Jim and Anne sat at the garden centre cafe table. In front of each a scone and tea. Cream and jam were intermingling slowly in the July sun.
Between them was Malcolm. Thirty years old and six foot two, Malcolm was their only child.
Anne told Malcolm to wipe his nose and when he didn't she took a paper tissue out of her handbag and wiped it for him. She was distracted by Jim, he seemed to be interested in something, which was unusual nowadays.
'What's that you've got there ?'
'A bloody lucky plastic shamrock. It was stuck in the bloody lucky azalea pot.'
'I wish you wouldn't swear so much'
'Talking about bloody wishing, it says on it that I have three magic wishes but to be bloody careful what I wish for.'
'No - that's what it says look'
It was unusual for a promotional product to be so frank.
'Feels more like gold than plastic to me, its awfully heavy.'
'Sham gold shamrock' he laughed at his joke. No-one else did. He put the sham shamrock back in his pocket.
Malcolm grunted and made a sign.
'Toilet?' Jim asked him in a dull tone.
Malcolm nodded. Jim sighed, he always hoped he could get throdugh the Sunday outing without this. He had cleaned Malcolm's behind every day for God knows how many years. That's enough to try the patience of the most dedicated father, which Jim was not.
Jim looked wistfully at his cake, his appetite would be ruined by the time they came back.
Malcolm got up slowly, a head higher than Jim. He was already undoing his trousers by the time they got to the corridor where the toilets were.
'For God's sake wait until we are in.'
Malcolm looked hurt and concerned.
They violently pushed open the toilet door past a startled customer and Jim hurried Malcolm into the cubicle.
But it was too late.
The smell made Jim wretch. It seemed to get worse every year.
'Off with your bloody trousers! Quick!'
Malcolm was began to cry.
Jim felt the vein beating in his forehead, threatening a second stroke. His face felt red hot. He stumbled out of the cubicle and grasped a sink. The awful truth was portrayed in the mirror - an old, sick, weak , desparate man stared back at him and over his shoulder - an enormous man-baby with crap on his hairy legs. His life was crap, the world was crap, God was crap.
'I wish... I wish he had never been born. '
It was not the first time he had thought it, but it was the first time he had meant it.
The mirror in front of him darkened. 'I...I...wish'.
Jim was facing a wall stained yellow-brown with every imaginable product of the human body. In pencil was written 'Malclom.' He ignored it but looked as if he was studying it intently, mainly to prevent himself catching the eye of the homicidal-looking man in the cot next to his.
So it had come to this - his first night in a prison cell and probably the last night of his life. All thanks to Faith, his only child, his darling little angel. Devil more like.
She wouldn't have existed of course if Ann's first pregnancy hadn't been a miscarriage. He often wondered what that boy would have been like - they had known it had been a boy from the scan and he must admit he had been disapointed that the second had been a girl.
But when he had held her in his arms she had won every cell of his heart no matter what was to subsequently happen.
And happen it did. She was always scheming - to take sweets of her little friends. To cheat her playmates out of their bikes. To claim her colleagues bonuses as her own.
Everyone she had met was a potential mug, none more than her parents.
They only found out she had re-mortgaged the house when the letter for re-possession arrived.
She had 'invested' the money in her 'businesses', all semi-legal and yet still unprofitable. Like so many times before, on more trivial occassions, she had promised to never do it again.
But she had. And the last time was the most spectacular - she had sold their business, their livelihood, their future. He had thought for a moment of going to the police, but he couldn't. He couldn't send his little girl to prison.
Instead the police had come for him and he had been sentenced to prison for fraud.
It would be more than Anne could bare. She had overdosed on every pill in the flat. He had found her in the bathroom, leaning over the bath. He had tidied her up before calling the emergency number, its what she would have wanted.
All he wanted now was... what did he want? For time to roll back, for Faith never to have been born.
The homicidal maniac crept up behind him...
Tears were streaming down Jim's cheeks.
He felt something in his pocket - a golden shamrock.
'I wish the little bugger had never been born'
Jim and Anne were sitting in their villa in Spain, enjoying the sun and a nostalgic scone and jam.
Their friend Albert was with them.
'You've got it made here' said Albert, with just the appropriate amount of envy in his voice.
'Nice villa, swimming pool, everything you could want for the perfect retirement'.
'Yes', said Jim, holding Anne's hand just a little bit more tightly, the other handing finding some heavy and intricate in his pocket
'But you know the one thing we regret' A tear formed in his eye,
'And that's not being able to have any kids... I just wish we had had a boy and a girl'
What a story! I am smiling and I laughed at the end but I question my smile and laugh. There's an uneasy feeling too. Brilliant story telling.
Do you write a lot of short stories - apart from the ones you put on here?
When I was teaching - I often used to read to the children - stories by Paul Jennings. He is Australian, I think. His stories always had a fantastic twist at the end. In fact, his stories were brought to life in a T.V. programme called Round the Twist.
He has written loads of books but my favourite is 'Unreal'.
I look forward to reading your next.
i rate your opinion higher than any other so i am fair chuffed.
no, i have only sent my little lambs out to the safe meadows of creative corner though i am putting them out to pasture re-edited on my webpage together with a few illustrations. if i get 100 pages worth i am thinking of sticking them an ebook just to be able to say i have made a book.