The mother told the child to ask the father if the child’s friend could come over tomorrow so that the two children could finish their game of ‘Mothers and Fathers’. The child asked the father. The father told the child that he would ask the mother and the child told the father that she had asked the mother already. The father cocked his eyebrow. The child had thought that the mother would let the child have a friend over but that he, the father, might not. He cocked his other eyebrow. He did not like that his child thought about him like this. Both eyebrows now cocked, he told the child that she could not have a friend over to play ‘Mothers and Fathers’.
The child went to the mother.
She told the mother that the father would not let her have a friend over to play ‘Mothers and Fathers’ the next day. The mother was wide-eyed. The mother had really thought that the father would say ‘yes’. Last night, he had said ‘yes’ when the child had run in into the family room – stood right in front of handcuffs being clicked into place on ‘The Bill’ – and asked him if he liked the papier-mâché purple and green pelican that she, the child, had made in art class. The mother had been wide-eyed at that answer too.
The father was not normally one for bright colours.
The mother tried closing her eyes a smidge, tired of seeing so much, and told the child to stop bloody well whingeing. But her eyes wouldn’t budge and got so wide that the mother found herself staring the child all the way down to the child’s room. Frustrated at her eyes’ stubbornness, she rubbed her temples and went to look into the problem. She asked the father why the child could not have a friend over to play ‘Mothers and Fathers’. The father was angry at the child. The child had ignored his eyebrows and gone to the mother after he had made a decision. He yelled in a big, booming voice and all the books fell off the bookshelves. He was angry at the mother. The father told the mother in a big, booming voice that she was not being very supportive of his decisions and, in fact, she was never supportive of his decisions. Then, perhaps also feeling unsupported, the bookshelves fell down too. The mother said that the father was wide of the mark. Now, she was angry at the father. She tried to close her eyes to his voice and keep them open to him.
But her eyes would not let in one without the other.
The mother rubbed her temples again, went to the child’s room and sat down on the child’s bed with the child. She told the child that she could not do anything about it, but that she would make sure the child could have a friend over to play ‘Mothers and Fathers’ soon. She stroked the child’s hair. The child was angry at the mother. The child yelled in a big, booming voice, then picked up a book from the bedside table and sent it across the room and onto the wall. It would not, the child said, be the same another day. The mother was angry at the child for using the big, booming voice. She hoped the child would grow out of the voice and fit into something nicer soon. She stroked the child’s hair in hope until the child’s hand jumped up and hit the hope away. The mother was tired. She was oh so tired. Perhaps, she thought, it would all be better after some shut-eye. She got up from the child’s bed to go to the couch in the family room. But leaving, she tripped over something. It was the book that had hit the wall. Now the book was on the floor. She was surprised she hadn’t seen it with her eyes wide open.
She picked it up. It was Five Go To Treasure Island.
She looked at the bedside table.
She looked at the child. She put the book back on the floor.
She blinked and her eyes, dry, let out a tear to dampen themselves.
It was lucky that no friends came over the next day because the whole family was very busy. The mother was picking up books from the floor, the father was reading books from the shelves, the child was playing The Sims on the computer, and all the Sim Mothers and Fathers were drowning in the pool.
Jessie Perrin is a writer and teacher currently based in Sydney. Her work has appeared in publications including Voiceworks, Lor Journal and Asylum Insight and has also been heard on FBi Radio.