Sometimes… Dads Can Be Right?

The other night, sometime around two am, I awoke to find my eldest boy (2) standing at my side of the bed. He was staring at me, his face smeared so liberally in blood that he resembled some half-mad jungle general who’d just taken a bath in the gore of his fallen enemies, or a demon sprung from the Cenobite’s mattress. His hands, too, were as red as pillar boxes, obvious even in the half-light conjured by the street lamps outside our bedroom window.

The uneasy, tentative ‘Jack?’ that escaped my lips belied the frenzied engine of my thoughts, which were screaming ‘AAARRGGHHHHHH! BLOOD! AAARGGHHH! BLOOD!’ inside my head. As he opened his mouth to speak I was sure he was going to say one of three things:

  • ‘Jack no need to have two legs so me took one off.’
  • ‘Which one of you rat bastards is next?’
  • ‘The cat’s sleeping now…Sleeping forever, Daddy…’

What he actually said was: ‘Hi Daddy,’ giving his biggest, goofiest smile in the process.

Mercifully, there was no sinister explanation for his appearance. He’d had a nose bleed. His mother’s prone to them: enjoy that little gift of genetic inheritance, my young friend. Psoriasis and depression runs on my side of the family, so look forward to an adolescence of scratching and crying as the blood streams as if you were some sort of Vatican-sanctioned miraculous statue.

We whisked him through to the bathroom and perched him on his little stool by the sink. His mum had to scrub him really, really hard. What began as an act of cleaning quickly turned into exfoliation, which in turn became a genuine attempt to scour the very skin from his face. It was late, very late, and Jack was tired. He moaned. He cried. He just wanted this brutal ritual to come to an end so that we all could be snuggled up in the cosy darkness of the parental bed like a family of fairy-tale bears. ‘Let the blood stay,’ his eyes seemed to implore, ‘Maybe I like resembling one of Captain America’s oldest and most significant enemies!’ He wailed and whimpered, simpered and sulked, even as I carried him back through to our bedroom and the warm, imminent promise of sweet dreams.

‘Hang on,’ I said to my partner. ‘I’ll need to take him for a piss; you know what he’s like if he doesn’t go for one through the night. Let’s not tempt fate.’

‘No,’ she said, decisively. ‘He’s really upset; you’ll just traumatise him if you cart him back through there, and then he’ll wake his little brother up.’ His little brother, Christopher, a young lad of not-quite-12-weeks old, sleeps in a stilted extension at his mother’s side of the bed, and is forever having his slumber disturbed by his lumbering big brother.

‘He’ll piss the bed.’ I said.

‘No he won’t,’ she asserted.

‘Jack, do you need to pee?’ I asked him.

‘Nope,’ he said.

For some reason I accepted his reply as definitive proof, even though most days if you ask him, ‘Are you a giant tarantula’, he’ll say yes without a second thought.

I awoke a few hours later feeling very lucky indeed, but only in the sense that while Nostradamus died without seeing any of his prophecies come true, I had woken up tinged with the wet and vindicating piss of a little boy.

I slipped Jack out of his sodden clothes, and carried him through to the bathroom. He stood under the shower, harried and half-asleep, his tears attempting to give the whooshing water a run for its money. He wasn’t happy with the situation, but if happiness is lying in a coating of your own warm piss, then happiness be damned. One quick towel down and change of jammies later, and we were in Jack’s room, crammed together in his tiny single-bed. He burrowed into me like a baby bear, while I lay sprawled and contorted like a giraffe in a toy hammock, desperately trying to stave off deep vein thrombosis.

Have you ever looked into the mirror and said ‘Candyman’ five times? Or crank-called 999? Do you ever just feel like playing chicken with fate? I guess I must’ve been feeling particularly brave or stupid that fateful morning, because I made the ill-advised decision (all decisions are ill-advised when I’m acting as my own advisor) to summon my partner: and when I say ‘summoned’, I can assure you that the context is demonic.

What I said to my son, loudly and clearly, to ensure that my voice carried to the next room, was: ‘Oh, son, don’t you worry about having a little accident. It’s easily fixed, Daddy doesn’t mind. It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have done anything about it… (at this point I sucked my teeth) IF ONLY THERE HAD BEEN SOME WAY WE COULD HAVE STOPPED THIS… IF ONLY… IF ONLY SOMEHOW, SOMEONE, SOME FORWARD-THINKING SOUL, HAD BEEN BOLD ENOUGH TO RECOMMEND STEPS THAT COULD’VE PREVENTED THIS; LIKE, I DON’T KNOW, TAKING YOU FOR A PEE WHEN YOU WOKE UP EARLIER, BUT, YOU KNOW, SON, HINDSIGHT’S TWENTY-TWEN…’

At this point a megaton bomb of thunder detonated in the skies above us, and a thousand jagged forks of lightning drove themselves into the ground, scorching and immolating trees, birds and even people, whose screams filled the air like air-raid sirens. Blood seeped through the walls. Ghosts appeared in a flash-flood of light, and swirled around the room like tornadoes. A raven smashed through the window, squawking its message of hell and damnation, each frantic beat of its wings shooting blood-covered shards of glass across the room towards us. I held my son to shield him from the rising chaos, when, before us, she emerged into the doorway through a pillar of foul-scented smoke, the hair dancing on her head like nests of snakes. Her body jerked and spasmed like a stop-motion animation demon jammed on fast-forward; an inhuman blur of boobs, limbs and underwear. We heard the bites and snaps of a mouth that in its fury was more shark, or Beelzebub, than human.

