For Stacia was well acquainted with the dangers of what her mother would call an overactive imagination. Sure enough, if she followed the lamps up the avenue and continued through the Castleknock gate and on towards Blanch, she would reach the bleak centre where he’d been for a while. It was a teaching hospital, and she’d found strange comfort in that. As if it lessened the diagnosis, like he too was only practising, yet to master his art.

She still held it against them. From the incident with the pills in their school days they knew his appetite was not the recreational sort. So why, then, did they not seek help. Why not even apply any form of that regular parental chastisement which she knew. Why continue to allow him to smoke all day in that attic room, all but lost save for his work and those online friends who had no real names. Maybe they had liked that version of him because he was easier for them, and they could avoid the outbursts of earlier years. But that was unfair. In truth, she guessed, it was as they had claimed. They did not want to restrain the creative impulse that they, and his teachers and the county council’s young artists awards’ judges had so praised.

And this made her no less furious, because how they could they care so much less about what was in him, than whatever secondary effusement came there from. And she had learned that in this way, particularly when tired or hungover, she could kindle her outrage and trample the notion that there was a worse thing than their passivity, and that had been her going.

Hazy once again, Stacia cursed as a grisly ooze of wet grinds seeped from the quick and easy machines unseen innards.

- Ugh. Sake, Mum, would you stop buying those shit plastic pods from Lidl. I told you I’ll put in an order for those proper aluminium ones if you’d let me.

- She’s gone out, Love. Worked fine for me though, just saying. Show the machine a bit of respect and it’ll do the same to you.

She scoffed again and tried a second pod, ignoring the mess. Holding her cup with two hands close to her chest as if in prayer, though she was not cold, she hovered towards the table where her father sat reading the Guardian. He spoke without looking up.

- Listen, you can sit down. You needn’t be worried - I’m over it.

- What? Oh yeah, the thing.

- The guinea pig, yes. There’s really no point letting these kind of things get to you. You’ll learn that yourself, eventually. Besides, I take some blame. The forums did say the old Peruvians are not the hardiest, more divas than the European breeds, but my god do they not make up for it in looks.

He looked up now. Apparently that had not been rhetorical.

- I didn’t know diva behaviour included screaming all night and turning up dead in the morning in the middle of the night.

- No?

She gave him that one - needed a couple more americanos to gain any semblance of wit.

- Heard you going on late this morning. They work you hard, don’t they? Anything interesting?

- Nah not much.

She hadn’t done a tap. Both of the projects she was on had been paused for lack of funding. That might have meant she was technically unemployed, but she’d give it a few weeks, maybe focus on her art for a bit. What she had done was smoke a few joints, order a ham and pineapple pizza, flicked between some video games she’d already finsihed and, when she was too stoned for that, watched some porn (not bothering in the end to masturbate), before falling asleep as the sun rose to an audiobook of The Picture of Dorian Gray, read by Stephen Fry, who’s voice she hated, so predictably Wildean. She briefly worried about which activity he had chanced upon, but realised that it didn’t matter because it was unclear which would most lessen his opinion of her. She took a sip of her coffee and stared into the mug.

- Well, blowing them all away I’m sure. Shattering the glass elevator. My daughter, the engineer, hah?

She ignored that. He whipped an indent into the paper and continued to read about a war.

Stacia did not dislike her father. She just wished he was different. She knew it was a harsh light in which she judged him, but he contained a hypocrisy which she could barely abide. All that reverence for art and culture, and the miracles of mind he so easily recognised in his own son, in no way manifested in his own person, and went unacknowledged in any other form.

As a child, she had been thrilled to spend time on his knee behind the unmovable desk amid tall bookshelves set like a maze within the hexagonal frame of the old library. And she thought then that he must have been a great and brave person, to have a mind so steeped in the knowledge and beauty of those books. It was only when her brother began to talk back that the image flaked. By the time she was a teenager, the library was less impressive and she mostly just noticed the damp. She’d still go there after school sometimes, and study at the side of the desk, which remained as great and indeed had not moved. He was always glad to read over her English homework, marking up her essays on Plath, and making critical notes to her creative writing exercises, his word being law given the fact that he himself had long been working on a novel of his own. And Stacia had not found it implausible that her father, the man of books, could be a writer, and a good writer. But now she could not shake the memory of spinning around to his side of the desk to steal a peak at the monitor, hoping to witness the fabled work in progress, but instead seeing him scramble to click out of Another Life, an online multiplayer life simulation game which she had until then thought of as being only for cybersex and the terminally lonely. All the librarians played it, he assured her, except that had somehow made it worse.