by Jonathan Saint
We are going to fly, my five-year old son and I.
I am parenting alone. I choose the word ‘parenting’ because ‘fathering’ means something entirely different – ‘mothering’ is warmth and cuddles. I ‘parent’.
Smugly, I decide to pre-empt the challenges of take-off by purchasing mints – for the sucking and better equalising of the ears. We choose the sweets and then, for the development of my son’s social engagement skills (and exposure to low-stakes responsibility), I give him the mints, and a €2 coin, and stand behind him in a supportive, protective kind of way.
In front of us, second in line, a tall, sharp-suited man of middle age waits with his water and Times. My little one, holding the mints, swaps the coin to his other hand, or swaps the mints, or both, and drops the coin. It bounces high and rolls out… and then back… in a wide arc, until it returns to the queue, topples over, and settles finally on the shiny tiled floor.
Our queue leader completes her extended transaction. The businessman looks up from the news. My son crouches to pick up the coin. The man, all politeness and deference, steps back to make room for the many-bagged woman.
In the twinkling of an eye, I watch. I watch as my son’s little fat fingers try to lift the coin. I watch as the thick, black two-inch brogue heel lifts and steps back towards the five infant fingers grappling with an errant coin. I watch as the sharp heel comes down.
Conservatively, a 90-kilo weight transfer takes place with that backward step, as the man smiles magnanimously over his glasses at the bag-laden woman.
My son almost has the coin when the heel comes down.
His fingers are only small. Hardly pianist’s fingers. Perhaps a drummer.