by Shirley Golden
Before time began, that’s what he told her. And she believed him. She always believed him. He’d roll in late, tuck her into bed if she was awake, and tell her a story. It was their time, without mum and her day-to-day issues.
He didn’t need a book, like her mum did when she had to get Dana to settle because Dad hadn’t made it home in time. But Dana preferred how he brought worlds and characters to life out of thin air, brought them in on his rain coat, heavy with the scent of outdoors, often mingled with a whiff of smoke.
Sometimes her mum would stand in the doorway, arms folded. Dana would tell her to go away but her dad said it was fine, and that adults need stories too. Her mum would frown and tell him to be quick, and most of the time she’d walk away as if to prove a point. She didn’t need his stories.
Dana liked the tales about the tyrannosaurus best. Trevor, her dad called him, and he got into pickles at the supermarket. He stomped up and down the aisles and roared to scare off shoppers from the cereal section, and he’d eat all the Cornflakes, boxes and all. When she asked her dad to describe the place where Trevor lived, that’s when he said it: before time began.
She squeezed her threadbare teddy and said, ‘What did the world look like before time began?’
Her dad said it was a treacherous place of rivers and mountains. He said it was a place of barren trees and molten volcanoes.
‘What about eruptions?’ she said. And she worried lava would spill into the shop and destroy all the Cornflakes.
‘Sure, there were eruptions. And a big one that kick-started time.’
‘Like when the alarm clock forces Mum from bed?’ She giggled.
He smiled. ‘Very like,’ he said. But he wouldn’t answer any more questions, told her to go to sleep.
She trailed after her mum as they walked down the cereal aisle. ‘Grrr,’ she said, and growled in the way she believed Trevor might.
‘Calm down,’ her mum said.
‘But I’m Trevor,’ said Dana.
Her mum tried to brush the fringe from Dana’s eyes. ‘Dinosaurs don’t visit Tesco,’ she said.
‘Trevor does. He’s been going since before time when the world was nothing but mountains and rivers and barren trees and volcanoes.’
‘Imagine,’ said her mum, ‘a supermarket in such a place. How did it get there, I wonder? Who worked the tills, or restocked the shelves? Your father’s stories are not to be trusted.’ She didn’t wait for Dana to reply but click-clacked away on her heels, thrusting the trolley towards the meat counter where she strained out a smile and ordered chops.
Dana shifted onto one leg and squeezed her eyes shut. She tried so hard to keep believing in Dad’s stories. She tried so hard it hurt.
Shirley Golden enjoys reading and writing various forms of fiction, and links to her stories and writerly stuff can be found here: www.shirleygolden.net