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by Simon Pinkerton

Go on, wash your face with it. Get that mouth clean. Those cheeks. Greasy, isn’t it? McDonald’s wrappers are really fucking greasy.

My conscience mostly left me after my first son’s birth, and doubled down on its exile after the birth of his brother. It split in two and externalized, manifested as them, and when I wasn’t with them, I was a maniac. I had gotten into fights. My road-rage was out of control if they weren’t in the car. I needed to prove I was up to the task. A protector.

What’s that sound? Are you crying? I thought you were a big, tough man? Aren’t you a big tough man? No?

Now my lack of boundaries was intruding even when they were there. I had tried to make a joke of it, told my terrified eldest that I wasn’t really going to run after that boy. But he shouldn’t have wheeled his bike so close to us, and he shouldn’t have done an impression of me telling him to watch where he’s going.

If I see you again I’m going to throw you in the road. Eh? Do it, bring your dad. He’ll go in the road and you’ll go in after.

When he turned his head back and sneered at me, that was when I decided to ignore my little conscience-guys stood in their school uniforms so cute, and why I have 160 hours of Community Service left to complete, followed by a job hunt, and why my wife has had to change her hours at work so she can do school pick-up.

I sprinted back after him, knocked him off his bike, picked him up and eased him head-first into a garbage can. His friends cycled off immediately, yelling, incoherently terrified — and they were so dangerous just moments ago. I got a handful of trash and smashed it into his face until he cried. I left him with his legs dangling, to rejoin my boys and continue home. Fifty other pupils filmed me on their phones. We’d be viral within hours. He climbed out eventually, slowly.

Don’t ever do that, my babies. Part of being the sons of parents is growing up to be better than them. You’ll be full size too, one day. Don’t throw teens in the trash.

I felt a powerful thrill as I lifted him in, one I wanted to feel again. After I dropped the kids home I set them up on Nintendo and came back out, patrolling, waiting for the father, but he never showed. Only the police did.

They sympathized with me, understood why, but they had to arrest me. More than that, they were shocked that somebody so small could have lifted a teenager. I asked them, have you never heard how strong dwarfs are?

No, no, it’s fine, I told them, I prefer that term, plus I’m not easily offended. We spent a half hour walking round the station, me lifting various sized officers off the ground, they filming it, all of us grinning.

Simon Pinkerton is from Essex and boy don’t you know it as soon as you meet him. He writes fiction and humour, and you can find him and stroke him and that at @simonpinkerton on Twitter, before it gets cancelled.