AND NOW WE LOOK AT
The interior of a stifle-untidy family car, slow-crawling a north-easterly exit of the M1, the driving mother, the father, the daughter and son, the sad-eyed border collie all occupying this cramped space, where the dim crackle of radio and engine backdrop their humid worldview of litter-strewn verge and number plate, the dog soft-punctuating with a tongue-lolling pantpantpant, head hanging out the half-open left-side rear window, its shuffling rump now nudging the nine-year-old boy, who elbows back, says GERROFF JACK, returns to his Gameboy Pokémon Yellow, sending Jigglypuff out to use sing against Jessie’s Arbok, the boy’s twelve-year-old sister gazing out the half-open right-side rear window, teen magazine on her lap, and God it’s hot, and How long until we get there? To which the driving mother replies An hour? Maybe more? And by her side with cigarette hanging out the wound down passenger-side window, the sunglasses and stubbled husband, taking a swag from the squash bottle markerpenned with a smiley face and the name Billy, one-quarter of the night-before’s prepared supplies happily assembled by this wife and mother, each with their own name-scrawled drink and Tupperware box of food, each containing that lovingly put together quartet of sandwiches, bag of crisps, and by now half-melted Mars Bar, for this, their first holiday in two years, that week-rented three-storey fisherman’s cottage overlooking Whitby harbour, last night’s talk of tomorrow’s sound of seagulls and sea, the feel of sand between toes, of evening strolls along the shoreline, all subtexted by the unspoken hope of things sorted, of Billy now leaning forward and turning the radio up, of CONFIDENCE IS A PREFERENCE FOR THE HABITUAL VOYEUR OF WHAT IS KNOWN AS...
BILLY (turns to face his kids in backseat): PARK-LIFE!
Scarlett and Joe look at each other and roll their eyes.
BILLY: Come on, babies! HOL-I-DAY! (wags his index fingers like a conductor) AND MORNING SOUP CAN BE AVOIDED IF YOU TAKE A ROUTE STRAIGHT-THROUGH WHAT IS KNOWN AS (cups his right ear towards kids).
SCARLETT/JOE (half-heartedly): Park-life.
Billy pulls a mock sad face at them both. Grace turns the radio down. Billy turns in his seat to look at her. He tuts.
GRACE: I can’t hear the engine, Billy.
BILLY (drinks from squash bottle): And what’s the engine saying to you, Grace? (imitates an engine) Brrrrummm-brrrrummm, Graaaace, Graaaace, you’re borr-ring.
GRACE (smiling, play-slaps Billy on the knee): Shut up.
Billy drinks from the squash bottle again, screws the lid back on, places the bottle into the well between the front seats. Billy then twists in his seat, reaching back to squeeze Joe’s right knee. Joe looks up from his game and frowns.
BILLY: So Joe, how’s the Pokémon slave trade going?
Joe rolls his eyes then smiles sarcastically at his father. Billy turns his attention to Scarlett, who is absorbed in her magazine. He flicks the face of the young boy on the cover. Scarlett twitches then looks over her magazine at her father. Billy holds a packet of Polo mints out to her.
SCARLETT (returning her gaze to the magazine): No ta, Dad.
BILLY: So who’s the hottie on the front?
SCARLETT (from behind the magazine): Dunno. Just some boy.
Joe looks over his Gameboy at his dad.
JOE (deadpan): Dad, you’re weird.
BILLY (smiling at his son): Polo-jo-jo?
Joe leans forward to take a mint. Billy pulls the packet away from the boy’s reach.
BILLY (imitates gills with his hands): Sucker-BLOWFISH!
JOE (returning to his game): Fair enough.
Billy starts prodding the boy’s knee with the packet of Polos.
BILLY (robotically): Am I buggin you am I buggin you am I buggin you am I...
JOE (looking up with a snap): YES!
BILLY (holding mints out again): Polo-lo-lo-jo-jo-jo-jo?
GRACE: For goodness sake you two, cut it out! It’s too bloody hot for this!
Billy turns back to face the windscreen. He puts a hand on Grace’s knee.
BILLY: Soz. Just seaside excited.
A moment’s peace is broken by the dog whimpering.
SCARLETT: Jack needs a wee.
JOE: Me too.
GRACE: Service station coming up.
BILLY: Can’t wait to get on that beach at Robin Hood’s Bay.
JOE: Why is it called Robin Hood’s Bay?
BILLY (sucking on a Polo): Dunno. Maybe Robin Hood lived there for a bit?
SCARLETT: I thought Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest?
GRACE: Isn’t he fictional?
JOE: We did him at school. Miss said he was real but a lot of the stories were made up about him. In songs and stuff.
BILLY: One day they’ll sing songs about me.
JOE (sings): I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo...
They all laugh. Billy turns and points a finger at Joe in mock threat. Joe grins at his father.
GRACE: Here we go.
They pull off the main road into a service station. Billy takes his drink from the well and unscrews the cap.
BILLY (drinks): You lot nip to the bogs then, and I’ll take Jack for a slash.
And now we look at Billy slipping the lead over his panting dog’s head through the open backdoor, the mother and her children crossing the tarmac to the toilets, Billy now walking the dog to the grass verge, fag lit as the dog sniffs the waste bin, cocks a leg and pisses long, Billy watching as his family disappear behind the brick-built garage, him now dragging Jack back to the car, that sunrise in his belly as he bends to pour water from a plastic bottle into a red plastic bowl, all is good, all is sorted, and the dog bows down to drink, Billy now rummaging his rucksack in the boot, bottle of squash stood waiting by the cool-box, a glance to the garage, now topping the bottle up, now screwing the top back on, now skipping across to the waste bin dropping that empty Vladivar in amongst the trash, the smiley-faced squash bottle placed back into the well, now dragging Jack back into the car, now sitting back down in the passenger-seat to take a drink, sucking on a Polo to tell himself he’s bossing this, that none at all ever was never going to work, that a self-set limit was agreed on as the only way forward, that what they don’t know won’t hurt them, that this is a holiday for fuck’s sake.