The year of shouting a lot

Daddy’s records were very old and precious

Both Mummy and Daddy said the lady in the blue jacket was kind and Kitten should answer her questions. Kitten must tell the truth, promise.

The nosey lady asked Kitten lots of questions and scribbled away in her big blue notebook. The grown-up was very big, like she’d eaten a whole mountain of pies. She wore a blue skirt and jacket, and her white blouse bulged in all sorts of places. Kitten knew it was rude and unkind to tell people they were fat.

Kitten thought about a pork pie as big as a person. Would the lady pick the pastry lid off and scrape off the jelly with a big spade? Kitten wouldn’t eat the pie jelly, but she’d eat the pink inside of the pork pie, the same colour as the lady’s lips. She’d cut little slices off it with a knife. This lady would need a big saw. Perhaps the chainsaw that Daddy kept locked in the shed.

‘Tell me about the year of shouting a lot,’ the nosey lady said, pen posed. ‘Tell me about the records.’

***

On Saturday morning, early and dark, Kitten heard a crash. Her Monsters, Inc. clock said five and a bit, which was very, very early. Sasha was a quiet lump in her cot. Kitten went into her parents’ room, because the door was open. Even though it was cold, Mummy had the big bay window open and the room felt like outdoors. Mummy was throwing Daddy’s LPs out of the window, one at a time.

Two cardboard boxes stood on the bed. Mummy took each record from its sleeve and skimmed them out into the garden, like a Frisbee. Mummy was very good at record Frisbee and gave each one a name as it flew.

The White Album. Jefferson Sodding Airplane. Bloody Rumours. Electric Light Sodding Orchestra,’ Mummy said, as she threw them out of the window. ‘Shitting Sodding Yellow Brick Road.

Mummy didn’t use bad words when she knew Kitten was around. Sometimes Kitten hid behind the sofa and listened to the arguing, when both Mummy and Daddy used lots of bad words.

Daddy got so stressed if Kitten went anywhere near the records, which were old and vinyl, and very easy to scratch. ‘Please don’t touch them or even breathe on them’, Daddy always said, with that sort of soppy pleading thing he did. The big black discs made music that had a slight hissy sound. It was more real than the iPod, Daddy said. Kitten thought all music was real, except you couldn’t pick it up. But light is real and you can’t pick that up either.

‘Does Daddy know you’re throwing his records out of the window?’ Kitten asked. It seemed a good question.

Mummy turned round, and Kitten saw she’d red eyes, like she had a cold. ‘Oh, he will. Kitten, I didn’t know you were up. Is Sasha stirring?’

‘No,’ said Kitten. ‘Where’s Daddy?’

‘He popped off to stay with Auntie Jill for a bit,’ Mummy said. ‘Do you want breakfast, darling?’

So Mummy had coffee and Kitten had hot milk on her cereal and Mummy didn’t say anything when she put lots of honey on it. Mummy poured brown liquid into her coffee from the tall bottle that smelled like bad, grown-up medicine.

‘What are we going to do today?’ Kitten asked. ‘Is Daddy coming back?’

‘Well, we could go down to the park and look at the ducks,’ Mummy said, looking at her phone. ‘Then I have to call the locksmith.’ She did look very tired and full of cold and her hair was quite messed up. Kitten went and brushed her own hair because Mummy ripped it when she did it in a temper.

***

Sasha was teething and very cranky today. Mummy bundled them both in their winter coats. It was still very early, but there were a couple of people looking at the house. An old woman and an old man from up the road, in grey and brown, always went about together. Kitten was supposed to remember their names but she didn’t. They looked at the records on the lawn and looked at Mummy.

‘We’ve been burgled,’ said Mummy, in this odd, new voice. There were lots of records on the lawn. Only a few of them were broken. The couple looked at Mummy in a very strange way and then moved off down the road like two tortoises.

Kitten didn’t say anything. She didn’t like to be drawn into grown up arguments. Mummy strapped the girls in very carefully and she gave them both another kiss that smelt of medicine.

Mummy revved up the Volvo, so it sounded like a cross dinosaur. ‘Let’s go to the park then,’ she said in her trying to be normal voice. She wrenched the steering wheel to the right, the car drove up over the lawn, which was a real surprise, and then over the records. They made an enormous crunch, crunch, crunch — like a hungry giant eating vinyl biscuits. The car made an odd scrunch-clunk coming off the end of the lawn onto the road. Then Mummy drove properly into the road, and did the right turn, to the park. She drove quite slowly and muttered.

‘I think the iPod is much nicer for music than those scratchy, old records,’ Mummy said. ‘We could go to Sir Bouncealots later, after the park.’ That was full of ball-pools you could jump into and rainbow slides to go down and the radio on loud. Kitten didn’t like the big boys who charged around, but it could be fun with the little kids. Sasha liked it.

