“Oh hello kids!”
John put down his paper as Alex and Joanne entered. Joanne ran in loudly and greeted him with a hug. Alex propped himself against the wall nearest the door and waved, muttering something.
“Go and say hello to your granddad properly”
Alex was nudged and shuffled forward. He held his hand out, which John took with both hands.
“Hello young man”. John smiled at his progeny. Alex went back to trying to drown in the paintwork. Joanne sat down and fidgeted.
“Hello dad” said Lucy, hugging him and drawing him in close. Michael stood behind her and waved.
“How you getting on then?”
“Oh, you know…”
“We saw your art teacher upstairs. She says you're doing really well.”
“She said you were the most eager one there”
“Well, it’s been such a long time since I've drawn anything. I was never really much of an artist”
“ I'm sure there’s something in you. Remember the drawings that gran used to do? Do you still have those?”
“Oh I don't know. Maybe. They might have got chucked out with everything else when I got moved”
“Dad, you know there wasn't any option…”
“I know, I know”
“So kids, how are you doing in school? Jo?”
“Yes, really well thank you! I’m in the top set of advanced math-er-mat-ics and we had a test last week and I came top, but maths isn't my favourite, I like science the best because last week we got to see what happens when you put magnesium in water can you guess what happens?”
“It EXPLODES! And that’s why I like science the best.”
“Well, my! And how are you getting on… erh…erh…?”
Alex just shrugged.
“Go on Alex…”
“No, leave the lad Luce. He'll talk if he wants to.”
The clinking of a tea trolley.
The ever present humming.
The dry electrical air.
“So how are you getting on with your new neighbour? Francis is it?”
“Him? Oh he’s ok. Good bloke. Doesn't talk much.”
“Oh, well you should get on well with him!”
“Noticed a copy of Capital in his room. Must be alright”
Lucy nodded approvingly.
“Ha! Is he another old lefty like you?” chimed in Michael.
“Well, certainly seems that way. I tend to give it a bit of time before I talk politics you know.
“Very wise dad”
“ I don’t need the rows. I’ve had enough over my life. Mind you, don't need the friends especially, either.”
“ You'll never guess who he is dad”
“Well, probably not. Don't keep me in suspense”
“It’s Alex’s old music teacher’s dad”
“Oh… Small world… Nah, he’s fine enough. It’s that Fred that I can't bloody stand. He marches around, bold as anything, ranting away, firing out questions. ‘What are the five greatest rivers in Germany?’, ‘name the capital cities of all 50 American states’. He’s an absolute nut!”
“Well, you know people can go a bit funny when they're old”
“Age as nothing to do with it! He’s a nut! He thinks he’s a reincarnation of Richard The 3rd! Why is it that every reincarnation nutter not only thinks that they were someone famous and not a bloody privy cleaner but they're always the most worthless, wretched people”
“He was ranting on at me the other day, talking about reincarnation. I asked him how it was possible that people could be reincarnated and there could be a finite number of souls when the population of the earth is increasing. You know what he said? ‘Yes that’s right! That’s right! The population of the earth IS increasing’ It’s just bloody impossible. If he can't even engage in some...”
“He’s an arse!”
“Well, look, we better be off” Michael attempted to break the silence.
“Yeah, look at the time. It’ll be your tea soon”
“We could probably stay a bit longer” Stated Lucy.
“No, I think we should go, give your dad some rest”
“ I'm really not…”
“ We'll see you soon, OK dad?”
“Alright. Take care. Mind how you go”
Goodbyes were said and the door was shut. The sound of an angry and suppressed row muttered down the corridor, until there was nothing more but the sound of humming.