(Bennett’s monologue appeared in the London Review of Books, 7/16.)
An ordinary kitchen. Gwen, a middle-aged woman, talks to the camera.
He pulled up his trousers.
‘You are nice to me,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t have shown it to anybody else.’
I said, ‘Well, I hope you haven’t been doing.’
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Not much chance of that. No demand at the moment.’
He’d come home from school looking a bit down and retreats upstairs to his room and doesn’t even bother to raid the fridge, by which I take it something’s amiss. He plays his music for a bit and I’m ironing when he comes down barefoot and sits at the table watching me, which is an event in itself. Suddenly he gets up and says, ‘Mum, I’m going to show you this, but it’ll be the last time you’ll ever see it.’
And he undoes his trousers and pulls down his shorts.
He said, ‘Now, what’s that?’
Well, it was nothing. I couldn’t even see where he meant until he points it out, just a bit of a spot. Only it was the other I couldn’t get over. I hadn’t been keeping track and I don’t know when I last saw it exactly, but he can’t have been much more than twelve. And he’s only fifteen now but you wouldn’t know.
He said, ‘Are you sure?’
I said, ‘Michael. It’s a spot, love, that’s all it is,’ and I got him some stuff to put on.
He gets his trousers up sharp.
He said, ‘Don’t tell Dad.’
‘Why should I tell Dad? Why should I tell Dad anything?’
‘And don’t tell our Maureen.’
‘As if,’ I said (which is what he’s always saying).
‘I don’t want my private parts mulled over by my sister.’ He’s getting some pie from the fridge.
I said, ‘Wash your hands.’
He said, ‘You said it was nothing.’
I said, ‘It is nothing but wash your hands.’
It’s an aerodrome we go to, disused. We shouldn’t but he’s only fifteen so it would be illegal anywhere else, and I’m not altogether sure it’s legal there, but it’s off the road and he’s desperate to start driving. His dad’s not keen but he doesn’t have the patience to teach him anyway.
I nearly killed him though today. There was a lad gunning his motorbike about and Michael nearly went into him, scraped him. It was my fault. I should have been looking in the mirror. He scarcely touched us, this lad, and just belted off, only I had my hand gripping Michael’s leg I was so shocked. And he was trembling. He said, ‘Mum, let go my leg.’ I said, ‘I hope it hasn’t scratched the bodywork.’ He said, ‘It’s my bodywork I’m bothered about, let go my leg.’ Anyway, there was only a tiny mark on the bumper. I couldn’t hardly see it, only I said I’d tell Dad it was me that was driving.
I’d brought a flask, so we sat there on this runway having some coffee. I said, shouted actually, with having his music on, ‘Is this what they call “quality time”?’
And he nods, though whether at me or the music I couldn’t tell. And then he’s looking at his phone.
Later on, Maureen saw me checking the bumper. She said, ‘Is that a scratch?’
‘No, it fucking well isn’t,’ Michael said. ‘And anyway Mum was driving.’
He winks at me. And I wink back, only I can’t wink so just screwed my face up.
He looks more than fifteen.
Thinking about it afterwards, I didn’t see the bike because I was looking at Michael’s hands on the wheel and thinking how much nicer they are than my hands.