Monday, March 4, 2013
Keep The Kid Quiet
He awoke first at 5am, rolling over to see if she was still there. He had hoped that she might disappear somewhere in the night, so that he could be free to dream like a boy. Whenever she was next to him the dreams were stopped by a nudge or her whining his name in the dark. There was a sea breeze blowing and it was still dark outside with only the lamp of the street bringing in a false moon. She crossed over again and for fear of waking her up, he rolled away from her, to the corner of his bed, and huddled so that he could be with his own thoughts.
He awoke again at 7am and this time the sun had now risen and the street was being disturbed by the loud clanking noises of garbage trucks and garbage men calling out to one another. She was now awake too.
“Sam, can you shut the window” she asked. “How did you sleep?”
“I slept fine. I just woke up too early. I am paying the price for smoking cigarettes again. They really dry me out”
“You won’t ever listen to me, will you” she said and rolled her eyes.
He turned away from her but this time she noticed that he was withdrawing, so she placed a hand upon his hip and gently rocked him but he was not interested and he tried to return to sleep.
When they had both showered they took their time getting dressed between boiled eggs and coffees. He looked out the window hoping to get an indication of the morning. The summer was heating up the ground and the cicadas now filled the morning air with a voluminous shrill.
“What time is the Church?”
“It’s on the card. I left it on the fridge and I emailed it to you yesterday”
Until they crossed the bridge they spoke very little, but as they approached Kirribilli they began to chatter more about finding a car spot and working out whether they could squeeze a visit to their favourite café, Oskars On The Bay, before attending the Christening lunch. Kate insisted that she he would have to leave him after the service to finish off an interview.
“This is the last thing I feel like doing this morning. Do you know that? The very last thing. Why he goes and gives us 3 days’ notice for a christening is beyond me. And we’re all expected to hop to as soon as he sends an email” said Sam. “He is so unorganised. And yet when he wants you to be there to wine and dine some schmuck he wants to do business with on a Wednesday night, your phone will not stop ringing if you run 5 minutes late. Honestly, I am just sick of him.”
“Nick is your best mate; you two have tiffs all the time. You better be nice to her when you are there. You really don’t make enough of an effort with Gunilla.”
“What am I going to say to her? I am at a loss for words. We don’t have children. We don’t renovate.’
“Oh you can chew the ear of anyone you want to. Mostly, you know what it is. You’re not attracted to her. If you were you would be all over her like a cheap suit.”
When they pulled up at the kerb they were surprised to see how many car spaces there were available. Sam stepped out of the car to be met with hot air rising from the street and the glimmering sheen of the harbour from a sun uninterrupted by clouds.
A party had gathered outside on the lawns of the church. The gathering was short of what either had expected. It had turned out to be a very small attendance for the Christening which warranted a mocking glance between Sam and Kate. Nick’s immediate family were playing with the numerous children that had been born amongst the siblings within the last four years. Nick’s parents, both conservative and tired, were doing their best given the heat.
The ceremony was in Swedish and the entire congregation chanted Swedish songs praising God in the most gentle sing-song way that made most of the crowd that spoke Swedish smile with great joy. The remainder of the English speaking congregation sat with bored heat exhausted expressions on their faces looking at the fans hoping that they might spin faster. It was all taking far too long for the non-Swedes but they endured as good Christians do. Rising when they were told to rise, sitting when they were told to sit.
When they left the church both Sam and Kate had then decided that the endurance warranted a quick drop in to Oskar’s. They were so parched, so hungry and so hot that they could not have made a faster bolt for the car. They screamed the air-conditioning as loud as they could and revved the car up the incline towards the harbour bridge.
When they arrived at Oskar’s the café was full. They eyed the other patrons scanning for departures and when a table came up, Kate, ambitious and wily, quickly placed a newspaper down on the table and sat down on the better seat, the banquet which faced the wall.
“Just once, just once, I would like to have the better seat. Just once.”
“Don’t whinge. Do you want it?’
“So don’t whinge” she repeated. “You are in a filthy mood. It’s hot, but we’re all dealing with it.”
“What is that noise?”
“That screeching sound, what is it?”
They looked around the café but saw nothing. Still the noise sat loud above the clatter of the café. It was as though a child was being hurt. It was not a normal sound of a child crying but something far more primal.
“Oh look, the other couple that sat down just left. Do you want to follow them across the road? We can go try the Bake House”
“No, I am sure it will stop and the Bake House doesn’t do eggs like Oskar.”
The screeching continued and to the astonishment of Sam, nobody seemed to be turned in the direction of the sound. He was perplexed that people would allow this infringement and not be looking up with scornful faces to challenge the guardian or parent of the child.
Sam continued. “No, I don’t want to let a kid screaming stop me from having my breakfast. It is a good argument against having children though, wouldn’t you say?”
“When they are your kids I am sure you will demand everyone around you to tolerate them”
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but yes, I think that I will”. He pulled Kate close to him, flicked her hair over her ears and pulled her lobe close to him and then kissed her cheek.
The clatter continued and they kept their minds off the child’s squeal. Eventually they did not notice that it had stopped. It was only when the waitress began to take their order that the child began again, this time louder and with more gusto. It arrested Sam, and alarmed by the expression on his face, Kate asked once more if they could leave.
“No, no no! Why should my Sunday breakfast be altered because one father can’t control his kid? It’s probably some single mother with her head up her arse wondering why the guy walked out on her. No, I have had enough of this!”
“C’mon, let’s just leave.”
