“I don’t want to take my scooter, I want to walk.”
Eleven words that strike terror in my heart.
“No, scooting is much more fun than walking,” I say breezily, picking up his scooter and swinging it back and forth. “Much more fun.”
It certainly bloody is. If E wants to walk anywhere, we have to plan in about an hour and a half’s contingency time. In fact, I am not sure that technically, it can be called walking. It is slower than a meander, less purposeful than a wander and significantly more irritating than an amble.
We may set out with good intention, with me carefully explaining that the library shuts soon (a big fat functional lie, obviously) so we must not dawdle, stop or be otherwise distracted. But that boy could be distracted by a fucking dust particle if the mood takes him.
“Look, mummy!” he cries, squatting on his haunches and staring intently at the ground. I am already ten foot ahead.
“Yes, lovely. Now come on.”
“No, you can’t see from there.”
He’s bloody right I can’t see from here, there is a red mist descending and it’s decreasing visibility by the second.
“Come on, please.”
With clenched teeth I retrace my steps. Retracing my steps is not a good thing. In the war of the walks, it is nigh on admitting defeat. We have progressed so little that I can still see our house and I fleetingly think of aborting the trip and going home.
I look at where he is staring.
“Look, an ant, mummy.”
“Oh yes.” I consider mustering a little more enthusiasm but find I am shit out of eagerness.
E stands, stamps on the ant and we recommence our journey. For a short while. Perhaps five or six steps. And then E stops again. I plead through gritted teeth for him to get a move on, and he assures me that he will only be a second, he just wants to collect these stones. I turn around to see that he is stood in the middle of someone’s gravel drive. I wonder if I laid down in the middle of the pavement and sobbed quietly, anyone would mind?
Eventually, as the last dribble of sanity leaks from me, we restart our walk, with E’s pockets bulging with a part of the neighbour’s driveway. A pigeon lands on the pavement in front of us, and with a delighted laugh, E chases the startled bird, which flies off in the direction we are heading. What a bloody result. E is running down the road, eating up the yards. I follow with glee but my happiness is inevitably short lived as the pigeon, still skittering from pavement to sky, does a complete about turn causing E to retrace most of his steps. Buggar.
The pigeon having finally escaped, I am left with the task of restarting our walk. E, on the other hand, has tasked himself with picking every berry from a bush in someone’s front garden. Bloody hell. A tectonic plate could get to the sodding library faster than my son. And give a lot less back chat, too.
“Please, come ON.”
E ignores me.
“If you don’t come now, we won’t have time to watch the television later.”
Bingo. Reluctantly, E moves away from the bush, before stopping and placing a berry on the ground. He takes another step, stops, and carefully places another berry on the ground.
“What are you doing?” I can barely contain a scream that is threatening to emerge.
“Just leaving a trail for the birds to follow.” I knew it was a bloody mistake to read him Hansel and Gretel.
And so the walk continues, excruciatingly slowly. And with every step of progress we make, a persistent thought nags at me. With every metre we move toward the library, a cold sense of dread settles on me. We’ve got to walk all the bloody way home yet. I stifle a small sob and take another step forward.
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