Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Martin David Edwards.

A son and his father climb an imaginary Mount Everest.

A boy ran into the kitchen. He was wearing Spiderman pajamas, a green facemask and blue latex gloves. His mother was standing at the breakfast counter typing into a laptop, wearing a collared shirt, leggings, and a facemask and gloves patterned with flowers. A bottle of hand gel, an empty cocktail glass, a box of tinned peaches and a broomstick were propped next to the laptop.

“Mummy, lockdown is boogie poopy pants,” the son said.

“Social distancing, babykins.” The mother prodded him with the broomstick.

“I want to play.”

On the laptop screen, a man held up a vacuum cleaner. The mother muted her laptop. “Mummy is working. Why don’t you draw the Coronavirus? It’s red with pointy bits, like the octopus we watched for your homework.”

“Coronaboogie can stick its pointy bits up its poopy hole.”

“Don’t be rude about mummy’s little helper. It’s paying the bills.” She tapped at the vacuum cleaner on the laptop screen.

The screen turned blue and a line of white letters scrawled across the top.

“Windows is useless, like everything else in this country. One cough and we all self-isolate,” the mother muttered under her facemask.

The son stood on his toes and peered at the screen. “Is mummy’s computer having a sneeze, like the man who delivers the food?”

“Mummy’s computer needs to go on a ventilator.” She nudged her son away from the counter with the broomstick.

“A ventiwhat?”

“Something mummy sells when she can’t fly on airplanes anymore.”

“Goal!” a man’s voice shouted through the kitchen door.

The mother turned her laptop on and off. The blue screen remained. “Mummy has a better idea for playtime. We can kill two key workers with one persistent cough. Follow me.”

“Boogie poopy. We’re playing hide and die.”

The son clapped his gloves and followed his mother into the living room. A man was propped on cushions on a sofa wearing a shirt and tie, a facemask with a Spiderman logo, orange latex gloves and boxer shorts covered in footballs. His hair sprang out from behind the facemask. A laptop was balanced on his belly, and a curtain rail and a bottle of hand gel lay on the carpet. In a corner of the room, the handlebars of three bikes were poking out from cardboard boxes. Three helmets were perched on top of the boxes covered in bubble wrap.

“Stay two meters away or I’m taking your temperature,” the father said. He waved the curtain rail at the mother and son.

“Boogie monster. Daddy has stolen my facemask again!” the son cried.

“Daddy needed to protect himself for an important business meeting.”

“Lazy daddy is watching football repeats while he is pretending to work. Nobody would miss him if he went sick,” the mother replied.

“Says the mother who ordered bikes for a family keep-fit regime and never took them out of their boxes.” He nodded his facemask at the corner.

“That was your job, like all things in our family that never get done.”

The son started crying. “Mummy and daddy are being meanies again.” He lifted his facemask and wiped his nose.

“Mummy misses getting drunk with her pilots and claiming the hotel bill on expenses,” the father said. He slid a tissue onto the end of the curtain rail and swung the tip at the son.

“We’re allowed stopovers on long haul flights.” She paused. “Or were.”

The son blew his nose like a trumpet. He returned the tissue to his father on the end of the curtain rail. “Nobody talks to me at home.”

“Babykins only says that because daddy is busy trying to make money from a crisis,” the mother said to the father.

“I’ll believe anything a jumped-up vacuum cleaner saleswoman says.” The father wiped the curtain rail tip against a bin lid to remove the tissue.

“Your dutiful wife stands corrected by the husband who resells plastic bags as PPE equipment to hospitals,” the mother said.

“Spiderman will poop on the carpet,” the son said.

The mother crossed her arms, the flowers on her gloves poking from her elbows. “Babykins wants attention and I need your laptop. Mine is up the ventilator.”

“Go and drink another vat of Quarantinis like yesterday,” the father replied. “I might be lucky and get some peace. When the lockdown ends, I’m going to live on a mountain where nobody can bother me.”

“Babykins, be a good boy and tickle your daddy,” the mother said to the son.

“I’m coming to poop you.” The son held out his gloves and crept towards the sofa.

“The Coronamonster is attacking me!” The father aimed the curtain rail in front of the sofa like a sword.

The son darted underneath the curtain rail, snatched the laptop and dropped it at his mother’s feet. “Will mummy play with me now?” he asked.

“Daddy needs to have all the fun. Mummy has her sales targets to meet because daddy can’t make his own.” The mother picked up the computer. “Ask him to take you to the mountain where he wants to live. Mount Everest would be ideal.” She held the laptop at arm’s length and turned around. “I have to sanitize the keyboard,” she said and left for the kitchen.

The father inspected the living room and scratched his facemask. “There’s a small problem about climbing Mount Everest. We live in a city high rise not Nepal, in case your mother hadn’t noticed.”

The son poked out his tongue, making a bump like an extra-large drawing pin in his facemask. “You’re poopy at pretending.” He grabbed the cushions on the sofa and piled them on top of each other. “Boogie mountain,” he said.

“Daddy has special powers like Spiderman.” The father bent behind the sofa and pulled out a crate of loo rolls. “I was hoarding for a reason, not like your mother with her peaches.”

“Peachy burps,” the son squealed.

The father tore open a packet of loo roll and scrunched up the tissues in his gloves. He scattered the tissues on the carpet and opened another packet. “We can’t climb a mountain without snow. That would be cheating,” he said.

“Poopy snow.” The son opened a cupboard and took out a pile of white linen from a shelf.

