Thursday, November 04, 2021

Travelling with Charlie

Charlie was their oldest child. He was 6 going on 7. The oldest of three. Charlie had never been what you might call an easy child. He was very bright. He didn't ask, he made demands. He bullied his younger sister and brother. He bullied his parents, teachers and other children who got in the way. He was never pleased with anything, there was always a problem. He was disagreeable.

Today they are driving home from a visit to the park. A largely uneventful visit and Charlie has behaved himself. He has agreed to sit in the back seat of the car with his siblings but has refused to use the booster. He is reading, or at least looking at a book about film about a computer game. Mum and dad are up front, enjoying the journey home silently. They think about the up coming evening meal. They imagine Charlie will be displeased with it. Traditional meat loaf that granny made. It's in wrapped in tinfoil on Mum's lap.

From the back seat a strange noise is heard. It is like air escaping. Like a vacuum cleaner hose pumping suction.  Dad is squinting into his mirror and slowing the car down. Charlie is making a peculiar noise. An animal noise. The car is pulling over and stopping. Brother and sister are both asleep in their child seats, oblivious. 

Mum and Dad are turning around. The noise is building. They see Charlie, who is still engrossed in his book. Charlie looks up at them as they look at him. Then in an instant Charlie is sucked suddenly into the gap between the the seat back and the seat bottom. All is silent. Then Mum screams. Dad jumps out to check the back seats. The other two children remain sound asleep. Dad is pulling at the seat, stretching open the gap. The gap that Charlie has just disappeared into. There's a lot of desperate shouting and searching going on. The other children awake and instinctively begin to cry.

By the side of the road, parked up, all doors, windows and tailgate open. The car is surrounded by police and ambulance staff. Blue lights flash and it's starting to get dark. There's a pale glow on the horizon as the sun goes down. It seems to be pulsing slowly.

Mum and Dad are waking up, they are home but everything is beyond peculiar now. A policewoman is on the couch taking a phone call. Charlie hasn't made it. He's gone. He's travelling. Very fast and very far. Nobody knows anything and the questions won't stop. The meatloaf sits on a kitchen work surface. Still in the tinfoil. Meanwhile the earth is spinning on it's axis at close to 1000 miles per hour and orbiting the sun at 66,660 miles per hour.

"Whatever we may say or do", says Dad, "sometimes I think the universe just knows best". He opens up the meatloaf from the foil, places it on a plate and begins cutting it into neat slices. He puts the greasy foil into the recycling bin. "Charlie is a beautiful boy but also a very disagreeable child".

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