Augustus Young       light verse, poetry and prose
a regular webzine of new and unpublished work

Every morning, Gary Salmon fine-tunes his ego in the mirror. There is the club-tie and the frosty moustache. The ginger hair, raked sideways or back, always ends up like baby-curls in a Telly Tubby meadow but Gary isn't bothered. He sees only what he wants to. Gary doesn't think of others when confronting himself. Except, perhaps, his adoring wife and child. He thinks of them with an eerie objectivity, as though they were in a shop window, or laid out in a morgue for identification.
In a family crisis Gary is a brick, a pillar of strength, building walls to surround the family. DIY hands strengthen the foundations, slate the roof and lay on sympathy with a tender trowel. His military engineering may seem smothering, but a siege is a siege, and an escape for fresh air assures the inhabitants of only a last breath.
Gary needs domestic disasters as much they need him. He rises to their tidal waves, they curl into his embrace. He has ample opportunities to prove himself. His son is accident prone. Gary Junior’s cradle rocks too much and his first bicycle comes with defective brakes. Gary Senior is always there to pick up the pieces. His timely interventions have prevented cot death and brain damage. Mrs Salmon wouldn't know what to do, was it not for Gary. Junior's recoveries are a monument to his fatherly resourcefulness. He is the father of all fathers when things are going wrong.
Fate decrees that Gary has regular bowel movements. Stepping out of the bathroom into the kitchen, his nod is affirmative. From the table, his wife and male child greet this with more relief than appreciation. Not that they do not appreciate him, far from it. Rather, their appreciation is exhausted from over-use. Someone looking in the window would be struck by the sameness of their posture towards Gary, like chicks in the nest. They look like one another, though Junior is dumpy and Mrs Salmon resembles the perfect schoolboy, blazered and weightless. Together they eke out a last drop of appreciation, a twin squint upwards towards their lord and master, and he is gratified.
Work has its uncertainties for Gary. Bad dreams of the pathology laboratory where he is employed haunt his sleep. People laughing behind his back. An insignificant secretary or technician overheard mockingly remark, ‘Here comes the Salmon’. He has to admit to himself that his worst dreams have a degree of reality. Only to himself, of course. No one else. Least of all his family unit. 
Gary knows he does not quite fit in. He despises the ever-changing social mould that people pour themselves into, and is proud of his unpourable integrity, of being rigidly always the same. Still, he would have preferred if the world was closer to the DIY ideal, where bolts and panels have exactly complementary fittings.
Although supremely confident in his abilities as a professional, lack of assurance in his personal status shows in his clothes. He overdresses for the job. Three-piece suits nowadays are more suitable for funerals (the deceased in particular) than biomedical research. Not quite top of the range either. His self-conscious suits are a source of contempt and subliminal sniggering. This he knows. It is a hostile universe. Nobody is to be trusted. And so he has his shiny bespoke armour, a reassuring carapace. The slovenly, shapeless world can laugh.  Geometry is superior to free drawing, pure science to professional success.
But today is Saturday. The outside world can be kept in obeisance. Rubbing behind his ears with a hand-towel, he surveys his brood with a smirk. ‘Today is the day’, he announces. As well he might. Though even his leisurewear is too tight for comfort. His sombre slacks are drainpipes.  Everything about him is straight up and down. He could be entering a morgue rather than a kitchen. ‘Today is the day’, he repeats. Gary feels at ease with himself and the self-contained citadel he controls. The working week is over. He is at home and appreciated. The world can go to hell.  ‘Helter-skelter’, he declares. ‘We're for the helter-skelter.’
Junior eyes Mrs Salmon in puzzlement. ‘The fun fair’, she whispers.
Six hours later in the casualty department of St Lukes Hospital, Gary Salmon confronts the intern. The doctor's youth is less an offence than his deceptively vague manner. ‘I want’, he reiterates in stentorian tones, ‘to see the consultant. I am a colleague.'
Dr Wilmott stands his ground. His nonchalance pretends helplessness. ‘He is off-site and can only be contacted in an emergency.’ 
‘This is an emergency. My son's Iife...’
Wilmott interrupts him with sudden abruptness. ‘Your son is perfectly all right.  Just shock. All the tests indicate that even his diabetes was not affected by the fall. His blood sugar is normal. Please take him home. There is nothing wrong with him.’ 
‘This is not good enough, young man’, Gary proclaims. ‘I trust your medical insurance is up to date. My son is seriously at risk. And you refuse to see the matter through. I will sue the hospital.’ 
Wilmott looks sharply at his assailant, and realises this man is no older than himself.
In the waiting room, Mrs Salmon tells a sympathetic nurse what happened. Watching her son climb the ladder, reluctantly pushed upwards by an ever vigilant Gary, she closed her eyes, and opened them just in time to catch sight of her husband and son flying down the chute and, almost predictably, for she expected the worst, tumbling through the air and landing on the grass. Gary, equally predictably, was underneath. ‘He is a wonderful father. Always there when and where he's needed.’
When the Salmon family checks out, Junior clings to his father and Mrs Salmon supports her boy from behind. And Gary holds them both in an all-embracing grip. The family is together again, against the world. And all is right or wrong with it, depending on who you were. Family life for the next few years is all mapped out. Tonight, for instance, Gary has some important letters to write. He is a master of filing complaints, knows all the procedures.
Mrs Salmon feels herself so fortunate to have such a husband. Gary, in moments of tranquility, thinks so too. Though, of course, he would never admit it to a soul. Junior feels the enveloping closeness between his parents, and this makes him happy. The family bunker is secure.