The Boiled Egg
Well, hey ho - the school holiday is never far away and, when it rears its ugly head, I find myself taking on the mantle of daytime carer to my sons, the older of whom I gladly allow to join me in my workshop and on visits.
What I find more than a little irksome, though, is the ever tedious routine of daytime catering - a chore I often circumvent by finding an excuse to visit a timber merchant or builders' supplier in close proximity to a burger van. However, sometimes I just have to roll my sleeves up and cook lunch.
A good many years back (when my older son was just aged six), smarting from this enforced domesticity, I decided that simple was best and boiled some eggs and made some toast. This, I thought, would be a bit of a treat as SWMBO tends to err on the side of extravagance when it comes to culinary matters. I buttered the toast and presented it to my son on a plate with cupped eggs and a tea-spoon. I sat down at the head of the table and ate mine in thirty seconds flat. Sipping my tea, I decided to read the newspaper.
After a couple of minutes my son commented that he didn't really want the egg. Now, the only thing that pisses me off more than having to cook during the day is having to cook during the day and then being told that I needn't have bothered in the first place.
Exercising considerable restraint, I put my paper down and spoke to him encouragingly, saying, "Come on, eat up lad. You'll have to eat your food if you're going to grow up big and strong." Flexing my biceps playfully, I smiled and gave him a wink before turning back to my newspaper. From behind the paper, I listened to the sounds of him eating, smiling to myself at his little munching noises.
Then, I heard his spoon being placed on his plate and a little impatient sigh. "This isn't how mum cooks it."
Closing my eyes and gritting my teeth, I composed myself. With practiced cheer, I said, "Hey come on, it can't be that bad - it's only a boiled egg after all."
"I don't like it," he replied.
I looked over the top of my paper at him and said, "Look, I downed my tools to cook you that so you'll bloody well eat it."
No sooner had I snapped at the poor boy, than I felt a great pang of guilt course through me. Still, he had to learn - with all the starving children around the world who'd be more than grateful for what he had on his plate, I'd be damned if any son of mine was going to grow up spoilt. I hardened my jaw and resolved to stand my ground.
"But nothing," I glared, "you'll eat it and be thankful."
Over the top of the paper, I observed him as he ate, head bowed and with tears brimming around the corners of his eyes. He finished his toast but seemed to be making a show of how difficult it was to eat the remainder of the egg - as though every swallow was going to kill him. With only a small amount left in the bottom of the shell, tears were now running down his cheeks.
"Come on lad, you're nearly done." I said, with firm encouragement, "Finish it off."
"All of it?" he sobbed.
"Yes, every last bit," I demanded, holding his gaze and folding my arms to make a point of watching him.
He looked at me imploringly through tear red eyes and said, "What ... even the beak?"