“Your mother’s best tablecloths, reserved for her airline pilots. She’ll be furious.” The father pushed a white tablecloth from the pile with the curtain rail and straightened it out into a long rectangle. With the curtain rail, he draped the tablecloth over poster-sized photos of the family hanging on the wall. The son threw white table napkins onto the sofa.

“Health and Safety alert. We need helmets in case we fall off the summit.” The father unwrapped the bubble wrap from two of the cycling helmets on top of the bike boxes. He picked up the third but returned it to the box with its bubble wrap intact. “Two’s company but three would be hoping.”

The son squashed a helmet on his head and tucked the bubble wrap around his pajamas. “Spiderpants,” he said.

“Now we can go climbing while maintaining social distancing regulations.” The father wrapped the bubble wrap from his own helmet around his boxer shorts.

“Mountain boogies.” The son clapped his gloves together.

The father held out the curtain rail and the son gripped its tip. They traipsed across the crushed toilet paper on the living room floor then back to the sofa.

“Snowstorm alert.” The father picked up the bottle of hand gel with his free hand and squirted the nozzle in the air.

Transparent gel droplets floated onto the carpet, reflecting their facemasks in a maze of mirrors.

“I want peaches.” The son turned his helmet to the living room door.

“We can have a fuel stop without getting off the mountain. Daddy doesn’t want to spoil the fun.” The father picked up an apple from a fruit bowl. “I’m a better cook than mummy,” he said and rolled the apple to his son.

“Spiderman apple. Poopy woopy.”

The apple was covered with furry purple mold. The son started to eat it but the father knocked the apple out of his gloves with the tip of the curtain rail.

“The farm ran out of fresh fruit pickers. They’re quarantined like us,” he said.

“Mummy hasn’t run out of peaches. I’m bored of climbing mountains.” The son looked again at the door.

“Chocolate!” the father called out. He opened the bottom drawer of the cupboard, searched through a stack of old magazines and took out a long thin oblong box. “Mummy’s secret supply for when she binges on her box sets.”

The father and son sat on opposite ends of the sofa. The chocolate box was opened half-way between them.

“The green ones taste like my nose,” the son said. He opened his mask sideways and swallowed a chocolate.

The father examined a chocolate in his glove fingertips. “The red chocolates remind me of your mother’s lipstick, if I can remember,” he sighed.

The son reached across the sofa and took a fistful of chocolates from the box. “You’re such a cool daddy, even though you stole my Spiderman mask. This is the best day of my life.” He swallowed the chocolates in one gulp.

“You’re a cool son, even though you don’t like sharing. This is the best day of my life too.” The father wiped his eye, leaving a dark brown smudge of chocolate on his glove.

“Don’t hurry your mountain climbing. You need an hour’s exercise each, preferably back to back,” the mother called from the kitchen.

“We might be gone the whole afternoon. Climbing Mount Everest takes time,” the father called back. He leant over to the box and checked its cover for the flavor guide.

“Daddy, why don’t you like mummy anymore?” the son asked.

The father paused. “I love mummy very much. We’re just not used to spending so much time together.”

“There’s no need to talk to me like I’m a child. You should play with mummy more often.”

“I said the same ten months before you were born.”

“Ick.” The son lunged at the father and tore the bubble wrap away from his boxer shorts.

The father clambered across the sofa to sit on the pile of cushions. “Here we are, on top of the world.” He glanced down at his son popping the bubble wrap. “We can almost see grandpa’s new home.” With his gloves cupped as binoculars, he scanned the living room ceiling.

“Has grandpa gone to Heaven?” the son stared upwards.

“Depends if the carers remember to wash their hands for twenty seconds.”

The son dropped the bubble wrap onto the carpet and sat on the sofa. “I miss grandpa,” he said quietly.

“We could call his care home on Zoom and tell him we’ve climbed Mount Everest.” The father jumped off the sofa and hitched up his boxers. “Mummy is hogging my laptop. Let’s see if she remembers its mine.”

“Icky poo!” the son yelled. He jumped off the sofa and ran out of the living room.

The father shrugged and stepped off the sofa to follow his son.

The mother was sitting at the breakfast counter sipping the cocktail glass. Her mask and gloves were on the table and the father’s laptop was closed next to her.

The father and son leapt back.

“Mummy’s breathing boogie germs. We’re going to hospital.” The son pulled his helmet over his facemask.

“We can forget about viruses. The Chinese have just created a vaccine and I’ve been furloughed. First the airplanes then the vacuum cleaners. I love 2020.” The wife rolled her eyes.

A buzz sounded from the father’s boxer shorts. He pulled out his phone and scrolled down the screen. “No more PPE. I’m back to recycling plastic bags.”

“Woopy poopy. We can see grandpa now!” The son held out his hands for his mother to take off his gloves.

“I’ll get you ready, babykins. We’ll have the afternoon to visit the home. Mummy hasn’t got anything else to do anymore.” The mother threw the gloves in the bin.

“I was thinking that we could take time out to tidy up the bedroom,” the father said to her with a wink.

“You can tidy up the living room after the mess you’ve made. We’ll negotiate tidying the bedroom this evening when I’ve passed out,” the mother said.

“Spiderman mask.” The son held out his gloveless hand.

The father slipped the mask over his helmet and gave it back. The mother and son left the kitchen, kicking the broomstick over.

The father returned to the living room alone. He sat on the sofa and took off his helmet. Then he began to pick up the loo roll tissue scattered over the carpet. “We were on top of Mount Everest,” he said to himself with a cough.

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