There are fissures at the heart of every relationship. At night if you listen carefully you can hear the sides of them groaning and grinding against each other like mighty icebergs, just above the sound of your partner snoring. You want to go back to before, when everything was new and perfect and intact but there is no before. Only after.
Daniel’s parent’s relationship suffered more damage than most even before his mother decided she was a mermaid and his father tried to drown his son, but the cause of the first significant rupture was the boating pond incident.
You can care too much for a child. When M pushed Saul in his pram he exuded an air of murderous propriety. Strangers were left under no misapprehension - any attempt to approach this child no matter how cute he was, would be met with sudden and deadly justice.
Daniel’s mother was little better. Entrusted with the responsibility of caring for a child whose birth had caused her to lose all equilibrium, she constructed a web of daily behaviours, ticks, repetitions and habits around him which was quite impenetrable. M had witnessed the full majesty of his wife’s insanity unfurl, like a peacock’s tail, shortly after they returned home with Saul from hospital and he found her in the attic, taking all the tiles off their roof and placing them in piles of 5.Anti-psychotic medication, M discovered, was only effective when his wife actually took it.
An agreed visit to the boating pond on Hampstead Heath was the glacier cherry glistening atop a week of listless custard. When they arrived, M took Saul and his new radio controlled boat to the water's edge for a maiden voyage and Daniel’s mother found a park bench to observe. She tried to concentrate on the tottering joy of her young son but she now viewed the world through eyes which appeared to have been positioned in a tower made of jelly.
A swan and a duck approached her for food, or so she presumed and she shooed them away.
“Do you want it?” Asked the swan.
Daniel’s mother looked around her. No-one else appeared to have heard these avian words and yet they had been delivered with clarity.
“Do I want what?” Asked Daniel’s mother.
“Did she bring it?” Asked the duck.
“She brought it and she wants it” replied the swan advancing on her.
“Look I don’t know what you think I have brought but you had better leave me alone” said Daniel’s mother, shifting uncomfortably on the park bench, her eyes begging the rest the world for support it was not equipped to offer.
“I’m going to fuck you up” said the swan.
“Fuck her up” said the duck.
“I’m going to” said the swan.
At the side of the boating pond, M held Saul by the waist as he placed his shiny red radio controlled boat with silken green and blue sails into the water. The sun kissed the blue corrugated surface of the pond, leaving melliferous lipstick streaks of light, but a cloud had fallen across Saul's eyes. His little boat was being assailed from every direction by larger more mobile boats. M attempted to maneuver it into the middle of the pond but this brought it into the course of a particularly large galleon which, rather than deviate, hit Saul’s boat amidships. For a moment the little vessel bobbled in the stuttering wake of the galleon and then capsized and sank.
M looked around the pond side for a culprit but then caught sight of his son’s face, seized by seismic shocks of grief and jagged sobs, each one of which pained M more than the last. If he had a heart, then following the tracks of his son’s tears would have been the only reliable way to locate it.
M gathered Saul up into his arms and walked him towards the car, throwing the remote control for his boat in a bin. It looked like defeat but in M’s case, that was never the end of the story.
M found the spade in his car boot where he left it for journeys to and from the allotment. Holding his son in one arm and the spade in the other, he returned to the pond but did not stop at the waters edge. He waded directly out to the galleon and although its pace was impressive in comparison to other model boats it was no match for a 33 stone man yielding a spade. The ship was cleaved in two with one single blow at which point M stopped and waited for protests from its owner. Silence and inertia had fallen upon the those gathered around the boating pond in the way it did when a herd of wildebeest observed one of their number savaged and consumed by a lion. In silence there was anonymity and in anonymity there was invisibility.
M wielded the spade smashing boat after boat into oblivion and with each blow Saul laughed and the clouds disbursed.
Huckleberry Finn, the slight and somewhat effete manager of the Hampstead Parks, generally dealt with issues no more serious than errant dog shit or used condoms. He was therefore ill equipped to deal with the couple who occupied his brutally small office.
You may have assumed from his name that Finn's parents had a keen sense of irony but you would be wrong - they were utterly devoid of even trace elements of humour and so, as a consequence, was Finn.
"You assaulted a swan and a duck" said Finn, falteringly.
"I think you'll find that they started it" replied Daniel's mother, plucking out
one of many feathers currently entangled in her hair.
"And you destroyed over a dozen remote controlled boats with a spade" added
Finn, almost but not quite looking at M.
"Don't associate me with her" replied M, his son perched on his pond water soaked lap. "Just because I am married to her, doesn't mean I am responsible for her."
"But you are responsible, that duck would never have tried it on with me if you had let me launch the boat with our son but it had to be you. It always has to be you” screamed Daniel’s mother.
Saul was silent but his green blue eyes darted from adult to adult soaking in their words. You can bathe a child until it appears to be clean but the stain of every argument they have ever heard remains in their heart.
"The question I have to ask is" said Finn to no-one I particular, "what I should do with the two of you?" He was immediately aware from the expression on M's face that this had been a mistake.
M rose, placed Saul in his wife’s arms and leaned his full weight upon Finn's desk. The desk made some pretense of resistance, groaned in a primordial manner and collapsed onto the floor in pieces with Finn beneath it.
M lowered himself onto the floor of the office until his face was touching Finns. Finn could see a tiny spider like flaw in M’s right eye. It reminded him of the shape the roses had made as they lay on his mother’s coffin before it was lowered into the ground.
“I ask the questions” said M.