By Rob Nisbet
We can all learn a great deal from the honesty and courage of a child’s reactions…
Helen pushes open the lounge door to check on her son. Ben has been quiet for some time, but then he’s learned to keep quiet; it’s safer that way.
The room appears to be empty. But she notices the heavy lined curtains are drawn across the bay window. Captain Lampshade is in his space capsule.
“Ben,” Helen calls to the curtains. “Are you there?”
The curtains part and Captain Lampshade steps out. In his hand he brandishes the slim torch he was given for his fifth birthday and on his head is a tattered lampshade, cream cotton stretched over a bowl-shaped wire frame. Ben wears it over his head, eyes peering through a tear in the fabric – the visor of his space helmet.
“Fought any monsters?” Helen asks.
“Loads.” Ben canters over to the drinks cupboard. He shines his torch over the bottles behind the glass door. The crystal glasses glitter back and the spirits glow under his scrutiny.
“You’re right.” Helen’s voice is soft with sadness. “Plenty of monsters in there.”
“It’s OK, Mummy.” Captain Lampshade sweeps the shelves with his torch and the monsters scream silently, the way monsters do. “I’s frazzled them with my laser.”
There are more monsters in the fridge, Helen thinks. Cans, chilling for when Mark staggers back from work via the pub. Mercifully that shouldn’t be for a couple of hours yet.
Daddy was nice then
She sits on the sofa with her box of photographs. “Ben, do you want to see the pictures? Ben?”
Captain Lampshade ignores her, until she calls again.
“I’s not Ben,” he says. “Daddy shouts at Ben. I’s a spaceman.”
“Oh, come here darling.” Helen holds out her arms. “Please, darling. Mummy needs a special spaceman hug.”
Ben obliges, and shines his torch between the cushions of the sofa in case any monsters had chosen to hide there.
Then he snuggles against his mother to see the pictures.
“This is you, me and Daddy on holiday,” Helen says. “Daddy was nice then.”
“That’s not me,” says Captain Lampshade. “That’s baby Ben.” He shines his torch onto his mother’s arm where a purple bruise seeps through her tan.
“Mummy fighting monsters?” he asks.
Helen hides the bruise with her hand.
“Yes, darling.” The sadness is back.
“Mummy win?” Ben’s eyes peer out at her from the gap in his lampshade.
Helen manages a false smile. “Not yet, darling. But don’t worry, I have a plan.”
He won’t acknowledge the problem
A vase rests on a small table, overflowing with unwanted flowers. Mark refuses to talk about his aggression; he won’t acknowledge the problem, never mind seek counselling. But Helen sees the flowers as a display of his guilt. He must realise, deep down, how brutish he is to her, and to Ben. He works too hard. She rubs gently at her arm.
Apparently there is evil under the table. Ben strikes a dramatic pose, waving his torch, frazzling invisible monsters.
Helen looks back at the picture. Ben in her arms. Her and Mark both smiling. When did he change? When he was promoted?
Perhaps it was me, she thinks. Did I change?
She folds Mark backwards, out of the picture, creasing a straight line with her manicured nail. She stands the picture on the sofa arm, just her and Ben showing.
It looks like a greetings card. Happy Birthday. Merry Christmas. Or Welcome to your New Home.
She imagines home without Mark, folded out of her life. No flowers, no crystal, no holidays. Just her and Ben. Would Mark move out? If it came to it, would she?
It is time she made her decision
She watches Ben, safe in his spaceman fantasy, hiding behind a torn lampshade.
That alone, she thinks, should make up her mind.
Then she hears the front door open. Heavy footsteps clump unsteadily in the hallway. She reaches across the sofa to hide the folded picture, then stops. Her hand shakes in the air. Let him see it, she thinks. It is time she made her decision.
The lounge door opens, the stink of booze wafts in. Mark’s eyes scan the room, resting on his son.
Captain Lampshade stares his enemy in the face, and raises his torch. “You’s a monster,” he says.
Helen stands. She’s made up her mind.
Captain Lampshade frazzles the monster into oblivion.
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