Turkish told Tommy not to answer that letter. He told Tommy it was a stupid thing to do, but the day wouldn't be complete if Tommy didn't do something stupid, as Turkish as was fond of saying. It was like an episode of Neighbours or a pint at the local- after too long wthout you'd feel that absence. Tommy was due something stupid.
The letter arrived on a Monday morning and sat there on the floor under final notices and in-the-red bank statements. On Wednesday Tommy dug it out, wide-eyed and surprised by a genuine letter, address written in a shaky, aged hand in black ink on a crumply brown envelope.
"My father is in town," He said on Friday, sweeping the corner of the garage where Turkish's fighters trained.
"What?" Turkish said eloquently, mouth full of cold milk, leaning against the caravan.
"Yeah, er..." Tommy stoically didn't meet Turkish's gaze, busying himself with cleaning the make shift ring. "He's back in town. He's on this programme, and part of it is that you're supposed to find people you used to know and apologize to them," Tommy was still facing away from Turkish, shaking his head to flick the hair out of his eyes. "He wants to see me this weekend."
Turkish didn't say anything for a little while. "That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard."
There was a flash of Tommy's dark eyes then, up and away, defensive and disappointed. "It's not stupid. It's a clinically proven thing. There are these programmes and they change peoples' lives."
"They work. He's been on it for a while. He says he's stopped drinking. Why would he lie about that?"
"I don't know."
"I mean he tracked me down and everything. You don't do that unless you mean it, yeah?"
"I suppose not."
Tommy still wasn't looking at Turkish, his hands gripping the broom tightly. His voice broke. "I want to see my father again."
Turkish sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. " I know." he said softly.
"So," Tommy didn't even let Turkish have a chance to dash his plans. "I'm going to meet him tomorrow. Just to talk or something. You don't have to get involved."
Well, what was Turkish supposed to say to that? He bit his tongue and tried to think of something useful, but came up blank. "It's your choice, Tommy, but I think it's a bad idea," He said. "It's not-"
"I know what I'm doing!" He saw Tommy's eyes this time, his whole face, conflicted and weary.
"Right, yeah. Of course you do. Just don't say I didn't warn you," and Turkish took off to deal with something else.
To be fair, Tommy was esctatic all weekend. He had met his father at the local for a pub lunch. Turkish didn't want to think about how awkward it must've been, but then his own father had never bothered to track him or his sisters down.
Tommy's father did bizarre fatherly things those two days. He took Tommy to a film, to the zoo, bought him candy floss and a football. Tommy brought him around to the garage on Sunday so he could see where he worked. He introduced him to Turkish, smiling nervously, gagging for approval.
Tommy's father was a skinny, repulsive man, his back hunched over and his eyes obscured by a low cap. His skin was rough and dry from years on the drink. He looked nothing like Tommy.
Turkish shook the man's hand and refrained from punching him right in the gob. It was Tommy's nervous smile, and the hope in his dark eyes, that kept Turkish's pride and bile down.
That night he lay awake in bed with Tommy curled up next to him, clutching his chest.
"Did you know your father?" Tommy asked.
"My father's dead. You know that."
"But did you know him?"
Tommy moved restlessly across the sheets. "I thought my father was dead for a while. For a while I sort of hoped he was dead. Is that really terrible?"
Turkish shook his head in the darkness. "No. I think a lot of people feel that way," There was a silence. Turkish was lulled by the sound of Tommy's breathing. "My father sent money all the time. He was good about that. But he never talked to us. Never even sent a birthday card to me or my sisters. We were just his little mistakes, the three of us."
He felt Tommy nod against his shoulder. "I was a mistake, too."
Turkish leaned down in the dark and buried his face in Tommy's hair. "You don't owe him anything," he said sternly. "No matter what he says or does now. You don't have to do anything for him."
Another nod against his shoulder. "I know," in that small, unsure voice Tommy only ever used around Turkish.
The next day, a week after that letter arrived, Tommy's father came 'round and asked for a job. Turkish grit his teeth and against his better judgment and for Tommy's sake, he told the man he could go flyering at nights to promote their weekend fights.
Tommy's father was around during the days when Tommy minded the bandit or swept out the ring. The word "poofter" made a few appearances, but he laughed when he said it and if it bothered Tommy he didn't show it.
But this part of town was dirty and dark, the rooms where they slept and the bedsit where Tommy's father stayed were cold and damp. It rained, and everyone in this burrough lived on a quiet helplessness, a thinly disguised rage, at the world, at their loved ones, at themselves. They all tried so hard, and one by one they all gave up.
Turkish understood all that. He knew what it was like to try and fail, he knew what it was like to come from a precedence of disappointment, he knew what it was like to sabotage his own life and not even know why he was doing it. Turkish knew all about the hardness in the pit of his stomach, the driving desire to dull everything, to smother it all. Turkish knew all about weeks spent drinking hard and long until there was no anger left, no helplessness, no thoughts, no feelings. Turkish knew all about it.
So he wasn't too surprised when Tommy's father came back on Tuesday night, drunk as a poet and belligerent as a Glasgow dock worker.
Tommy was crestfallen. The next few days there were arguments, the word "poofter" was upgraded to "cocksucker", and not for the first time, Tommy got his heart broken.
On Thursday no one showed up to go flyering. On Friday Tommy's father's bedsit was empty.
On Friday night, no one would have noticed a change in Tommy if they noticed him at all. He closed up the bandits, and assisted Turkish at the fight, and stayed out of everyone's way.
Later they sat in the caravan, waiting for Gorgeous George to wake up, and Tommy stared at the table beneath his hands, two bottles of beer untouched in front of him.
"It was a stupid thing to do," he said eventually, softly, in that voice he only ever let Turkish hear.
"Well," Turkish sighed, softly running a hand through Tommy's hair. "Now you know."
He saw the corners of Tommy's dark eyes as the young man nodded minutely. Then they drank.