”WE’ DECIDED NOT TO TAKE HIM FOR A PEE BECAUSE IT WOULD HAVE MADE HIM UPSET, WHICH IT WOULD HAVE, SO EVEN THOUGH THIS HAS HAPPENED, WHICH WE COULDN’T HAVE KNOWN WOULD HAPPEN, IT WAS THE RIGHT DECISION AT THE TIME! AND THAT’S THE END OF IT JAMIE! SO ENOUGH OF YOUR BLOODY SARCASM!’

And with that, she was gone.

As I lay stroking Jack’s hair, a large smile barged its way across my face.

‘Totally worth it,’ I said to him, planting a kiss on his forehead.

I slept the sleep of the just. A dad may only get to experience one moment of pure, undiluted rightness like this once in a lifetime. It’s best to savour it.

Oh, For Fucked Snake…

A true account of snakes and death.

The road where it all happened...

George Orwell once wrote a short, heart-wrenching essay about the death of an elephant. This won’t be like that. And it won’t be as exciting as ‘Snakes on a Plane’. This is ‘One Snake on a Road’, and I don’t think Samuel L Jackson would’ve starred in that movie:

‘Get this motherfucking snake off this motherfucking road.’

‘OK, Samuel, that’s me shifted it.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Anything else I can help you with?’

‘No, that’s fine. It was just the snake I was concerned about.’

‘Cool. You going to be OK now?’

‘Yeah. So long as there aren’t any motherfucking toads in that motherfucking grass.’

I was walking down the side of a rural road in Turkey with my girlfriend when two guys zoomed past us on reasonably shit-looking mopeds. I say zoomed. Imagine the noise of a coin-operated hair-dryer from a cheap motel passing you at the speed of evolution. One of the guys, who was rather fat – a reasonably irrelevant observation, but I just wanted you to be able to picture him; he had a moustache too, if that helps – made a sort of ‘Ahhhh-ooooop’ noise as he realised he’d ran over something. It was the noise of guilt, but a half-assed guilt. After all, he quickly discovered, he’d merely run over a snake. It’s not like it was a mouse or a puppy. ‘Fuck snakes,’ his ooooop seemed to say, ‘I actually found its maiming quite funny.’ If any crippling was to have its own pompy, trumpet-based theme-tune, then this would be the one. 

The snake after its moped incident. Not a happy snake.

We walked to the middle of the road to check how much damage had been done to the poor fella. He was a thick, long and black snake, his head, tail and body immobile. I got down on my haunches to look deep into his tiny snake eyes. They were red-rimmed and staring. His little forked tongue, still and silent, was poking out from his open jaws. Blotches of blood and bits of brain stained the concrete. I prodded his body with a stick I found near-by and watched as his length pathetically swished, curled and twitched from side to side; not knowing whether his movements were caused by some posthumous reflex, or indicative of a last-ditch fight for life. Whichever way I looked at it: that snake was fucked. 

The ideal method of reptile euthanasia.

I used the stick to push it to the grass at the side of the road. So what to do next? I’d never put a creature out of its misery before. I understood the noble inevitability behind the act of animal euthanasia in cases of extreme injury and illness, but always hoped I’d never have to administer it. Especially since this was no cosy vets’ surgery with a sterile needle and a panpipes’ tape. I was at the side of a Turkish road with a snake and a bunch of rocks.

So I picked one up. It was slightly bigger than the palm of my hand, and felt hot from the sun. It wasn’t terribly heavy, but heavy enough to turn a snake’s head into bloody mashed potato. Was I really going to do this?

‘Maybe it’ll get better and be able to slither away itself,’ worried my girlfriend. ‘Or grow a new head or something.’

Deep down, we both knew that this snake wasn’t going to dust itself off and belly into a hedge to gub a shrew. It had chomped its last rodent, terrified its last sandal-wearer. Still, the thought of pulverising this wounded creature made me feel uneasy, despite the mercy aspect.

‘You’re going to kill a snake?’ my girlfriend asked.

‘I think I’m going to kill a snake,’ I replied. 

An old Turkish peasant woman. Not the one I met, in fact this looks nothing like her. She was fatter and less buckled looking.

