What Jack Heard

When kids only catch half the story, they can get very cre­ative in fill­ing in the gaps…

My Weekly - - Contents - By Kate Ho­gan

Cof­fee Break Tale

Jack’s legs ached. Cy­cling was hard, but nowhere half as hard as try­ing to un­der­stand grown-ups. They talked in rid­dles most of the time. He’d be glad of a breather and a pad­dle in the river. He’d been wor­ry­ing him­self sick.

“I thought it had been the cause of my prob­lems,” he’d over­heard his mum telling Aunty Bar­bara down the phone weeks ago. She’d given him a quick glance be­fore adding, “Well – al­most all my prob­lems.”

He’d guessed he was what she called “un­der her feet”, but only be­cause it was “chuck­ing it down”. That’s what his Nan said when it rained heavy.

Still, he liked lis­ten­ing in – even if most of what his mum talked about was, as she of­ten said, well be­fore his time.

Lately though, Mum had been do­ing more whis­per­ing down the phone to Aunty Bar­bara than talk­ing to him.

It was only when she’d said that it was a long­drawn-out­affair that he’d pan­icked. She’d kept the de­tails from Dad, she added.

Jack wasn’t sur­prised. Af­fairs were what peo­ple on the telly had!

He was pretty sure his mum said it was all be­cause she’d jilt­edElvis, as that’s what it sounded like through the muf­fle of her hand over her mouth.

Wasn’t Elvis fa­mous in the olden days? Big guy who wore funny white suits with big shoul­ders, mak­ing him look a bit like a char­ac­ter out of a space film. Grandad even liked to sing along to some of his songs at Christ­mas.

Jack sup­posed, if you put two and two to­gether, like Nan of­ten said, it started to make sense – never mind four, like he’d learned at school!

So, if his think­ing was right, and Elvis had been go­ing out with his mum be­fore she jilted him, Elvis prob­a­bly taught Grandad all the words to the songs he sang along to.

“I thought it’d never hap­pen again,” Mum told Aunty Bar­bara, “un­til I started see­ing that young man down at the health cen­tre…”

He hadn’t known what to do. It was one thing see­ing Elvis in the olden days, but the idea of his mum see­ing any­one but his dad now wasn’t good. He got even more scared when he heard her call­ing the man from the health cen­tre some­thing like a phys­ioth. Maybe she’d said psy­chopath – weren’t they usu­ally in scary films, and stuff?

She said she hadn’t dared men­tion it to Jack’s dad though. Jack wasn’t sur­prised, and won­dered if his dad knew about the Elvis busi­ness as well!

When his mum whis­pered to Aunty Bar­bara that she didn’t know if his dad would be shocked or over the moon when she con­fessed, he’d wor­ried even more.

He’d never pic­tured his dad as an as­tro­naut, but given the way his mum was car­ry­ing on, he could see his dad might need to get away… but the moon? And what was over it, any­way?

Af­ter lis­ten­ing to his mum’s con­ver­sa­tion with Aunty Bar­bara to­day, though, a huge weight had been lifted off his shoul­ders.

“Ev­ery­thing’s set­tled down now,” she’d said with a big smile. “We’re hap­pier than we’ve ever been.”

Then she’d started whis­per­ing again. “Only thing is, Bar­bara – I’m wor­ried if our Jack will be able to cope. I haven’t told him yet.”

He’d gone all goose-bumpy when she said it – he wasn’t sure if he could be do­ing with any more worry.

“I mean,” she said to Aunty Bar­bara, “how’s a lad of his age go­ing to cope with the pat­ter of tiny feet?”

Cope! Jack thought, just as his mum started try­ing to throw him off the scent of her ro­man­tic his­tory by talk­ing in code, waf­fling on again about it ap­par­ently hav­ing noth­ing to do with her “tilted pelvis”. As if he was soft. As if he didn’t know about the Elvis af­fair.

He was head­ing out­side for his bike be­fore she could even fin­ish.

“Cope,” he said, park­ing his bike, ready to pull off his shoes and roll up his jeans be­fore dip­ping his feet in the river. “Cope!” What a laugh. Grown-ups were one funny bunch.

Given the carry-on in his house, surely a few tiny mice pat­ter­ing about the place wouldn’t be a prob­lem at all!

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