Suffer Little Children

“So…”

“So…?”

“Thanks for meeting me here.”

“That’s OK. I could have picked you up though. It was on my way.”

“Yeah… no. That wouldn’t have been a good… No.”

“Are you OK?”

“What do you want to drink? I’m buying.”

“No, I’ll get these—“

“It’s on me.”

“OK… erm, a pint. I suppose. Carling or… whatever they’ve got.”

“Pint of Carling, please – and a rum and coke.”

“So… ah, is something…? You seem a little…”

“I bought your comic this morning.”

“Really? Aw, you didn’t have to – I’ve got a comp copy I was going to… I mean, I know you’re not into comics or anything, but I had a copy for you anyway.”

“Yeah, well… I wanted to buy one. Support your… I mean, every sale helps, right?”

“Can’t deny that, and thanks – but we’ve got pre-orders somewhere in the region of 105,000. We’re third on the Diamond list for August with only Secret Invasion and some overblown Mark Millar piece of shit ahead of us. They’re already talking about a second printing, and it’s only been on the shelves two days—“

“Good for you. I mean… congratulations. I don’t think we should see each other any more.”

“…I’m sorry?”

“No, I didn’t… that didn’t come out the way I wanted it to sound…”

“I should hope not!”

“What I really meant was – I don’t want to see you any more.”

“Ceri, are you… Sorry, I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. I mean—“

“I’m not.”

“Oh. Wow. Wow. But… Are you sure?”

“Quite. I’m sorry, I just—“

“Is it something I’ve done?”

“Well, I’d say that’s a pretty safe bet, wouldn’t you?”

“I thought we were getting on so well. We were talking about moving in together!”

“So thank god this happened before we actually… It makes it a lot less messy, don’t you think?”

“But… I mean – I love you and all that.”

“Well, I’m sorry about that, David – I don’t want to hurt you…”

“David? You’re calling me David now? You never called me David!”

“It helps me to think of you as… I mean, you’re someone else now. You’re not the person I thought I knew. It’s become… apparent to me, that person doesn’t exist.”

“What the hell are you talking about? What…? What have I done that could be so…? I mean, what’s happened since the last time we…? Usually, I can tell. You get the signs, if someone’s not into you anymore. They go off the… I mean, they don’t want to be as physically intimate with you, or they stop calling you, or… But you were all over me last weekend, and you’ve called me every day this – sometimes two or three times a… You were talking about going away, for the Bank Holiday, to that place up in Scotland, you—“

“Please stop. If you’ll just let me… I know I owe you an explanation. I know this must seem all very sudden – it is all very sudden. But I’ve thought about it all day and… it’s not just some knee-jerk reaction. It’s not like I’m going to change my mind about this if I have more time to think it over. I don’t want to think it over any more. If this is the person you are – and I suppose the clues have been there all along, I just didn’t want to… If this is who you are, you’re not the person for me. It’s as simple as that really. I don’t know what else to—“

“If what is the person I really am? Knee-jerk reaction to what? Will you please tell me what the fuck you’re talking about before I—“

“This, David.”

“…the comic? My… I don’t… You know I write comics. You’ve known since we met that I’ve been trying to… I know you’re not interested in the medium or… but it’s my job. It’s what I enjoy doing. And this… it’s a success – my first big hit. I’d have thought you’d have been proud—“

“I’d have thought that too. I did think… that’s why I went out this morning, went into that grubby little shop with all the pictures of the impossibly proportioned, half-naked… Why I bought this, this…”

“Go on. Say what you’re thinking.”

“No, I don’t… It doesn’t matter.”

“No, go on. Get it off your chest. If you’re dumping me, at least give me both barrels. What is it exactly you didn’t like about my comic, Ceri?”

“It’s not just one thing. It’s… everything.”

“Please. Elaborate. I deserve that, at least, don’t I?”

“Oh, very well, David… Your, your hero… He goes around shooting innocent children with a hi-tech bow and arrow. He shoots them in the head. He shoots them in the eyeball. He shoots them in the groin. He—“

“Well, for a start I take exception at the word ‘innocent’. The kids he kills are bullies, Ceri. They’re nasty little brutes who get off on inflicting pain and misery on smaller kids. Kids who can’t fight back. Kids who… And in case it slipped your attention, Ceri – he’s a kid himself. Bowhunter. He’s only six years old when the story begins, and—“

“Oh, yes – when the story begins. But let’s not forget the flashbacks, eh? Firing sharpened 4H pencils into the face of the babysitter—“

“—who was doing crack while she was supposed to be looking after him!”

“Choking the nursery nurse with the bottle she was trying to feed him with?”

“She had Munchausen’s by proxy – she was a baby killer!”

“Using his own umbilical cord to strangle the doctor who delivers him?”

“The doctor responsible for his mother’s death only moments earlier?”

“And that makes it right?”

“Right? It’s not about… It’s revenge fantasy, Ceri – it’s not supposed to be taken… I mean, it’s played for laughs most of the time anyway. Although there is a serious point behind it – that children are just as capable of harbouring violent, vengeful thoughts as adults are – probably more so, if you think about it, since they haven’t yet developed the necessary… necessary… I can’t believe you’re dumping me because of a comic!”

“It’s not the comic, David. It’s the mind that made the comic. That thought up these… That thinks this way about people – about children!”

“What? People can be bastards – children can be bastards too. It doesn’t mean I think all people, or even all children are… It just means…”

“Well, I think it’s fair to say we know which side of the whole nature / nurture debate you come down on, at least.”

“Yeah? Yeah, I suppose we do. See I’ve known good people – good parents, Ceri – whose kids have turned out to be vicious, uncontrollable little monsters. And then there’s others – take Gary Barker – his dad was a violent, alcoholic, dick-head; his mum put it about with every bloke she met; his elder brother’s in Armley – yet Gary, Gary’s the softest bloke you could ever hope to meet. Wouldn’t hurt a… This is ridiculous. Why are we even talking about this? I mean – this, this is why you don’t want us to be together anymore? This isn’t a reason, Ceri – it’s a difference of… It’s an excuse, that’s what it is. You’re just looking for some—“

“Do you even like children, David?”

“What now? Haven’t we… I like the ones that deserve liking. Same as any other people. True, there aren’t that many of them about, but—“

“And what if we had kids? What if one of our kids turned out to be some kind of vicious uncontrollable monster? What would you do then? What…?”

“Oh. I see. Right. I see now – this isn’t about the comic at all, is it?”

“Of course it’s not about the bloody comic!”

“But… we’ve already talked about this, Ceri. I told you! If you decided… I mean, if you really wanted… I’d be there for you. Of course I would. I love you, whatever you…”

“Yes. Well. I’ve decided. I’ve decided… I don’t want to be the one who risks putting you in a situation you’d obviously find so utterly repugnant as… How could I do that to someone I…? I mean…”

“Someone you…?”

“Goodbye, Dave…”

“Wait! Ceri! Don’t–”

“No. I’m sorry. I just…”

“Ceri! At least wait until you’ve read the second issue!”

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Rol Hirst was the first man in space from Huddersfield. The Russians still beat him up there.

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