At that moment an old Muslim woman – head covered, and dressed in peasant apparel – approached us on her way up the road. She didn’t speak any English, but I decided to cross the language barrier by way of mime. I pointed to the snake’s unmoving body, making sure she noted its injury. Then I pointed to the spot on the road from whence I’d flicked it, making sure she saw the blood. I then mimed a man on a motorbike running over a snake. This was the strangest game of charades I’d ever played (sounds like ‘ooooooooop’). I showed her the rock in my hand, and then mimed me bashing in the snake’s head, but made sure to keep a sad expression on my face to let her know that I wasn’t relishing the prospect. After every mini-mime along the way of the long dramatisation of my intended snake-kill she shrugged her shoulders and nodded, a look of nonchalance on her leathery old face. She finally walked off, still nodding and shrugging, leaving me feeling vindicated. After all, this woman was as close to a resident expert on snakes I was likely to find. And, being Muslim, of course she was going to be supportive of a good stoning. The decision was made. I was going to kill that motherfucking snake. 

The snake's stomping (or slithering) ground.

Fine in theory, but I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t even like squashing spiders, hideous nether-beasts though they are. I clenched the rock in my hand, felt its hardness dig into the base of my fingers. I imagined what it would feel like to drive this object through living flesh, but couldn’t, having no frame of reference with which to compare. Maybe it was just resting. Maybe it was in shock, collecting its thoughts, watching its little snake life flashing before its blood-darkened eyes, waiting, just waiting, for some spark, some scintilla of strength to carry it swishing and bobbing back to the safety of its home in the long, lulling lengths of grass and swaying reeds; back to the snakestead; back to its little snake babies, and its anxious snake wife, who’d been so worried about her husband’s absence that she hadn’t even prepared his daily dinner of half-regurgitated rat, and was instead hissing a soft, sussurating lullaby to all the little baby snakes as they cried and cried and cried and cried for their SPLATT! THUD!! BIFF!! KERSPLURGE!!

Like 60’s Batman, but with more snake-blood. 

I couldn't find a picture of a smashed snake, so I chose this one of a bludgeoned woman instead.

By the time I knew what was happening I’d hammered its head about six times with the rock. Then I placed the rock on top of what was left of its skull and stomped down about another six times. Goo was on the roadside, and blood speckled my fingers. My girlfriend said I looked like a maniac. I just wanted it to be dead – medically and incontrovertibly dead – to deliver it from any further agony. The aim was to euthanise the snake, not subject it to a Guantanamo Bay-style shit-kicking.

Mission accomplished: it was dead. It now looked less like a formerly-living creature, and more like the end of a flex of cord that someone had dipped in tomato sauce. And the act of killing it had felt no more unpleasant than slamming a paperweight into a block of warm butter. Those are the kinds of sentences that serial killers smuggle out of prison when they’re writing their memoirs. ‘It all started with the snake. From there, hitch-hikers were easy…’

A German couple walking down the road saw me do it. I approached them, bloodied-rock in hand, shouting: ‘I’m not a snake murderer!’ and then attempted to explain my actions to them. They didn’t speak very good English, so I’m not sure what impression of British people I left them with.

A little farther along the road my girlfriend and I encountered a stray dog, hobbling and panting in the heat.

‘Poor beast,’ I said. ‘Looks on its last legs.’

She looked at me and smiled, ‘You’re not going to bash its head in with a rock, too, are you?’

‘No,’ I laughed. ‘No, of course not, no. Certainly not…’

‘no…’

‘…at least…’

It was a very poorly dog.

‘…I don’t think so…’

Movie Reboots – WHITE VAN MAN HELSING

Dracula: nonce.

‘Bloody place is crawlin’ with fakkin’ vampires,’ says White Van Man Helsing in the film’s first scene. ‘Why can’t they all just fakk off back to Romania?’

Helsing, played by Ray Winstone, snarls these words as he pulls up outside Castle Dracula in his dodgy white van. The action takes place not in Transylvania, but Hackney, where Dracula has built his castle using taxpayers’ money and PFI subsidies. Armed only with a lifetime’s worth of knowledge amassed from The Sun, and fingers of steel thanks to thirty-five years of arse scratching, Van Man Helsing has his work cut out for him. Especially since he refuses to use traditional methods to take down his nemesis. ‘Garlic? Bloody Frog cunts would love it if I used garlic, wouldn’t they? Not until those European nonces let us have our fakkin’ bendy bananas back!’

'Ooooy! You causin' bubble, you pointy-toothed slag?'

‘The Wolfman is alright,’ Helsing tells his apprentice, Danny Dyer, played by TV’s Danny Dyer, ‘at least ee can look after ’imself in a scrap. But that muppet up there, readin’ his bloody books, ’avin bloody orgies and suckin’ ar bloody British blood without liftin‘ a finger to pay tax? Makes my bloody British blood boil, so it does!’

Helsing manages to take out Dracula by force-feeding him a bag of Greggs’ pies until the count succumbs to a massive coronary. ‘Steak-and-kidney pie froo the ‘art,’ he quips, ‘Bloody mug.’

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: DSS Interview With the Vampire. Tom Cruise has a tough time convincing the council that his disability benefits are kosher. Especially since they’ve got a video of him draining a virgin while he’s been claiming for a bad back.