Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about regret by Timothy Tapper.
Timothy Tapper is an unpublished writer currently studying for a BA (hons) in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University. He is a chef by trade but is currently unemployed, and lives in Shepherds Bush with his wife and two children. Timothy has had previous agency representation for a novel of literary fiction, but it failed to sell. He has just completed a book of short stories entitled Mind Forged Manacles, from which the story ‘Tag’ is taken. ‘Tag’ is his first story to be published with Fairlight Books.
‘Tag’ follows a man meeting his daughter again following his release from prison.
Troy was tagged. It was like carrying a microwave around on your ankle. What else were they going to do? Get a drone to hover over his head all day following him about? He wore a more flared trouser than he usually liked over it. He’d scratch around it from time to time, but an itchy tag was low down on his list of worries. He didn’t wear it with pride, and did feel a bit like a chained animal, but shrugged it off most of the time as a necessary precaution; the small price he’d have to pay for the punt they were taking in letting him back into what they called civilised society. Troy had never been particularly civilised. His manners, behaviours, attitudes; none of them had been very civilised, or so he was told. But he was trying his best today; today was a big day.
He was being allowed to take his daughter out for a walk in the local park. He was going to be monitored at a safe distance by his social worker and his sister. They would walk behind him at a respectful distance while he played with her in the park. The social worker would then return her to her mother after two hours contact time. Troy had to respect her for reticently agreeing to the visit. He begrudged her, sure, but he also accepted that after a little emotional arm twisting, she had consented in his favour. So, it was all good. This would be the first time he had seen his daughter, Kelly, in two years. He imagined her mother might be hiding in a tree in the park with a rifle like a sniper, ready to take him down if he put a foot wrong. In a fantasy land he imagined her shooting the tag off his ankle and them all running away into the distance to live happily ever after. He didn’t want that anymore. Too much had happened to make that an option. Accepting that was all part of his recovery. Less rear mirror gazing and more forward momentum was the solution. This afternoon was going to be a social experiment to see whether he could be in the company of his daughter without fucking things up. They sold the idea of chaperoning him as a good idea. The social worker would probably be carrying some checklist she’d be ticking away at as she watched him. They’d probably wire his daughter up with a microphone to record what he said to her as well. Troy took a deep breath and thought only of seeing his daughter. A walk in the park would be a walk in the park; nothing more.