It’s 6.59pm and so close to the kid’s bedtime that I’m tonguing at the air like it’s a big fat triple scoop of boysenberry and freedom flavoured ice-cream when seven year old Lewis walks into the bathroom, where I’m supervising Tyson’s teeth cleaning, and says, ‘Dad, I can’t find my school reader.’
‘It’s on the kitchen bench,’ I say as Tyson tells me he wants to dance and thirty seconds later when Lewis returns I’m singing the Cheryl Lynn classic Got To Be Real as Tyson nods and gyrates and laugh-drools toothpaste onto his pyjama top.
‘I can’t find it,’ Lewis says.
‘It’s on the bench.’
‘It’s not. I looked.’
After guiding Tyson out of the bathroom and towards his room I try to moonwalk my way down the hall certain of finding Lewis’s reader right where I said it would be and looking forward to using my mime-face to communicate a wordless Wow what’s this? A reader?! but when my foot slides into a puddle most likely deposited by our toilet training toddler I’m forced to turn and tiptoe the rest of the way. When I get to the kitchen bench the reader is not there and my mime-face dreams are replaced by confusion.
‘I gave it to you about half an hour ago, Lewis,’ Reservoir Mum says as she fills a bottle of milk for Maki. ‘You took it in to Archie’s room.’
‘Oh, yeah!’ Lewis says, running back down the hall.
‘Wow, I say. ‘Looks like he’s inherited his Gran’s fits of absent-mindedness.’
‘Just like his old man,’ RM says.
‘Me? I say.
‘Ummmm…. yep,’ she says, raising her eyebrows, smiling and nodding excessively, using the very mime-face of sarcasm I was going to use on Lewis.
‘Lewis collecting his reader and then forgetting all about it is perfectly Mum,’ I say, going on to remind her of the time Mum was making quiche while in deep discussion with my sister Joanne. She cracked four eggs, deposited their contents onto the kitchen bench and placed the shells into the mixing bowl, one after the other, before Joanne clicked her fingers and alerted Mum to her hilarious error.
‘You’ve done worse than that,’ RM says. ‘God, you picked on your poor Mum with the post about blending her finger but you could write a thousand posts like that about yourself….’
‘I didn’t pick on her…’ I say.
‘You should do it,’ RM says, ignoring me, smiling again. ‘You’re holding back a huge part of yourself from your readers.’
‘Name one time where I’ve been that absent-minded,’ I say.
RM screws the cap on the bottle, scoops up Maki and hands him over to me for a night-time hug and when I hand him back whispers, ‘Ben Mundy’ using the mime-face so perfectly that I actually feel intimidated and have to turn away to avoid her gaze.
‘Ben who?’ I say, just before the sound of clicking fingers echo through my braincase…
It’s December 24 2010 and I’ve driven to JB Hi-Fi, Northland Shopping Centre, with twenty month old Tyson to buy a Christmas present for Reservoir Mum.
She’s been dropping a few hints here and there about how much she loves a particular singer who’s just hit the world scene. He’s cool and sexy – possessed of just the right amount of cheeky – and has the voice and natural rhythm that might see him rival great stars of the past like Rick Astley and Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson.
She’s been so keen on receiving his first hit CD as a Christmas present that she’s hummed his songs during foreplay and sung full choruses during sex in the hope of training me like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
I’m as happy about the melodic orgasms as I am of the fact that I don’t have to spend hours and days and weeks wondering about what I should buy her for Christmas and as I approach the man behind the counter at the insanely packed JB Hi-Fi, with Tyson chewing on the corner of a DVD – The Simpsons Movie I snatched from the shelf to ease his teething pain – I realise I’m actually drooling a little and I have to admit that RM’s mind-training technique has worked a treat.
My plan is to get an employee to locate the CD for me and to get the hell out of there as soon as possible and so I say, ‘I’d like to purchase the Ben Mundy CD’ as soon as the man beckons me forward with his Christmas-kills-me smile.
‘Ben Mundy?’ he says, taking a step to the left to tap into the keyboard and look into the computer monitor. ‘I haven’t heard of him.’
Typical I think, smiling a little at his utter irrelevance to popular music.
‘Nope, there’s nothing here,’ he says.
Tyson moans and throws the Simpsons to the floor and even though I look past the man to the several other employees lining the inside of the horse-shoe shaped counter, I decide not to offend his musically dead soul by asking to speak to someone else and instead insist, ‘He’s a very popular singer. He has songs in… um… the charts.’
‘Do you know any of the songs?’ he asks.
I answer in the affirmative but when I open my mouth only um comes out and nothing emerges from the recesses of my mind except for the memory of an earlier unrelated erection. ‘Um…’ I say again, tapping my feet and trying to rebirth the rhythm. ‘Dah-dah… dah-dum, dah-dum, dah… are you sure you can’t find anything? It’s Ben Mundy. Mundy spelt M-U-N-D-Y…’
His fingers do the tappy-tappy over the keyboard again but he holds strong to an expression of mild annoyance and even though he doesn’t say, ‘Piss off will you, it’s Christmas Eve,’ I know he’s thinking it.
‘It mightn’t have been released yet…’ he says.
‘Oh, it’s been released,’ I say, cutting him off.
‘If you want, I can make a note here and get someone to call you when it comes in.’
Tyson squeals and drools and twists hard against the prams restraints and I offer a sneering but polite thank you for your time, pissed off that I have to source another Christmas present, but also looking forward to the conversation I’ll have later with RM about the inexperienced, overworked JB Hi-Fi lacky who was not only rude but had also never heard of Ben Mundy.
The next hour drags on like a stubborn case of rectal worms with Tyson a wailing siren and I’m Scrooge walking from one overpriced shop to the other, picking up a thousand items of utter uselessness before finally settling on a three-foot rose scented candle with LOVE written on it in sparkly letters and by the time I get home the boys are watching a Christmas movie and I’m ready to unload my outrage onto RM and looking forward to having it reciprocated.
‘I really wanted to surprise you with the Ben Mundy CD,’ I say, only seconds after handing Tyson over to RM for a breastfeed and flopping to the couch with my arms crossed, ‘But the dickheads at JB Hi-Fi have not only forgotten to stock it, but don’t even know who he is.’
‘Who’s Ben Mundy?’ she says.
When I look at RM I’m aware that I am beholding her like I would a magician who has just pulled a rabbit out of a hat, or a pigeon out of a sleeve. She bows her head and squeezes the bridge of her nose as she stifles a giggle and says, ‘Oh my God. You mean Bruno Mars, don’t you?’
A moment passes, as I successfully fight off a spontaneous emission, before I lift myself from the couch and plod towards the door.
‘Be back in a minute,’ I say, as RM breaks out in the kind of laughter that would break a lesser man. ‘I’m just going to go see a guy about a CD.’