‘There’s a man from Finland who owns at least eighteen cars,’ Persistent Smith informed his mother between mouthfuls of dry cereal.
‘Then he must be very rich, dear.’
Smith had little interest in money, no burning desire to have lots of it. Even so, when you worked, you got paid. It was the rule. When he did get paid he gave it all to his mother. He had little idea how much he actually had, more than a hundred, less than a million. A little bit was useful but he knew from past experience a pocket full of money was like having a voice whispering in your ear, endless, driving. ‘Spend me, spend me. I’m not doing any good down here in the dark.’
Violet Smith understood this very well. She took good care of her son’s money in the hope that eventually he would want to manage it for himself. There was no reason why he couldn’t, he liked numbers, enjoyed columns of figures, it was just that where money was concerned he didn’t see the point. She put it aside so that one day, if her son ever wanted to set up on his own he would have something, a start. One day.
Her plan worked partly because she never told him exactly how much he had. Violet was not a deceptive person, lying did not come easy and made her feel deeply uncomfortable. She had, however, learned to dissemble.
‘I think I’d like a car.’
Violet said nothing, although she had a clear idea about what was coming next.
‘Mummy?’ The word came drawn out.
‘How much money do I have?’
‘Not enough to buy a car.’
‘How much more would I need?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. Anyway, you don’t know how to drive.’
That was a good point. Smith folded his arms and sat back. ‘Daddy could teach me.’
‘He’s too busy, dear.’
Smith frowned. ‘Where is he now?’
‘You know where he is. He’s working.’
‘When is he coming back?’
Violet kept her smile going. ‘Later, after supper time.’
‘I hardly ever see him.’
‘Finish your breakfast.’
Smith munched away at his dry cereal and washed it down with mouthfuls of orange juice. He would not see his father tonight but this time it would not be for the usual reason that daddy was too tired and just wanted to watch his stupid goggle box. This time it would be because he, Persistent Smith, wouldn’t be there. Smith thought about what he would need for the next part of his adventure, and as he did his eyes grew hooded and he smiled his secret smile. He pushed back the chair. ‘Finished.’
Violet heard him clump upstairs, go into the bathroom, wander round between the bedrooms, then thunder back down the stairs.
‘Going out,’ Smith announced to the empty hall and zipped up his fleece.
His mother hurried from the kitchen. ‘Where are you going?’
Smith looked up at the ceiling. ‘On a big adventure.’
‘Be careful, dear. Come back for tea.’
Smith opened the door, hesitated, turned back. ‘Mummy?’
‘Yes, dear?’ Reaching out, Violet tucked a curl of hair behind her son’s ear. For once he didn’t pull back.
‘Mummy,’ he said slowly. ‘I know I’m not like other people.’
Violet closed the zip on his fleece the final inch. ‘Oh, I don’t know. Normal people aren’t that normal half the time.’
After he’d gone, shutting the door too hard like he always did, Violet cleared away breakfast, made herself a cup of tea and took it into the front room.
The old, familiar worry rose up inside her – what would happen when she and Albert were gone? She resisted the urge to look through the window and down the street.
She knew he had to learn, knew his adventures were just little things, trips to the railway station and the museum, but there were so many things he didn’t notice, so many he did not understand.
This time, for this adventure, there was something Violet Smith herself would not notice for quite some time. As her son marched, skipped and occasionally hopped down the street with his water bottle in his hand, a notepad, pencil and sharpener in his right-hand fleece pocket and house keys in his left-hand trouser pocket, his other trouser pocket jingled with the loose change he had emptied out of his mother’s purse. And zipped snugly into his inside left breast pocket were clean socks, fresh underpants, and his toothbrush.
To be continued…