Authors: Gill Davy-Bowker
About the author:
Gill Davy-Bowker studied English and History at the University of Northumbria and went on to train as a nurse at Swansea University. She wrote for student newspapers in both places and also writes satirical sketches. A chronic health problem forced her to leave nursing and concentrate on her writing. Gill lives with her family in Dorset.
THE MELTDOWN OF A
Book Guild Publishing
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by
The Book Guild Ltd
45 Church Road
Hove, BN3 2BE
Copyright Â© Gill Davy-Bowker 2014
The right of Gill Davy-Bowker to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system, in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real people, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.
Typesetting in Sabon by
Keyboard Services, Luton, Bedfordshire
Printed in Great Britain by
CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
A catalogue record for this book is available from
The British Library
ISBN 978 1 909716 15 5
ePub ISBN 9781909984967
Mobi ISBN 9781909984974
Mr Watson (my English teacher)
Dr G D Phillips
Staff and friends at:
Dorset County, Southampton General
and Royal Brompton Hospitals
A big thank you to my son for persuading me to write a story for him one day. At that point I hadn't realised how grown-up the book would become and never let myself believe that my intention was to complete a novel, otherwise I would have scared myself witless!
Thanks to my husband for assisting me with initial formatting of my book.
And a huge thank you to all my friends, family and my publishers for their faith in my novel and in me.
Last, but not least, I wish to express my gratitude to my friends and other staff in the medical profession, and associated services, who have been wonderful.
âMummy, can we go to Aphid World this weekend?' begged Amy, eyes big and sparkly.
âNo, not Aphid World â¦ not again!' moaned Michael, Amy's brother.
Michael had been to Cockroach Corner, Ants Are Us, Centipedes Are U and every other invertebrate fantasy park that has ever been. All he wanted to do this weekend was to play in a Sylvanian Families treehouse with his Airport Barbie doll.
Michael was a bit girly, Amy was not girly. Amy liked horrible things with millions of legs or squelchy things that blew bubbles, with or without shells. Michael really hated the shelled variety. Amy used to make Michael eat snails when he was two years old. You may think she was trying to hurt him, but you couldn't be further from the truth.
Amy had seen her parents eat snails and although they looked horrid, they smelled quite nice. It was only when she had tried raw snails with no nice sauce that she realised how foul they were. Amy was a bit of a survivalist from the age of two â¦ she had also sampled the delights of worms because of their resemblance to spaghetti and twigs in the hope that she had discovered a liquorice crop in the back garden. But good intentions aside, I bet if your sister had made you eat gastropod molluscs as a toddler, you would rather play with a nice clean Barbie doll instead.
Mel's eyes rolled to the ceiling, begging the Greater Being above for help.
âAmy, why do you want to go there again?' she pleaded.
âBut Mummy, they're so cute! They're all green and fliey and sucky! I love them. Please can we go and then I can get a new aphid keyring!?'
âWhat about Squirrel Nutkin's Paradise for a change? Squirrels are cute and furry and not sucky,' said Mel.
âSquirrels are boring,' sighed Amy, looking at her mother as if she had just fallen out of the sky wearing pants on her head. âSquirrels are for silly people,' asserted Amy.
âI see,' replied Mel. âSo Michael and I are silly people, are we?'
âYes!' exclaimed Amy, turning and stomping off up to her room. âYou don't understand me!' she wailed as she hammered her trainers with all her might on every stair.
Amy's face looked like something from
. Her eyes were red and bulging and her teeth were gnashing. She just couldn't understand what was wrong with her stupid family. Her dad was even worse! He thought a good day out was at Washing Machine Planet where he could sniff all the wonderful laundry products and flit about with dusters and mops. Amy despaired!
Michael was now howling downstairs. Mel was very worried. She looked at her children and wondered if they were psychologically disturbed.
âWhy can't I have a normal life?' she asked herself. âShould I have given Amy organic baby food and soya milk when she was little? Perhaps I shouldn't have let Amy have the MMR jab? I'll have to see the doctor about it. This surely isn't normal.'
She pushed her fingers through her hair and took a deep breath. Michael was now crawling around on the floor with his thumb in his mouth. âRight,' she thought and went to boil the kettle for a cup of camomile tea.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Amy was playing with the large spider under her bed and telling him what she thought about things.
âYou see, Willyâ¦' she continued, âno one understands me
here. Only people like you, people with more than two legs, have any sense in this world.'
