After Useless Judas stormed out of my house I locked and bolted the back door then I shouted to THE BERSERKERS to come back into the kitchen because Uncle Scotty had gone. When they appeared in the doorway they looked like little war orphans and I could have cried at how pitiful they were but I didn’t, I got them a cup of milk and a cold Cumberland sausage each from the fridge and I got myself a glass of Diet Coke and four cold Cumberland sausages from the fridge and I said come on, let’s take these up to bed.
I carried my glass of Diet coke and the two cups of milk (any pedantic wisearses reading this – before you say it, no I don’t have three hands – the cups have HANDLES). THE BERSERKERS carried all six of the cold Cumberland sausages between them in their pudgy little GERMY hands and normally after they’d touched them I’d have had to give my cold Cumberland sausages a good scrub under the cold tap before I ate them but that was before I had little Emily’s WABBIT PIE. No food can faze me now.
At the door to the spare room Prissy, the eldest, said, ‘Can we sleep in with you, Auntie Dotty?’ I didn’t get chance to say no, they were off like a pair of muggers into my bedroom, on top of my bed.
‘OY, mind the Cumberland sausages. Don’t get bed on them!’ I didn’t have the heart to kick them into the spare room even though I knew I was in for another night of no sleep if I let them stay (have I ever told you I’m nice and kind like that?) so I put their cups of milk and my glass of Diet coke on my bedside table (which was, to my surprise, surprisingly collection-free – little Emily must have had a tidy up) and I got onto the bed with them.
‘You two, give me my Cumberland sausages.’
‘Can we eat ours?’
‘Yep. Erm, why are mine damp? Have they been licked?’
The GLANCE OF NAUGHTINESS that usually passed between THE BERSERKERS when they were up to something didn’t happen so I knew my Cumberland sausages were spit-free. Poor little things, they’d been traumatised by Useless Judas shouting at them. I knew I had to ask them THE question, whether or not he’d smacked them, but I was nervous of the answer they’d give because he’d been so wound up he could easily have lost it with them, and if he had there’d be no way he’d admit it to me. I had to do it with subtleness though.
‘Did Uncle Scotty smack either of you?’ I said in the very slow high voice people use when they’re asking kids a delicate question.
Neither of them answered. Oh-oh.
‘Did Uncle Scotty hurt you? You have to tell me if he did.’
Prissy shook her head. ‘We hurt HIM. She bit his sore finger and I hit him in the front bum with the Wii remote.’
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA – I managed not to laugh out loud, I turned away and got my glass of Diet Coke so they wouldn’t see me trying to hold my face straight. ‘That was very naughty, girls. You shouldn’t hit people.’
‘Right, finish your Cumberland sausages and drink your milk so we can go to sleep.’ I wanted to ask them where Lottie and Fat-Fuck had gone and why Useless Judas had been left to babysit at all – he’s the last person I would have expected Lottie to leave her kids with – but that could wait till morning, I had to get them to sleep before the four beta-blockers I’d taken ran out of power.
We got under the covers, me in the middle because they wanted me there but I couldn’t do with being in the middle, it was too much like being trapped between two bald monkeys so I had to get Prissy to climb over to the other side of Cissy. After the scramble I said, ‘Lie down now and go to sleep.’
‘Tell me a thtory. Winnie-the-Pooh.’
‘I want Cinderella.’
Fuck. I can’t remember stories.
‘Howsabout I make up a story?’
‘Yeth. Make up Winnie-the-Pooh.’
‘Okay let me think for a minute. Right, erm, once upon a time there was a bear who lived in the woods. He SL… ‘
‘That’s Winnie-the-Pooh. I don’t want a baby story.’
‘Shut up and listen. He SLEPT in the woods, he ATE HIS DINNER in the woods, he PLAYED in the woods, but the one thing he DIDN’T DO in the woods was SHIT IN THE WOODS. His name …’
‘You thweared, you thweared!!’
