he stares down into the lounge room, where he sees the fireplace glowing. Its warmth fails to reach him. He is oddly comforted by the dark, preferring not to be seen. He watches his father hunched in a chair, cradling a near empty bottle of booze like it might be a loved one. He toys with the notion that one-day soon, he will edge down these stairs and instead of a bottle it will be him in his father’s arms, sharing the remains of the day. His father’s face is lit with the dancing reflection of orange flames. Despite the flickering glow, his eyes fail to register light of any description. He appears as a dead man sitting.
Jonah shivers. He swaddles himself with the shawl, cuddles his knees into his body to ward off his sorrow. It has been like this for months-since the death of his mother. The clock on the mantle strikes one, and the clang of the bell sees his father roused from his stupor. He watches his father raise the bottle and drain the remains. Jonah clutches the shawl and scrambles silently back up the stairs. He slides into the tepid warmth of his bed, and then turns on his side, away from the sound of his father crying.