A Bit Of An Education
October 24, 2013 § 2 Comments
Boris had gone blind. He did look cleaner, but he didn’t look right. Thomas had put him feet first through the mangle and his head had got stuck. Maudie’s bottom lip trembled, and Thomas began to whistle loudly like he did when he’d mucked things up. ‘Got it Maudie!’ he yelled. ‘Quick or he’ll suffocate! We’ll turn the handle together then his head’ll go through. Ready. Steady. Go.’
Something crunched as they forced the teddy bear’s head between the rollers. The glass eyes shattered, sprayed themselves across the stone kitchen floor, tinkled, then winked like lots of diamonds. ‘You’ve squashed him like a hedgehog,’ wailed his little sister. ‘He’ll think he’s been run over! He’s dying. Muuum!’
‘Didn’t do it on purpose. Just wanted to see if he’d fit.’
‘Say sorry,’ demanded his mother. Thomas wouldn’t because it would make his sister happy. ‘And if you ever do that again I’ll get the bat out.’ The bat waited on top of the dresser: it was plastic, seasick green and left criss-cross marks on the back of his legs.
Thomas couldn’t get to sleep that night thinking about Boris and how he hadn’t meant to be nasty to him. When he finally did get off he dreamt Maudie was putting his Action Man through the mangle and singing Three Blind Mice. When he worried about things he had nightmares and wet the bed; and when he did that his mother tried not to shout but always did, and threatened to take him to the doctor to see if there was anything wrong with his bladder.
Thomas hid the Action Man under the bed and wondered what he could do that he wouldn’t get told off for. It was getting silly. He got the blame for everything. His legs were covered in bruises because Maudie kept kicking him, and he even got told off for that – nobody ever asked him why he’d had to kick her.
He locked himself in the shed with Rex to eat dog biscuits and to get some inspiration. No one would know, he thought; and it’s just an experiment. He cut off a short piece of rope and shredded it so it looked like tobacco, then he rolled it up into a kind of cigarette with toilet paper. He twisted the ends so the bits of rope wouldn’t fall out, and lit up. Rope is hemp, hemp is marijuana. It’s supposed to make me feel happy. Soon his lungs and the shed were full of hot brown smoke. It wasn’t working. He didn’t feel any happier and the dog wouldn’t stop barking.
‘What are you doing in there?’ shouted his mother. ‘Open the door at once! Why are you trying to set the place on fire. What’s got into you?’
She sent him to his room and told him to stay there. ‘Come and play, Maudie,’ he whispered through the keyhole. ‘I’ll give you half my marbles and let you win at tiddly winks.’
‘No way,’ she said. ‘Don’t play with bad boys.’
After supper Dad brought him baked beans on toast. ‘Girls really don’t understand boys, do they?’ he said, punching Thomas playfully on the arm.
‘I don’t get them either, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting in trouble all the time.’
‘There is a trick, you know.’
‘Think about what will happen if you do a thing, and when you’ve worked out what will happen if you do it, you decide whether the thing is worth doing or not.’
‘Right…’ said Thomas.
When he woke the next morning he knew exactly what to do.
He got up before everyone else, laid the table and loaded the bread in the toaster. He did the washing up and made his bed. He made Maudie’s too, and put all her dolls in a neat row on her pillow. He carried his gym kit to school without complaining, and didn’t ask to go to the sweetshop. He even kept quiet when Maudie blamed him for something she’d done, and went to bed without kicking up a fuss.
‘I think it’s working,’ said Dad after three days of perfect behaviour. ‘They’re getting confused. Two more days should do it.’
His mother watched with her mouth open as Thomas did the washing up yet again instead of slinking off to watch telly. Maudie followed him around asking him if he was ill. Dad just smiled.
‘Five days are up,’ he said. ‘What’s the plan now?’
‘That’s my boy.’
‘I’ll ask if I want any help, thank you,’ said Thomas as his mother hovered around the kitchen door. ‘Go and have a lie down until supper’s ready.’
Supper was delicious – the meat pie the best they’d ever tasted.
‘Not eating?’ said Dad.
‘Feel sick,’ said Thomas. ‘They made me eat liver at school. Yuck.’
‘Did you follow that recipe I gave you for the meat pie then?’ his mother asked. ‘It was delicious.’
‘Kind of,’ he said.
In the morning after she’d walked Thomas to school, his mother went to empty the waste bin. Hidden at the bottom were two empty tins of Pedigree Chum.
Thomas was quiet on the way back that afternoon – so was his mother. When they got home he went straight to the waste bin and started poking about. ‘There’s something I need to do,’ he said, dragging a chair over to the dresser and reaching up to the top shelf.
‘What are you doing?’ she asked.
‘I’m doing what Dad said.’
Thomas handed her the bat and waited….