‘… his name was WINNIE-THE-SHITE… ‘
gaspy screams of shocked laughter, hands clamped to their mouths as though they’d said the word themselves – EXACTLY the reaction I’d hoped for to cheer them up a bit (see, I DO know what to do with kids, I bet you thought I wouldn’t have a clue, didn’t you?) except now I had to think of more story.. ‘so one day Winnie-the-Shite had been for a shit in the nearby town and was trying to get back to his home in the woods when he got lost. He wandered round and round the trees but all the trees looked the same and he couldn’t find a tree he knew. He wandered all day and just as it started to get dark and he started to get scared he saw a pretty little cottage with smoke coming out of the chimney and Winnie-the-Shite thought to himself, ‘I wonder if anyone’s in?’ So he went and knocked on the door but there was no answer so he tried the door and it wasn’t locked so he opened the door and he looked inside. Everything was like it is in The Three Bears story —- do you know The Three Bears?’
They both nodded.
…. ‘and Winnie-the-Shite thought to himself, ‘I think I’m in The Three Bears Story, I’d better get out of here before they come back and think I’ve eaten their porridge.’ But the porridge smelled lovely and when he went over to the cooker and lifted the lid on the porridge pot, and looked in the porridge pot, the porridge LOOKED lovely ..’
‘No, Winnie-the-Thite, don’t eat it!’
… ‘and he picked up the big wooden stirring spoon and dunked it in the porridge and he got a BIG gloop of porridge and he ate it. And it tasted nice but it needed a bit of salt to make it taste LOVELY so Winnie-the Shite looked round the kitchen for the salt but he couldn’t see any, so he started opening the cupboard doors and looking inside the cupboards but he couldn’t find it in any of the cupboards. He wondered if The Three Bears kept their salt in the bedroom so he opened the door to what he THOUGHT was the bedroom and ‘OH MY GIDDYGODDYJESUS,’ said Winnie-the-Shite when he saw what was in the room…’
‘It was a TOILET. But Winnie-the-Shite had never seen a toilet before and he didn’t know what it was, so he tiptoed across the floor to it and bent down and did what bears do to things when they don’t know what they are – he SNIFFED it!’
‘And the PONG made him jump back in disgust. He ran back to the kitchen but the door he opened wasn’t the kitchen door it was the bedroom door and on Baby Bear’s small bed he saw a sleeping girl with thick, golden curly hair, just like Cissy’s hair, and he knew it was Goldilocks so he ran over and shook her awake and said ‘Come on, Goldilocks, we have to get out of here, The Three Bears will be back in a minute and THEY ARE DIRTY MINGING BEARS WHO SHIT IN THEIR OWN HOUSE, come on, come on, hurry up!’
‘Come on, come on!’
‘So Winnie-the-Shite and Goldilocks ran out of the bedroom and found their way back to the kitchen where Goldilocks stopped and refused to move until she had some porridge, but Winnie-the-Shite knew The Three Bears were on their way home so he said, ‘Let’s nick the WHOLE pot of porridge and we’ll eat it when we’re safe,’ so they each took a handle of the porridge pot and they ran out of the house and into the woods.
They ran and ran and ran, far into the woods, and when they stopped for a little rest Winnie-the-Shite said, ‘Hang on, I KNOW that tree.’ So he asked the tree, ‘Do I know you?’ and the tree said, ‘Yes, I’m Piney the Prickly Pine Tree,’ and Winnie-the-Shite said, ‘I THOUGHT I recognised you. Can you show me the way home, please?’ And Piney the Prickly Pine Tree swayed his branches in the direction of Winnie-the-Shite’s home and said ‘That way,’ and Winnie-the-Shite said ‘Thank you,’ and he set off with Goldilocks and the porridge pot and soon he was in his own cottage with the porridge pot on the kitchen table and a BIG bowl of salt, and BIG spoons and a new friend and they all lived happily ever after. Amen.’
Quietness. Stillness. Little breaths.
I waited five minutes until I was sure they were asleep then I shuffled round, carefully, and slid one leg out from under the covers. They didn’t stir so I slowly got out of bed and went downstairs. Little Emily was sitting at the kitchen table, writing.
She looked up from her page, ‘Oh, Dotty, those poor, poor little mites. But never fear – I will assist you, my dear friend. You are not alone.’
And she got up and made me a cup of coffee and brought me a packet of Hobnobs to dunk. I don’t know what I’d do without her.