Willy the Spider looked up at her with his millions of eyes. He was a very thoughtful and insightful spider.
Mel sat and drank her camomile tea, trying to stop worrying about the state of her family as she watched Michael rolling around the room with a large plastic axe and listened to Amy telling her in full Technicolor detail that she was ââ¦ spitting all over the carpet now, Mummy!'
She sighed and decided that maybe she should phone a friend. Trouble was, all her friends had normal children. They all ate organic food. They never had tantrums. They were all special at school in that genius, gifted sort of a way. That's what all her friends maintained, anyway. Mel was sure that no one else had children who spat all over the bedroom carpet just because they couldn't go to Aphid World every day, or homicidal sons who dribbled and rolled around with plastic axes. No. If she phoned a friend, she couldn't tell them about this. Hmm â¦ who was her least successful friend? âAha!' she exclaimed aloud. âI'll phone Kelly!' Kelly quite often took her children out for burgers and they had also had the MMR jab.
âKelly!!' squeaked Mel with relief down the phone. Kelly was there! Thank God! Outside world! An adult! âHow are you? Just thought I'd see if you knew about the trip to the river the children are going on next Monday. Are they supposed to take packed lunches? Only I've lost the bit of paper they sent home in Amy's book bag â¦'
Calm down, thought Mel to herself, you sound completely desperate! She took a deep breath. There was a soft, muffled sniffing sound coming from the other end of the line. No, thought Mel. Kelly can't be crying â¦ no one cries but me! She's perfect. No â¦ she's probably suffering from one of her millions of trendy allergies.
âOh, hi Mel! â¦ No, I don't know what we're supposed to be doing about lunches. Just do one in case, I think.'
âAre you OK, Kelly?'
âOh â¦ no â¦ Just an electricity surge allergy or something. No, I'm fine. Matilda's just got a certificate for her times tables things, number bundles or something in school. How's Amy doing?'
âOh yes â¦ well â¦ she's very gifted in â¦ um â¦ literacy, as you know. Number bundles â¦ yes â¦ she's fine with them,' Mel blurted.
Why am I lying? Why can't I just be honest and tell her Amy's on her last warning before expulsion and she's only seven? What sort of mother can't be proud of her child's individuality and spirit? Mel thought, wincing inwardly.
She remembered Amy upstairs â¦ she couldn't help it really because it sounded as if Amy's bedroom floor was about to descend into the lounge, drowning everything in toy insects the size of dinosaurs and a couple of My Little Ponies which had been bought for Amy in the hope of her becoming a normal, pink sort of little girl.
âYes â¦ she does have an amazing â¦ um â¦ imagination!' stumbled Kelly. What a friend!
Mel rubbed her head and tried to think herself into positive mode. She couldn't tell Kelly about Amy's fixation with all things multilegged â¦ and she could tell no one about Michael and his Barbie dolls.
âOK. So packed lunch it is then.' She safely closed the conversation.
âWell,' said Kelly â¦ was that an explosion in the background? âI'd better go!' Kelly squeaked and the phone went dead.
Right, thought Mel, there we are then. Obviously I'm not flavour of the month. Wonder if it's because Matilda's caught nits again and we know where from?
But how would Kelly know that Amy had had nits and she hadn't treated her before she went to school last week? Come on Mel, she thought, do you seriously think that all the mothers check all their children's hair every day and honestly did Amy have a flashing sign on her head saying: âI've got nits today!' No, of course not. Stop being paranoid.
Good grief! This camomile tea tastes like gnats' pee! It hasn't even vaguely calmed me down. Why do people drink it? It's horrible.
But she knew even as she thought this that she would never be able to hold her head up high in Kingston-upon-Thames if she ever voiced this opinion. No, she was doomed to maintain that it was so much more refreshing than your old, bog-standard drippings from a supermarket tea bag. So much more calming than a gin and tonic â¦ Ha! Yep and homeopathic medicine was the bee's knees too â swore by it to her friends, at any rate. She chucked the putrid peecoloured tea into the sink, wrinkling her nose. She looked ruefully at the gin bottle then kicked herself.
No, Mel. You cannot have gin! It's only eleven-thirty in the morning! No, she really had to think about which maniac child to tackle first.
This usually meant the child who might be doing the most damage to the infrastructure of the four-bed, mock-Tudor house they called home. Usually, that meant the one who was quietest.
