I haven’t had much to do with The Mother lately.
Not since I rescued F from children’s party detention for saying the word ‘idiot’. That was a week after she told me that F wasn’t allowed to play with her children ‘until further notice’ because her son had thrown a tantrum after lending F his bike and then changing his mind.
At the beginning of this school holidays, my ex asked The Mother about arranging for the boys to play together.
‘I’ll talk to Ariel about it’ she told him.
The next day, at Auskick, neither of us spoke to nor looked at each other. The boys didn’t play together during the school holidays.
So, imagine my surprise when the phone rang this afternoon and The Mother was at the other end.
‘Hi!’ she chirped. ‘It’s [The Mother]!’
‘Oh.’ My stomach dropped. Somehow, I knew this wasn’t about calling an end to ‘further notice’ and inviting F over for cheese on toast.
‘WELL, I’ve had the WORST day!’ she wailed, her tone dropping from terminally perky to tragic in one quick beat. ‘It’s been a bad time, really. I’m sorry to call you like this. The dog has been eating all the plants in the garden and I had an electrician, and I called him and then he had to call me back and then I missed him and he didn’t leave a message and then I had to call that number, you know, where it tells you the last number dialled, and it was him, so I called him back and then he wasn’t there.’
‘And anyway, now I’ve reached him and he’s coming. And THE BOYS! Oh, A just kept going ON at me in the background and he wouldn’t STOP while I was trying to talk to him and it was AWFUL.’
‘Oh dear.’ I am mystified and growingly alarmed at the reason for the call. ‘Well, um, they do tend to go on when they know you’re busy.’
‘Oh, I don’t think he knew I was busy. He was just shouting at me from upstairs. It was terrible. And then Kujo has been so bad this week, really, so bad, he’s been ripping up the garden and he ate my plant that I bought. And it’s so cold, isn’t it. Are you cold?’
‘Um, yes, it is a terrible day.’
‘It’s just been LIKE that. Terrible. And the reason for my call, oh, that’s terrible too.’
I am imagining that F has beaten up one of her children. That he has taught them new swear words. That he has exposed himself in the playground. At the very least, that he’s given them Andy Griffiths books to take home.
‘W went on and ON at me when I went to pick him up from school tonight. He was very upset. He said that F had TAKEN all of his Tazos, that he’d snatched them and run off and wouldn’t give them back. He INSISTED that we find F and get them back, but there was so much going on, and I couldn’t find him. So.’
This was not good. In playground currency, Tazos are gold. If W was right, F is behaving like a thug. All The Mother’s worst fantasies about F are coming true. Which is why she’s on the phone. I detect a smug undertone to the surface wailing. I don’t even remember, to my shame, if I apologised at this point. All I could think was: ‘here we go again’.
“Shall I give you a name of the Tazos he is missing?’ she continued. ‘I’ll tell you what they are. Are you ready?’
‘Well, F isn’t here right now. He’s with his stepmother. But okay, tell me and I’ll call him there and make sure he brings them to school tomorrow.’
She tells me the Tazos, consulting with the boys along the way. There are nine of them.
‘So, which team do you go for again?’ she asks, mid-list.
‘I don’t have a team.’
‘So, what exactly happened?’
‘F snatched them from W and ran off with them. Hold on, I’ll ask him. Would you like to speak to him?’
‘Okay.’ I hold the line.
A small voice pipes up, somewhat nervously.
‘Hello W. So, what happened?’
‘Um.’ He pauses. ‘Um. Do you know, I actually can’t remember if F took them from me or if we had a deal to borrow them and give them back.’
He repeats himself.
‘You don’t remember?’
‘Right. Goodbye, W.’
The Mother comes back on the line.
‘Oh,’ she says. ‘Did you hear that?’
‘Maybe F will have a, um, a better memory of what happened.’
‘I’m sure he will. Okay, well I’d better go.’
‘Oh no, how are you anyway? Is your heater about to overload with the cold?’
I make forced chit-chat for a few minutes, rage boiling below the surface. I want to kill her and her stupid lying dobbing children.
I ring F’s stepmother. I tell her I’ve had a complaint from a mother at school about F taking cards, and that it seems he hasn’t, but I need to read him a list and make sure he brings them to school.
‘Was it [The Mother]?’ she asks.
‘Yes,’ I says, surprised. ‘How did you know? Have you had trouble with her?’
‘Oh, no. But I know you have.’
‘She is really odd, though.’
‘Yes. She is.’
Long story short: you’ll be unsurprised to hear that F and W had a deal to consolidate their Tazos and share them, taking turns to bring them home.