First published on The Open End (27th November 2011) //
Police rushed in and found the boy standing there behind the kicked-in door. He was having a cigarette. He was only about six years old. They asked him where his mother was, and he pointed to where she was. She was lying in a cot with a bottle of milk and was about thirty years old. She offered some greeting by raising the bottle. The boy finished his cigarette and asked: ‘What seems to be the problem here, officers?’
‘We’ve had complaints about a smell up here.’
That old chestnut. The six-year-old boy thought this no reason to come barging in.
‘I forgot to change her,’ the boy said, and laughed. He genuinely had forgotten; a lot had been going on lately. He hadn’t spent a lot of time at home and his mother had been left in the cot the whole time. ‘It won’t happen again,’ he promised. He didn’t finish his next cigarette and stubbed it out under his heel.
‘Where’s your father?’ The police asked while lighting his next cigarette.
‘Your lookin’ at ‘im,’ said he.
They turned on some David Bowie before leaving.
After they left, he looked up and down at the door, hanging on its hinges, and said: ‘Who’s going to pay for all this?’
‘They’re gone now.’ His mother said. ‘You can stop.’
He looked at her. ‘Next time you have the cigarettes,’ he said.
His mother stared blankly at the ceiling, hoping no one could see her.