On our way back from the supermarket yesterday, at the end of a long and enjoyable day in the city, we passed a couple of buskers: vaguely shaggy twentysomething guys set up on a bench in the dwindling triangle of park next to the train station.
F gripped my arm, urgently.
"Mum! We have to give them some money!"
This wasn't unusual. He likes to give money to buskers, especially the ones who seem to be down and out, or play one of his favourite songs. I encourage it: it's nice.
"Their sister has been carried away by giant wasps!" he continued.
"Their sister has bee carried away by giant wasps and they need money to buy fly spray!"
"WHAT? Where did you get THAT from?"
"They've got a sign."
He was utterly earnest. I looked down at his small, solemn face, his hair brushing over his eyebrows and stroking his cheeks.
"And you think that's true?"
Of course, Mum."
"I'll tell you what. You can give them some money if you ask them if it's true."
"Okay!" He ran back through the dark, his shopping bag banging against his leg, while I waited in the pool of train passengers who had spilled off the platform, and were waiting for the gates at the level crossing to let them over the road. I watched him bend to drop his money into the open guitar case; the boys smiling their thanks over their instruments.
"Sorry Mum," he said, rejoining me. "I couldn't do it. If it is true they're probably really sad about it. They probably don't want to talk about it."
"Hmmmm. Yes. And you really think it's true?"
"Why wouldn't it be true?"
I consider this. All the many, many reasons.
"Well ... they're being funny."
"Is that FUNNY?"
"Well ... giant wasps ... it's not very likely. Have you ever heard of someone being carried off by a giant wasp? And the wasp would have to be pretty big. And if it was that big, I don't think fly spray would kill it."
"Maybe." He was unconvinced.
"Do you believe it now?"
"If you found out they were making it up, would you be sorry we gave them money?"
"What if it was your money? Then would you be sorry?"
"Really? Because they're good at making music?"
"So if I told you that the money, that the $1.50, was actually your pocket money this week - all that you have left after paying for the train ticket you lost - that's fine with you?"
"Oh." I looked at his perfectly serene countenance, puzzling over how children can surprise you. "Well ... it's not your pocket money. You still have your $1.50."
And we changed the subject, to football (sigh) and continued on down Anderson Street towards home.