Today, the wounded father is on an evening drive along a highway, the start of a longish journey of a thousand kays or two. Then—in the fading light, and out of the corner of his eye as he adjusts a playlist—he notices the shadow of a man waving. He stops the car on the side of the road, just ahead of the shadow, and reverses slowly as the man walks towards him, looking eager.
‘Shane,’ mumbles the hitchhiker as the father reaches over and opens the door to let him in.
The father introduces himself and shakes a rough and curled over hand, which is surprisingly soft and gentle. It reminds him of the wilted hand of a rag doll.
‘No use stayin around,’ Shane whispers loudly as the father eases the car back out onto the road. ‘The missus don’t know I’m doin this.’
‘No good goin to jail again. No use hurtin her. Might as well get out before somethin happens.’
But even as the father says ‘Yeah’ he feels a great sorrow coming, the way a quiet flow of air might have once come through the bedroom window of his old home when he was a boy on a sleepless summer night. Back then he would have been talking softly with his brothers before they all drifted off to sleep, accompanied by the flutterings and coo-ings of night owls, and it would have been a breeze of happiness. But tonight it’s the approaching sorrow of lost boyhood and of weeping … in the dark, warmth and intimacy of a vehicle hissing along bitumen at night.
‘Thank you,’ the father says—speaking to his god as he is falling asleep that night—’for Shane. Thank you for being with us inside our cloak of black. Thank you that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.” ‘