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