by Tom Beakes
Tom lives and works in Cambridge having arrived here 2 years ago via five different continents where he mainly taught little people how to speak English. Consequently he can say 'teacher, i don't understand', 'it's not fair', and 'that looks like a poo' in over 5 different languages but frustratingly, little else. He's a competitive sibling and gets very angry at computers.
We sit amid the clothes and crumbs that cover our bedroom floor. All delight and delicious giggles. It’s a secret, whisper it: we’re going to have a party. Everyone’s invited. Grey Bear, Rupert and Blue-Eyes. Lamby and Battle-Cat. Everyone except the Lego men.
‘There’s too many. We can’t invite them all.’ says my brother. He’s the senior partner; born ten minutes ahead of me and he knows it. This means he gets the final say in matters of importance, and there are few things more important to small boys than their Lego.
‘But if we have the party without them they’ll get all sad.’
‘We’ll make sure they don’t see’ he says and the Lego men go out of the window. They make a satisfying noise as they land in the gravel. We place the toys in a rough circle. It’s not as easy as it seems; many of the invitees require some propping up. Optimus Prime only has one leg; the victim of a brief yet vicious custody battle between his fickle masters.
Guests arranged, we take stock.
One thing is clear – this is not a tea party. We don’t have any plastic tea-sets or pink spatulas. We’re not girls. But we are creative thinkers so we improvise. The window sill in the hall is raided, on tip-toes and with some difficulty, for its plant pots. Soil is tipped out onto the floor, after all no-one – not even Smelly the Badger - likes compost in their tea. Drinking receptacles found we ponder the next problem.
‘They can’t reach the cups.’ I observe.
‘We need straws!’ says my brother and his gaze lands on one of our many picture books. Its pages are smudged with dirty fingers, corners frayed from ‘one more’ bedtime story. The hard back cover is peeling and it is apparent to the world that this book is precious and that it has been loved. My brother rips out the first page and holds it aloft.
‘Aha!’ He rolls the torn leaf into what will have to pass for a straw. More books are defiled until every toy has both cup and means to drink out of it. We sit amongst the crumpled pages and broken toys and feel the satisfaction of accomplishment.
The reverie is broken when the door is wrenched open.
‘Mum, look! We’re having a party!’ I offer her a dirt encrusted plant pot.
We see the look on her face and a primordial survival instinct kicks in. We bolt.
I make it outside and hide in the garage but Dad comes out and chases me round the garden until I am caught. He shouts and I turn red and stare at my sandals and I’m told I have to lie. The same lie I’ve told before and will tell countless times again.
‘I’m sorry’ I say, even though I’m not.