Well, Michael was asleep on the floor cuddled up to his plastic axe with his arm stuffed in the Sylvanian Families treehouse â¦ so he met the criteria of being the quietest, but she could see he was no threat at present to the status quo. However, more worryingly, there was a dense, dark silence booming down from upstairs resembling the silence before something the ilk of Armageddon. It infiltrated every corner of the house and pervaded every fibre of her being. It was the silence of Angry Amy Upstairs. Her heart in her mouth, Mel mounted the stairs two at a time. She reached Amy's door. The door was closed, but around its edges oozed the silence of doom â¦ portentous, ominous and almost green and slimy in its vitreous horror. She tentatively knocked at the door. No answer. She tried again, a bit louderâ¦ Still nothing. Slowly, she pushed down the door handle, unsure as to whether she was strong enough to witness the scene behind the battered wooden portal. Quivering, she nudged at the door, then she shoved harder at it until she felt a slight give and tear of what appeared to be a thousand soft toys and unspeakable slime balls piled up behind it. She put her shoulder to the door and after pushing as hard as she dared, she managed to get her head around it and survey the scene within.
She could barely make out the shapes in the darkness. There was no sound â¦ No screeching â¦ Nothing. She listened harderâ¦ Heavy breathing with little snorts. She couldn't believe it! Amy was asleep too and there didn't appear to be any real damage done, from her limited perspective. Had the bedroom really got away with it?! She tried to push through the door and worked one foot around it, then squeezed her bottom (with difficulty, she noted with a pang of angst) around the door's edge. She followed through with the other foot and after this straddling manoeuvre, she promptly tripped over the teddy bear and squelchy toy pyramid, falling to her knees with a soft squidge. She looked up. Amy was asleep sprawled on the bed, mouth open with the last drools of
tantrum seeping over the pillow. Her hair was all damp and sticking up. Her face was flushed but nothing else was left of the demon which had possessed Amy just half an hour earlier. In fact, she looked like a cute little pink angel girl. Her long curled lashes batted down onto the top of each cheek. Her cherubic nose turned up and added to the perfect little baby profile Mel knew and loved. She looked at her and wanted to eat her up. Amy was her baby â she hadn't changed at all. In sleep she looked like the helpless little bundle she'd met on that first day, after they had spent thirty-six hours labouring together. She just wanted to kiss and love and hold and protect her forever. Oh, how could she have been such an evil mother! How could she have lost her temper? Little Amy had only wanted to go to Aphid World â¦ It was all so innocent and cruel Mummy had denied her child this simple pleasure when one day she would wish she could buy back the chance to do things with Amy. Her heart twisted as she foresaw that day when Amy was a teenager and no longer wanted to hang out with her mum. Sentimentality welled. She crept up to Amy and brushed her cheek with her lips, taking in the smell of her baby, rubbing her nose in her soft, wet hair. She would be a better mother, she vowed. She would be one of those mothers who was infinitely calm. She would count quietly to ten and never raise her voice. She would reason â¦ She would listen â¦ She would praise â¦ She would!
Amy opened her eyes as Mel picked her up. She let Amy's head nestle into her neck and buried her nose in Amy's tousled, strawberry-blonde hair. Amy placed her chubby arms around her mummy's neck.
âMummy, we can go to Aphid World soon, can't we?'
âYes, darling poppet. Course we can.' There, thought Mel, that's what I should be like â nice, reasonable, unflappable.
âI'm sorry I tore the curtains, Mummy. They weren't very strong at the top,' squeaked Amy.
Mel took a deep breath. âThat's all right, darling â thank you for telling me the truth and saying sorry. That's very brave and good.' Phew â¦ wasn't she doing well!?
She carried Amy down the stairs and nestled her in the cushions in the corner of the sofa. Amy stretched herself out.
âCould I have a milkshake and a biscuit please, Mummy?'
âI'll get them for you now.'
âWe don't have any. Have a custard cream,' suggested Mel.
âI only like Oreos!' Amy insisted, folding her arms.
Deep breath. Count â¦ One, two, three â¦
âWe only have custard creams. So it's either that, bread and butter or nothing.'
Firm â¦ Resolute â¦ Very good.
âNo â¦ that's it!' said Mel.
Michael woke up with the plastic axe between his teeth.
âHello Mummy. We're not going to Aphid World now, are we?' he pleaded.
âBut â¦' cried Amy.
âNot right now. Not at this minute.'
Think, Mel â¦ Aha! Distraction: âWho wants to make a cake?'