They Never Learn
For the mother, the family outing hadn’t gone to plan.
She blamed the boy. Once roused and shoehorned into the car, he made them late. An immature 12 year old, he couldn’t be left, but the girl and baby were past hunger by the time they arrived. After moaning about the sandwiches, the boy lay on the beach in silence. Now, homeward bound, he snatched the girl’s toy, enjoying the reaction. The mother tried to ignore the cacophony of squabbling. Mist was closing in and she wanted to press on. The boy grumbled on; his virtual game buddies would think he’d given up; he’d rather do homework than this.
Then he said it, the step too far: “Dad wouldn’t take me on such a boring outing.”
The mother suddenly decided to stop the car, and shouted, “Get out”. He looked stunned momentarily, then sauntered across to the verge. She drove on, parking within the limit of visibility against the mist, confident he’d trudge along.
She remembered bringing the car to a standstill before, when it was the father she told to get out for failing to sympathise when she got cross at another driver. She left him to walk down the country lane until he could find somewhere to call a taxi. The next taxi he called after that was to whisk him away, to a future without her.
The boy shuffled, seething, wishing to go anywhere but home. Perhaps the father’s new lady wouldn’t mind if he turned up. Making his decision, he crossed over, and stretched out his hand.
The mother watched with horror as a car drove past her then ground to a halt. She did a panic tyre-screeching turn, but she knew it was too late. It takes no time to open a door and say “Hop in”. Looking down the empty road, her mind’s eye could already forsee the newspaper reports, the unrelenting eyes of the stranger in the dock, and the custody hearing for the girl and baby. The boy should have known not to moan at her. Now he would never learn.