Boys Don't Knit

Meet Ben Fletcher: accidental criminal. Liar. Master of mohair. After an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady, Ben narrowly avoids the Young Offenders Unit. He is told to Give Something Back to the community to develop his Sense of Social Alignment, so he takes up knitting. Of course.


1. 1st July

1st July


Mum and Dad are at it again. They’re doing that thing where they make food-based double entendres all the time, thinking it goes over our heads. It goes over Molly’s head, she’s only six and she never listens to Mum or Dad anyway. I guess it used to go over my head too, when I was little. But I’m older now, and more sophisticated. I know what they’re up to and it makes me want to vomit.


On Friday night, we had Chicken Kiev and baked potatoes. As she was serving, Mum said, ‘Dave, could you get the spuds out?’


And Dad said, ‘I’m always happy to get my spuds out for you.’


This is what passes for humour in our house. Though that wasn’t quite as sick-making as today when we had a BBQ down in the park. Mum was carrying too much from the car and nearly dropped a pack of burger buns.


‘Let me take hold of your baps, Susan,’ Dad said.


‘Don’t squeeze them too hard,’ Mum replied, giggling.


How can I make them stop?! Surely they know I understand the concept of the double entendre, even if Molly is too young to get it. In fact, I know they know, because Dad winked at me as he made the bap comment, trying to include me in the ‘joke’. They’ve both been trying to be more inclusive and matey with me lately, ever since the lollipop lady incident. It’s like they’ve talked it over and decided it must have been their fault and that I need more support or something. I liked it better the way it was when they’d just ignore me and offer no support whatsoever.


Mum and Dad never really got angry with me about the lollipop lady, even when that policewoman told Dad he might be made to attend an Effective Parenting Course. Even when I had to go to the Magistrates’ Court. Even when I got probation for twelve months. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in any real trouble. To be quite honest, I think a part of Dad was pleased I’d finally done something lairy, as he put it. He’s always telling me stories about the scrapes he used to get into with his friends.


Anyway, Bap-gate wasn’t the only embarrassing thing that happened at the BBQ today. Dad insisted on bringing his big iron bucket barbecue, which is about the size of the Olympic Cauldron. We’d had to come in his work truck as it wouldn’t have fitted in the back of Mum’s MPV. Dad had filled it with equal thirds of wood, briquettes and fire-lighters. Thankfully Molly had disappeared into the woods down near the river, looking for animals.


‘Are you sure you’re allowed to light that thing here?’ I asked, uncertainly.


‘The sign says you’re allowed barbecues as long as they’re raised off the grfass,’ Mum said. She was sitting on a bench, twisting her long fingers, practising her magic by making boiled eggs disappear, one by one.


‘I think, though,’ I said, ‘that they mean those little disposable jobs you get from Robert Dyas, rather than the nuclear fission-fuelled thing we’ve got. We only have one pack of sausages and some chicken drumsticks to cook. We’re not burning a Viking chief.’


Dad ignored me, as he usually did when he thought I was fussing. That’s what they think I’m doing. Fussing. But it’s not fussing, it’s worrying, and with good reason, because people around me like to do stupid things.


It was then that I noticed Megan Hooper with her family. They were at a picnic table about a hundred metres away. There she was, sweet Megan Hooper with her ample chest, sitting next to her weirdly hot mother and opposite her normal-looking Dad and her quiet little brother with the enormous Bambi eyes. They had a little supermarket BBQ and were laughing and eating posh crisps one by one and they just looked so neat and organised and I found myself wishing I was part of their family.


‘Seriously though, Dad,’ I said haltingly, as he squirted flammable jelly over the critical mass. ‘Maybe you should take out some of the fire-lighters?’


‘Nah, it’ll be fine, Ben,’ he replied. ‘You need heat when you’re cooking on a barbecue. You’ve got to make sure it’s hot enough to cook the meat all the way through, do you see?’


I could see all too well. So I stepped back, and he stepped forward and dropped in a match.


The ensuing fireball must have been visible from space.


It’s OK, though, because Mum’s since drawn his eyebrows back on with eye-liner.


We had to wait forty-five minutes before it had cooled enough to cook on and then it only took about twenty six seconds to burn the chicken. But just when I noticed that the sausages were looking comparatively good, Dad took away my appetite.


‘Give that one there to your mum, she likes a nice, long sausage.’


I couldn’t bring myself to look over at the Hoopers while all this was going on, but I could feel them looking over at my messy family standing around Mt Vesuvius, their eyes on my back, hotter than the barbecue itself.


Why does no-one ever listen to me? This is how I got into trouble in the first place, because no one would listen to me.

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