Where is Henry? is a café on Malvern Road with a quaint little courtyard and lovely service. Click to read the short story by set in Melbourne…
“Dad, the nurse said that you were being difficult last night,” said Will as he tried to help his father, Thierry, sit down at the table closest to the window. There were little orange mugs on the table filled with fine brown sugar and small glass vases with single wildflowers inside.
“I certainly wasn’t,” retorted his father, taking hold of his chair and shooing Will’s helpful hands away. Some things never change, thought Will as he let his father struggle into his wooden chair.
“Dad, she said you wanted to switch rooms and refused to go back to sleep until they moved you. And even once they agreed to move you, you weren’t happy with the room you got,” Will continued.
“Now William, you can’t possibly expect me to sleep with someone snoring next door. It was so loud, like sleeping in a barnyard,” said Thierry.
“Dad, you snore,” countered Will.
“Well I can’t hear that can I?” said Thierry with a grin on his face. He had a lovely smile, subtle but pleasant. It was difficult to imagine him unhappy.
This was the first time Will had visited his dad since he’d been admitted into hospital six days ago. He’d meant to come earlier, on day one, but he had been avoiding it. He found it difficult to imagine his dad, a man always so at ease to be in a place that was so uneasy. Of course the place tried to make its self seem calm, with the serene colour palate, the patients’ artworks on walls, the hopeful messages scattered about, but walking through you just knew that the rooms were filled with suffering minds. Thierry had been given permission to leave the hospital with visitors, so the two had chosen a café that appeared inviting and not overstimulating. Where is Henry? was a short drive away; Will thought it might be good for him to be out and about. It was late afternoon and the café was mostly empty after the morning rush. The two baristas were engaged in conversation, behind the counter. One looked like a surfer who had lost his way on the walk home from the beach and the other looked enviously like Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Nowhere Boy. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was playing over the speakers. Dad will like that, Will thought.
Father and son called out their orders to Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the surfer and they got busy making coffee. Aaron Taylor-Johnson brought their coffees over.
“Thank you young man,” Thierry said politely as he motioned the latte towards Will and took hold of his espresso, “lovely coffee, very pretty art on that latte,” he said pointing his shaking index finger to Will’s coffee, “make sure you compliment the barista for me”
Aaron Taylor-Johnson smiled, “I made the coffee,” he said.
“Oh well aren’t you clever,” he said warmly. Aaron Taylor-Johnson thanked him and went back towards the counter smiling.
“Excellent coffee, look at that colour,” he said showing Will his espresso, “Now the hospital coffee is terrible, just dreadful, this Will,” he said holding up his cup, “is coffee.”
“Dad, you gotta promise me you’re going to behave yourself in there,” said Will annoyed at his father’s distractibility.
“Behave myself?” Thierry huffed, “my goodness Will, you sound just like your mother.”
“Dad you’re a stubborn old fart and we want you home so you can’t go on terrorizing the nurses,” continued Will, ignoring his dad’s remark.
“Terrorizing? I’m not terrorizing anyone. Maybe I’ve given them a few pointers on how to run their facilities better, you’d think they’d welcome the input, after all, I’m probably the sanest nutters in there,” Thierry said.
“You’re not a nutter,” sighed Will although he had questioned that last statement for most of his childhood. But then who doesn’t think their parents are bonkers during their adolescent years? Will thought of his dad in that hospital. Of course all the other patients, nurses and staff seemed perfectly friendly, it was by no means Claymoore, but his dad, a doctor, in a mental health ward, it made no sense.
“No, that wasn’t all that politically correct, I apologize,” said Thierry in relation to his nutter comment. “Alright son, you have my word, I will stop giving the nurses advice,” he paused, “unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Will rolled his eyes.
“Oh come now, son. It’s a lovely day! Look at that sun out; it was raining cats and dogs yesterday and look at that shine today. I get to spend another hour and thirty-four minutes with my son,” he said checking his watch, “and I will not be scolded during that time.”
“All right dad,” said Will. He just didn’t sound like a man with depression. When Louise, Will’s mum, had called six days ago, Will was shocked. The descriptions she gave were so far from the man he had known growing up and looking at him now he still couldn’t picture it.
“So I had a spot of group therapy this morning,” said Thierry, “lovely psychologists they were, smart young ladies. One even recognized my French name, apparently some French soccer player is walking around with my name too.”
“What do you do in group therapy?” asked Will.
“Oh bit of this, bit of that,” said Thierry nonchalantly, “those little tea cakes over by the counter look divine, don’t they? Let me go get us some,” he said and got up slowly to walk over to the counter.
Will did not want to talk about tea cakes or soccer stars, he wanted to know what the fuck was going on with his dad. He seemed the same as ever, stubborn, charming and…happy. His mum had called in tears, saying she didn’t know what to do, said they both agreed that in his state he wasn’t safe at home, that he needed looking after, someone to monitor his medication, his whereabouts.
Thierry returned to the table, “Look at these little cakes, they look just like the cakes my mum used to buy, you know from that patisserie that I used to take you to. Do you know when I was at University your grandmother would always bring me a few little cakes from there during exam times. And with all the exams we had, I developed quite the little tum,” he laughed. “Your mum would tease me about my waistline all the time, exam time would come and, pop! I’d be out of my belt.”
“Dad!” exclaimed Will.
“Oh not like that, I’d only get that after I’d lost my tum again,” he joked.
“Sorry, sorry,” he grinned.
“Dad, how much longer do you think you’ll need to stay in hospital,” Will asked.
Thierry didn’t respond right away. His grin slowly faded from his face and he took his hands from his coffee cup and placed them into his lap.
“I’m not sure son,” he said.
“I just don’t know what’s going on with you, I know it’s been hard with the rejection of the manuscript and the stuff with Aunt Simone but you never tell us kids anything,” said Will referring to himself and his two siblings.
“It’s more complicated than that William,” whispered Thierry.
“Then tell me!” pleaded Will.
“I tried to write it without her, but it didn’t work. Without her voice in the pages it was just my story. It’s tone was wrong, her character became wrong, the message became lost, it was all wrong and even when I sent it away I knew it was wrong. I’ll never be able to write it,” he said looking at his hands in his lap.
“Dad, we don’t care about the book, we care about you! Do you think Astrid, David and I care if you publish that book? We just want you home, with mum,” professed Will. But it seemed that Thierry wasn’t listening to this, he seemed preoccupied with staring at his hands and picking at the corners where his skin and nail met.
“I let Simone down,” said Thierry more to himself than to Will.
It was then that Will saw it, saw the image of his dad that Louise had described on the phone, and that the nurses described on his arrival. It was there only for a moment before his face brightened up again and his features resumed their rightful place. His broad smile returned, his eyes shone brightly in modesty and he once again became the handsome, white-haired gentleman that Will knew so well.
“Time for another coffee?”
– The End –
Where is Henry?
1415 Malvern Road,
Malvern, VIC, 3144