“No, I want my breakfast. Carla, I will have scrambled eggs with bacon and avocado. I want a piccolo latte and I want my tobasco as usual please”.
“And, I will have two poached eggs on one piece of wholemeal with a side of avocado and a skinny cappuccino, but can you make sure they are poached well, because last time they were a bit runny”.
Sam looked around the room and now a few of the patrons, especially the older types, were starting to look over towards the table on the far side where the suspect family were trying to contain the child. Eventually the mother walked past with the screaming young girl and left the café to console her. Both Sam and Kate were blocked from seeing her, but the café became noticeably quieter. A certain serene calm began to descent over the room which seemed to not only remove the noise of the child but stifle the noises and machinations of the café on a quiet Sunday. The chefs beat their eggs a little more softly. The waiters lifted the plates without clatter. Sam sighed and looked at Kate with winning grin.
“Somebody must have given them a big greasy. Oh, hooray. You know what I hate? I hate the argument that ‘you don’t have a kid’, even if I did I would not allow it to behave like that. And I would expect that if you were the mother, you wouldn’t want it either. What right do they have to ruin it for everyone else? I mean clearly, the guy opposite us was stressed out of his brain. He couldn’t read the paper. He was constantly looking up”
“You don’t know the first thing about being a parent. It must be so hard when you have a child like that”
“Yes, I am sure it is. In Vermont did you see that dribbling autistic kid in the breakfast room. The mum was so prim and proper at the omelette counter and then she walked back to the table and I saw the way she had to deal with the idiot child. I felt so sorry for her. She had such dignity and poise and yet it seemed like the bane of her existence”
“It was autistic, it wasn’t an idiot”
The noise began again. It rose up above the noise of the café as though it was winding itself up towards a crescendo. But it was not a crescendo, for when it reached the top; it just hovered there, squealing again and again. Sam’s face went red and he put his hands to his forehead.
“Let’s just go” said Kate. “They will cancel the order”.
“No, I need to see it first.” Sam stood up.
“Sit down, don’t make a scene”
“I just need to see it”.
Sam, in his Sunday Christening best crossed the café and walked past the counter to see the noise was emanating from. He walked back to his seat and sat down.
“I know that family over there” said Kate. “That’s the father of a friend of mine, Jess, you haven’t met her yet. She was in my swim team. Did you see them?”
“A pack of…. No, they are more likely Indians. I can’t tell the difference. I am going to say something Kate. I have to say something. I come here all the time, I pay hand over fist to eat at this café. Oskar gets three tables a week out of us. I don’t want to not say anything.”
“Just don’t do it. You will regret it, I promise. It’s not your position to say anything”.
“Why not? And just sit here copping it sweet. No, fuck it, it’s my Sunday too”.
Sam got up, he looked around the room, and he said to himself “I am not doing this for myself alone, this is for everyone. This is a selfless act, not a selfish one. I am right.” With that thought streaming past him imperceptibly and requiring no double-checking, he walked himself across the room, pulling his collar tight around his neck and running his hand through his longish brown hair. He walked straight up to the table.
“Excuse me! Excuse me! You are going to need to do something about your child. Either take it for another walk, as you did earlier, which clearly worked. Or find another solution. But this is my Sunday morning too and I don’t want to hear your child screeching.”
The husband raised his head up from the table. Same quickly surveyed the table and saw now clearly the mother, the father, the young dark boy and the little girl who now stopped crying.
“Just chill out mate!” retorted the father.
Sam swelled with anger and blushed, but vehemently and with courage he repeated “Just do something about it”.
The bustling café fell into the deepest silence and all that Sam could hear as he returned to the table were his footsteps. He looked around the café eagerly scanning faces for support. “I have done this for you” he tried to implore with righteous eyes but replied with scorn. They unanimously offered a unified response. “You went too far. Shame on you”.
Sam sat back down and looked at Katie. She was silent and watched him for a moment.
“Are you alright?”
The café was dead silent. Discerning faces now looked over at their café. One patron in a dusty old collared t-shirt turned his whole rotund corpulence towards them, to see the renegade in the aftermath.
“I did the right thing. I did what none of them had the courage to do. You think they would thank me” said Sam.
Kate rubbed his arm.
“I told you, we should have just left”.
“May you were right”.
Their breakfasts arrived and Sam looked straight into the depths of his yellow scrambled eggs and began to slice away the wholemeal bread and shovel one load after another into his mouth. He took a swig of his piccolo latte and then dove straight back into his breakfast.
After a few minutes, the silence slowly lifted and he was thankful that it was returning back to normalcy. In the corner of his eye he noticed the mother walking out of the café cradling her child. As she walked past she stopped and raising her voice to an audience volume she said.
“We are going now. I hope you are happy. I just want you to know that you are the most despicable person I have ever met in my entire life.”
She walked out of the door way, turned and mouthed “fuck you” before walking off down the street.
Shocked, Sam returned to his food but muttered many expletives under his breath. His seething was completely ruining every morsel of food he put in his mouth. The husband, having now paid the check, walked past table. He now appeared stockier, more like a fighter. He hunched himself over as he walked past the table, stuck his finger up and yelled “You Poofta!” before walking out. Sam’s stomach now knotted. He thought he was in for a fight, the adrenaline kicked in, his heart raced and he wanted to run out the door and assault the man with his full weight behind him. The other patrons, astonished at the second wave that had transpired, now fell silent again. Only the fans whirred, with the heat helping to keep the other patrons quiet.