The green water would give you tummy ache. They’d shut the playground for repairs. Later there’d be more people walking their dogs. It still felt very early and cold and the ducks were quite sleepy. Mummy asked Kitten to carry the bread while she trundled the push-chair along. Sasha and Kitten threw little bits and the ducks got quite enthusiastic. Sometimes, there were seagulls and geese, who were bullies and took the bread off the ducks. Daddy said bread was bad for ducks and he brought little bags of special seeds which wasn’t as much fun. On the other hand Daddy gave piggybacks and he did races and bought more ice-creams. He let Kitten roll down the hill once he had checked it for broken glass and dog-poo. When would Daddy be back? Auntie Jill always called him ‘little brother’ although he was lots taller.

Mummy took them back to the Volvo. There was a big box in the boot. It was the rest of the records.

‘Let’s go over the bridge. Kitten, do you think you can push Sasha for just a little way?’

***

Kitten used to shout herself, when she got cross. It was like a volcano, which is a mountain which sits there and people grow grapes on it. Then it gets angry and spouts fire and throws boiling hot stuff everywhere. She saw it on CBBC and she was really impressed. Mountains of smoke and everyone runs away and the grapes are boiled by red-hot liquid that pours like treacle over pudding. Well that’s how Kitten got cross.

Her parents would sit down and explain it’s OK to be cross but not OK to draw angry faces on the wallpaper or to throw cups of squash, or to kick people. That’s how Janice Doll got broken and she was old and precious. Kitten used to go and sit herself on the top stair to the attic room, and rain volcano rocks down on the house for a bit, calming down. Really she just imagined doing it. Then she’d go to feed the guinea pigs, or put dance music on the iPod and do some tree-in-the-wind dances, to feel better.

Daddy sometimes screamed at Mummy, ‘I am not your bloody punch-bag!’

When grown-ups get cross they don’t realise just how much people hear. Sasha, and the guinea pigs, and all her dolls got upset in their stomachs. She had to tell them all it was just shouting and there would be cake later, with both of the grownups looking very sad and apologetic and trying to be nice. Anyway, even when she was asleep, Mummy and Daddy arguing woke up Sasha, which means that Kitten woke up too. They were very selfish.

Even when she was very little, Kitten couldn’t remember being in a temper like Mummy.

They watched Mummy throw records from the bridge into the pond. Where the sleeve came off, it would float, like doing water pictures. The records sank through the green weed into the murky water. After she’d thrown three or four handfuls, Mummy tipped the whole box and the last of the records dived into the water. What a splash! It was like a landslide into the sea of Daddy’s precious things.

A man in a hat like Grandpa’s walked his dog along the bridge. He looked at Mummy, at the mess.

‘Let’s go,’ Mummy said.

‘Are you going to clean that up?’ the man said, in a cross voice. ‘At your age. You should be ashamed.’

‘My husband will be here any minute,’ Mummy said, red in the face. Then she explained to Kitten that was just a little story. Daddy might not be home tonight.

Kitten’s stomach hurt. They drove to Sir Bouncealots, and ordered chips. Mummy spent ages on the phone. ‘Yes, I’ve lost a set of keys,’ she said. ‘We need a new lock fitted as soon as you can.’

‘Mummy, when will we see Daddy?’ Kitten asked. She felt a funny stomach, the sort of thundercloud stomach she got when she felt upset. She’d had it ever since the bridge, without saying.

‘Quite soon,’ said Mummy. She pushed Sasha in the chair and Kitten rode on the board. Oh, they were going to the street with the old record shop. Such a funny thing sandwiched between a furniture shop and a vegetable café. Dad said the name Fruits of the Vinyl was a good joke. Kitten knew lots of much better jokes. She ought to tell the one about the penguin to cheer Mummy up.

Maybe Robert would be there. He was funny. Even though he was young he had a ginger beard and always gave her chocolate and comics. Daddy and Robert would sit in a corner, leg to leg, and chat with their heads very close together, while people fingered the old records which smelled like nothing else. Dust would dance in the sunlight while grownup music played.

The shop had tall narrow windows. There must be an awful lot of records still in there and Kitten started to worry Mummy would go inside and smash all of them. That would take until teatime.

‘Just look after Sasha for a second,’ said Mummy. She started to pull at the big black litter bin in the street, but it didn’t move. Kitten practised being a big girl when Sasha was silly but this felt all too much. The raincloud inside burst and she started to cry.

There was Auntie Jill! She put her hand on Mummy’s sleeve. She’d the same pretty face as Grandma in the old photo, but with Daddy’s dark hair.

‘If it was me, I’d drive the bloody car into the shop, and run them both over,’ said Jill. ‘But really, you can’t do that, can you? Let’s go and get a coffee, shall we? Do you girls want ice-cream?’

‘I need a drink,’ Mummy said.

***

The nosey lady took lots of notes. She kept asking how Kitten had felt, and Kitten had so many memories, she couldn’t think of words for all of them. Sometimes she was just full of complicated feelings and she couldn’t say anything until she’d done some dancing. She suggested she could do some dancing now and the fat lady thought it would be better to dance afterwards.

The lady looked at a piece of paper. ‘Tell me about the chain-saw,’ she said.

Now that evening with Mummy and the chainsaw, at Robert’s house, had been very exciting. Almost like a volcano, only with a police car. Robert could run ever so fast, even without his trousers on.