With After The Fall passing 300 likes today (thank you so much everyone!), I am very keen to dip back into that story, but as it’s Easter holidays and my better half is away with work, time is short and I really need to spend time inside that world each time I work on it.
However, on the theme of kids, it occurred to me recently that looking after a three-year-old is a bit like watching or reading Pinter. Spatially claustrophobic; meaningless, repetitive, banal dialogue that never falls on anything substantial, goes around and round in circles, and long periods of boredom punctuated by humour and joy – the parallels with parenting are clear.
So, since its the holidays and I have a nine-year-old to look after too this week, I thought I’d pursue this thought with today’s fiction…
Ed isn’t entirely sure quite how they arrived at Sainsbury’s Local. He assumes there was walking involved, and before that preparations will have been made, such as getting dressed and cleaning teeth, but exhausted, the world swirls ethereally in front of him, everything just out of grasp. There can’t have been any driving, because driving would surely have meant death and if this is death, he wouldn’t have bothered living.
His son, Lewis, skips into the shop.
‘This isn’t Little Sainsbury’s,’ he says.
Ed looks around to double-check. Bananas, newspapers, checkouts, gruff security guard.
‘Yes it is,’ he says, satisfied he has enough evidence on his side.
‘No it isn’t.’
Ed’s mind snaps to focus. He must act fast. Even in this fugue, the warning signs of incoming meltdown are loud and clear.
‘Perhaps it’s just because we’ve come in a different door,’ he says. ‘Look I’ll show you where we usually come in.’
Ed takes Lewis by the hand and leads him to the back door of the shop and out to the car park.
‘See, we usually drive here and come in through this door.’
Lewis shakes his head.
‘No, this isn’t Little Sainsbury’s. This is Big Sainsbury’s.’
‘But Big Sainsbury’s has a big car park that you always make me drive to the top. Where’s that car park. Where’s the bit with all the DVDs? This is Little Sainsbury’s.
‘No it isn’t, I’ll show you where Little Sainsbury’s is.’
Ed sighs and avoids the gaze of other shoppers.
‘Fine. Show me outside where Little Sainsbury’s is.’
Lewis runs back out to the front of the shop before pointing to the bottom of the high street.
‘See Daddy it’s at the bottom of the hill.’
‘Oh okay, well lets just go to this one,’ says Ed.
‘No. I want to go to that Little Sainsbury’s.
‘It’s cold, lets just go to this one.’
‘I want to go to that Little Sainsbury’s.
‘But, there is no Sainsbury’s down there.’
‘Yes there is!’
Ed sighs again as Lewis starts to cry, tears streaming down his red cheeks in the cold. Ed bends down so he is at his son’s level and takes him by the arms.
‘There is no Sainsbury’s down there,’ he says quietly.
‘There is! I want to go to that Little Sainsbury’s!’
Ed stands again.
‘I’m not walking all the way down the hill to a shop I know doesn’t exist.’
‘Aren’t you thinking of Waitrose?’
‘Are you sure?’
Lewis smears tears and snot across the sleeve of his coat.
‘What about Iceland, could you be thinking of Iceland?’
‘Yes,’ says Lewis, smiling. ‘Iceland Sainsbury’s. I want to go there.’
‘But they don’t sell what we need.’
‘Yes they do!’
‘No they don’t.’
‘Yes they do! They sell milk.’
‘They’ve run out. We need to get it from this Sainsbury’s here.’
‘No they haven’t.’
There is another long silence as Ed contemplates every aspect of his life while Lewis sobs in the middle of the pavement. An old couple amble past and look at Lewis with sympathetic, rheumy eyes.
‘You can’t always get what you want son,’ says the woman. ‘You can’t go crying in the street every time your Daddy says no.’
Ed screams at the couple and throws them one-by-one through the glass-fronted estate agents next door, their bodies crumpling amid the shards. Then, fantasy purged, he looks at his son.
Come on,’ he says gently. ‘Let’s go and ask the man in this Sainsbury’s if there is a Little Sainsbury’s at the bottom of the road.’
Lewis nods and the two of them enter the shop and approach a young man with a distracting stretched earlobe piercing who is fiddling with the raspberries.
‘I’m sorry,’ says Ed. ‘My son is convinced there is a Little Sainsbury’s – that’s what we call this shop and the one up the road is Big Sainsbury’s – anyway, my son is convinced there is a Little Sainsbury’s at the bottom of the road and I don’t want to walk all the way down the hill to a shop I know doesn’t exist so I was wondering if you could confirm to him, since you’ve got a Sainsbury’s uniform on, that there is no Little Sainsbury’s shop at the bottom of the road.
The young man stares back at Ed.
‘Just tell my son there is no Little Sainsbury’s at the bottom of the road.’
The young man looks down at Lewis.
‘Sorry, there’s no Sainsbury’s at the bottom of the road.’
Lewis smiles up at the man.
‘OK,’ he says, skipping away. ‘Daddy, can we buy biscuits in here too?’