Fingers wishes to send me to an early grave at the moment. He would not express it quite like that, I imagine. He probably wouldn't say anything, he would just stare blankly in mute defiance whilst feeding the dog a battery.
I don't talk about Fingers as much as Lashes, do I? That will be one for his psychiatrist to try and unknot in a few years time at my expense. I think about him quite as much, if not more, but in general our relationship is very serene, and rarely causes me much anxiety. He is funny and self-assured and stable. I think he's fundamentally All Right. What do you know about Fingers, so far? He is five and he believes he is a parrot. He is extremely secretive, orderly and verging on obsessive compulsive; an odd mix of exuberant and very, very careful. What I have not told you in that on occasion he is replaced by a shrieking satanic demon. The Beast.
This first happened when he was 11 months old. From one day to the next, our cheery blond baby learnt the art of the screaming rabid tantrum, coupled with rhythmic banging of his head against the nearest hard surface. For about a year thereafter he was unbearably cross - attacking his brother, hurling himself to the floor at the least imagined slight, terrorising his peers. The CFO and I were aghast at the monster we had created, if not entirely surprised. We combine a fine set of argumentative, bloody minded, stubborn, aggressive genes. They were bound to come back and bite us.
I was quite scared of him for most of that time, and we were only able to function at all if I made myself permanently available to appease his moods with Carrs Melts whenever the imperious cry of "CRACKER WAITING" rang out. We were living in an open plan flat at the time and the Beast would stagger menacingly over to the kitchen, wrap its small fists round the handles of the biscuit cupboard, fix me with a hard stare and terrify me into submisssion. If thwarted, the Beast's rages were earth-shattering. Often I would lock myself in the loo and call the CFO for moral support as the Beast raged outside the door. This was also the year he perfected 'The Ironing Board', a move he still uses to great effect, making himself flat, rigid and unmoveable on demand. This replaced the headbanging shortly after his mistaken attempt to headbang in the bath. Cue glug glug glug noise, look of intense furious confusion, great adult hilarity.
Somewhere around his second birthday, the fury subsided and the Beast was replaced with a funny small child with gigantic hair. He still had an almighty mutinous streak, and I treated him with a hell of a lot more respect now I knew what he was capable of, but acts of outright war seemed to dry up. Cautiously, we got on with living. I no longer needed to have a cracker in easy reach at all times.
Since then the Beast has meandered in and out of our life with great unpredictability. Right now, it is back. This weekend the Beast tried to cut Oscar's tail off with a very small pair of scissors. Later the same day, I heard muffled noises and came into the room to find the Beast sitting, implacable, on a struggling weepette. "FINGERS!" When taken to task, the Beast goes mute and indifferent. It shows no remorse. You will not hear the word 'sorry' pass the Beast's lips. Rather death than dishonour.
The Beast rivals Kafka in its sinister absurdity. Yesterday I made chicken. The same chicken I usually make.
"I will not eat this" intoned the Beast, thrusting its plate away with exaggerated disgust. "It is viande. I am waiting until you give me chicken".
"It IS chicken, Fingers".
"No, it is viande".
"It's chicken, I promise. I cooked it. It said chicken on the packet. It's chicken".
"No. It is viande. I am waiting for chicken".
Against my better judgment, the CFO muddied the waters.
"Chicken is viande". Fool.
"No. This is viande. I am waiting for chicken".
"Look Fingers. Look on this plate. That looks like chicken doesn't it? Well, that is where your chicken came from"
"That is viande. It is all viande. I am waiting for chicken".
"Shackass. Can you deal with this? He's beaten me. I'm going to lie on the floor of the loo and practise whale song".
He could rival an on-message politician on Newsnight in his single minded determination to be right. The Beast has a will of steel, and is willing to go to bed rather than eat "viande". If I am Neville Chamberlain faced with the Beast, always looking for the face-saving solution, the CFO is not. He fights wilful with wilful. Mexican standoffs are the norm. There is roaring. There are ultimatums. The house resounds with the menacing strains of "Je vais compter jusqu'à trois", a phrase the Beast interprets as a declaration of war, requiring full Ironing Board manouevre. The Beast is manhandled to its bedroom, fighting all the way, hooking its cloven hooves through the bannister and hanging on for grim life to impede our progress. It retires bloody but unbowed, unsullied by the demon viande. The adults require hard liquor.
Again, this morning.
"Fingers, cornflakes or Rice Crispies?"
"No, you can't have biscuits for breakfast. What do you want?"
"No. Not biscuits. What cereal do you want?"
"YOU CAN'T HAVE BISCUITS"
"Shackafuckingjezusemann I need a cup of tea. Call me when you want your breakfast"
"RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH WANT BREAKFAST"
"We don't have any. Rice Crispies or Cornflakes?"
"I am waiting until you get me papa cereal [ndlr Chocolate Weetabix Minis, rare and precious. None left.]"
"We don't have any. It's 7 in the morning. The only place they sell papa cereal is 4 miles from here".
"Lashes can go. I am waiting until you get me papa cereal"
"YOU ARE NOT GETTING PAPA CEREAL. What do you want for breakfast?"
"RIGHT. If you don't want to eat you can put your clothes on"
"YES". Emma attempts to carry the Beast up to its bedroom in full Ironing Board. The Beast writhes and shrieks and hooks its arms and legs around stuff to impede her progress. By the time they get up two flights of stairs, everyone is exhausted. It is 7am.
In an odd way, I sort of like the Beast. I like the way the Beast does whatever it damn well wants. Look how small it is!
Often I look down while the Beast and I are locked in mortal combat and I am just astonished by how small it is. Small but deadly like one of those Honey Badgers. Lovely Beast. I am giving you a cautious pat, wearing thick protective gloves.