Story by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross
Father’s Day was a major institution in the yearly round at the Villa Diodati, and had been ever since Tom Taylor reached the age of five.
Preparations would begin early, with one of Tom’s tutors – or, if he had no tutor at the time, Madame Venner – coaching and supervising him in making a card or gift for his father. Tom wasn’t adept at craft work, and often the design and manufacture of the thing would be taken out of his hands. He would sit and watch the adults carefully forging a child’s clumsy virtuosity, applying a carefully measured mixture of inspiration and glue-smeared fingerprints. Sometimes he would offer to help, and be rebuffed.
The day itself was dominated by the photo shoots: endless variations of Wilson posing with his son in his lap, grinning broadly, while he held aloft the card or the bookmark or the pen holder or whatever so that the cameras could get a clear shot of it.
Afterwards, the interviews. “What did you think of the last book, Tom?” “What’s the one thing you’d like to say to Tommy Taylor fans around the world?” and always, always “How much do you love your dad, Tom?”
From age 5 to age 13, he gave the approved answer to this: usually some variation on “As much as all the world.”
In the year he turned 14, he said “I don’t know. I never met him.”
Whereupon the PR people descended in a swarm to claim him, the official answer was supplied in a hand-out sheet, and Tom was hustled away out of the reach of the cameras. His words were edited out of all the media accounts, of course, but he was glad, afterwards, that he had said it: because that was the year when his father disappeared, and his childhood officially ended.
It was such a small rebellion. But he took it with him when he walked out of that poisoned Eden into the world, and it helped him not to look back.