Ben and I were in our bedroom – or Rehearsal Room 2, given that he neededto learn a speech for his drama exam.
“Come on, let’s get cracking. I’d like to watch the England game.”
“What’s that?” he said, pointing at the floor.
I groaned. Obviously one of our lovely animals had selected my shoe as a suitable place to vomit. But I needn’t have worried.
He was looking at our latest piece of exercise equipment.
The piece of kit that would shortly make the 30 Day Ab Challenge App on my phone as easy as pie. So to speak…
“It’s called an ab roller.”
“It looks like a unicycle for old people. What do you do with it?”
“You kneel down and sort of push the wheel away from you. Then you use your stomach muscles to bring it back.”
“No. I’ve just eaten. Come on, let’s get this speech learned.”
Ben grudgingly morphed into Shylock and demanded his pound of flesh. And he was good. So good that my resistance crumbled.
“Alright,” I said, getting on my hands and knees, “This is what you do.”
I pushed the wheel as far as I could. Nowhere near as far as the pics on Google images, but far enough to put the chiropractor on standby.
And then – with a fair amount of effort and an even fairer amount of noise – I pulled it back.
“That looked too easy. Mum says you don’t push your bum down.”
“Yes I do. Look.” I did two more just to prove I was in peak physical condition.
And why shouldn’t I claim the credit? “Tell your Mother I did fifty,” I said.
“Fifty?! She’s more likely to believe you Hoovered under the bed.”
“You’re right. Thirty, that’s believable.”
“What’s it worth?”
“She’s made some cookies. You can have one.”
“I’ve already had two. But OK. I’ll use my sweet and innocent face.”
“Thirty?” Jane said, reluctantly tearing herself away from an interview with Man-of-the-Year Bernard Jordan.
“That’s impressive. Last time he couldn’t do five.”
Michael Gove came on and my wife’s brain clicked back into gear. “Hang on,” she said. “Thirty? I’d have heard far more noise. And your dad would be rolling on the floor clutching what passes for his stomach muscles.”
She looked at her youngest son. “He’s put you up to this hasn’t he?”
Ben quickly switched on sweet-and-innocent. “No, no, I watched him.”
But the bloodhound wouldn’t be denied. “Yes he has. He’s bribed you.”
“Bribed?” Ben said. “What does that mean?”
“It means that whatever he’s promised you I’ll double it.”
“That’s disgraceful, Jane,” I said. “What sort of example is that to set to your son? If you carry on like that the only job he’ll get when he grows up will be running a worldwide sporting organisation.”
And Ben duly ticked that box on his CV. “Done,” he said. “He offered me a cookie.”
“I baked those damn cookies. He tried to bribe you with my cookies? Well you can have two.”
Blimey, they were at it again.
This was exactly like the stitch-up they performed when I bought that black towel for the bathroom.
And once more there was no escape. His palm well and truly greased my son wasted no time inserting the knife.
“He did three. And he cheated on those. His bum was in the air.”
“It always is. Anyway, darling, the cookie tin’s in the kitchen.”
As if he needed telling…
“We’ve been rehearsing the wrong play,” I said.
“We should have been doing Julius Caesar.
Et tu, Ben? This is the most unkindest cut of all…”