The trains home are always horrendously busy on a Friday night, and this Friday as the last few seats disappeared, a gentleman got on with a small boy sat in the seat opposite me.  The boy was about six and like any lively six year old on an outing, at first he was playing up, making silly noises and squealing and all sorts of kids things that kids normally do.

The father tried a variety of strategies to keep him from getting too loud despite the fact that the boy was apparently in the middle of a sugar rush after an indulgent afternoon raiding Grandma’s sweetie bowl, and eventually hit on the expedient of telling a story.

This being met with some enthusiasm, negotiations continued until he suggested that the little boy could dictate a story and the father would type it on his laptop, which offer was graciously accepted.

The little boy assumed a position of deep thought, and the father opened up a document and poised his hands over the keyboard. “Okay” he said, “what do you want the story to be about?”

“I will tell you.” The little boy mused for a moment longer. “Once upon a time there was a little boy called Max went and he found a cave.”

“A cave?” The father, tapping away. “What was in the cave?”

The little boy didn’t even need to think about this. “Gold. Lots of gold, and some diamonds. And also swords.”

“Armour?” The father asked. “Okay.”

“Max was very disappointed because there was only one piece of gold and only one diamond and only one piece of sword.” The little boy went on.

The father looked up. “No, you say there was lots of gold and lots of diamonds and lots of armour? That doesn’t make any sense.”

It does if the cave is very very small, I thought to myself, being something of a pedant.

“There was only one piece of gold,” the little boy repeated obstinately, but his father was having none.

“What if we say ‘there is some gold’?” He typed, muttering aloud “there is some gold.”

That’s a bit duff, I thought. Whose story is this anyway?

But the little boy was continuing. “There was one sword in the cave that Max really wanted. It was all made of gold with all diamonds on it.”

Don’t do it, I thought, but alas he did.

“You can’t have a sword all made of gold,” the father told him. “Gold is a very soft metal and it wouldn’t make a very good sword at all; perhaps only the hilt is made of gold.”

“What’s a hilt?” The little boy asked.

“It’s like the handle bit. And actually probably wouldn’t be made of gold either.” The man tapped away, muttering to himself “’Max’s eye was particularly caught by one sword which had a gold-plated hilt.’ There, that makes a bit more sense.”

The little boy ignored him. “Max looked at the sword. It was all gold and shiny. He wanted it very much, but he could not have it.”

“He wanted the sword, but there was a problem.” The dad typed. “Oh no, what was the problem?”

“Max looked around and realised that this cave was full of Creepers.”

“Oh? What are Creepers?”

“They are things that creep up behind you and grab you. Creepers, and also lots of Endermen.”

“Ender-men?” The father asked.

“They are like men but they’re really scary and when you go towards them they disappear and reappear in another place.” The child went on.

They’re pretty good creatures for a six year old, I thought. Let’s have a bit more about the Endermen, eh?

“So then what happened?” The father tapped away at his laptop. “Are you going to tell me what the Endermen looked like?”

“No, they’re just men.” The boy replied. “Then Max’s friend turned up. His name was Jane.”

“His name was Jane? Isn’t Jane a girl’s name?”

“No. Jane is a boy.” The little boy replied decisively. “Jane did a backflip. He was going to help Max get the sword. He could get past the Creepers and the Endermen.”

“How about ‘Jane backflipped into battle’?” The father asked.

“No.” The little boy replied. “Jane did a backflip.”

“… Backflipped into battle” the father muttered as he typed.

“He landed on his feet and hit the Creeper in the face and threw a dagger at the Enderman.”

“Cool!” the father replied. “And then?”

“The Enderman turned into a Dragon. An EnderDragon.”

“Oh, that’s unexpected! An Ender…Dragon. Okay, then what?”

“Jane got the sword. The end.”

“The end?” The dad stopped typing and looked at his son. “But that was just getting good. Why did the Enderman turn into a dragon? Did Jane fight the Dragon? And did he get the sword for Max?”

“No. The sword wasn’t for Max. It was for Jane. He fought the Enderman.”

“But Max was the one who found the cave.”

The little boy shrugged. “Max found the cave first. But Jane fought the Endermen. So he got the sword. I want to write a different story now.”

“But we’ve got to finish that one off properly first!” the father objected.

“It is finished,” said the little boy with crushing finality and moved on.  “Are you going to tell me one now?”

“I have a better idea.” The father closed the laptop. “I will spell out the words and you will tell me what the words say. How does that sound?”

The child agreed and the father proceeded to say the spell out each registered time. Some of them were quite tricky, and the child was trying to phonetically spell out. It didn’t necessarily go well – the first word was “once” which to a child obviously should sound like “onker”, and “time” was clearly “timmy”, but the kid was actually really good.

The story was about a giant, but the boy was having some issues with the word “giant”. First he thought it was was “China” – because the father said that the G-I made a J sound rather than hard G. The little boy was very persistent that it was actually “China”, but eventually the father persuaded him not.

However the little boy was clearly seized by the spirit of mischief and every time father spelt out G-I-ANT the little boy pronounced it as “Gi-nat” despite multiple explanations.

So far so innocent – only he kept referring to “the gi-nat” that which sounds an awful lot like “vagina”.

And so the story went on about how Once upon a time there was a little giant, who was a very cross giant and the reason for this was that he was very small and as he looked round all the other giants were very large….

…only with the boy saying what sounded very much like “vagina”, each time without fail…

It got worse from there, only given that the dad had already confiscated a sweet from the kid for saying “oh my god” because that was a rude exclamation, I was pretty sure that he wasn’t doing it on purpose – only – HOW COULD HE NOT BE DOING???

The other gi-nats were very large. One had a big hairy beard and was very smelly. One was so old he was entirely bald.

And so it went on….

I’m pretty sure that some of you are thinking how childish! How immature to laugh at it! and in all honesty I can’t disagree. The problem was that this is the sort of thing that with repetition becomes funnier and funnier anyway.

Factor in that we were in an enclosed space where you are supposed to be pretending not to listen, and the hilarity factor goes up tenfold. The only way it could have actually been funnier would have been if we were in church, which always aces every other situation when you shouldn’t laugh. But this was a cracker.

And it went on and on and on….

By the end of the five-minute story, I’d be surprised if there was anyone within earshot who wasn’t sniggering. Certainly the four people that I could see at the table opposite were all struggling very hard to maintain a straight face. We were at my stop by then, and so I had to leave which is probably just as well, but it amused me very much.

I did feel a bit sorry that the dad had felt it necessary to rewrite the kid’s original story though. On one level, I could see that the dad thought he was teaching his son a better use of English, and perhaps he was right. I have no children so am perhaps not a good person to judge these things, but my view is that when kids are six, their stories don’t make sense or have good English and the way they misuse the language can be really interesting if not funny.

Case in point: recently I found some stories and poems that my nieces wrote for me when they were that sort of age and the charm of them lies in the six-ness of it. The bits that you treasure are actually the randomness and the kid-logic, both in spelling and storyline. You don’t treasure them because they’re written in proper English. That’s twenty years too early.

But I absolutely loved that little boy’s inventiveness, and his baddies were super. In all honesty, if I had had the chance to pause by their seat I would have told him so on the way out – but as is the way with trains, everybody queued up and when it was time to get off the train I had to shuffle straight past.

By then they were in the middle of the next story from the little boy. I may be wrong but it sounded to be about a cow called Harold…

At any rate it made me smile, and I still think the Endermen and the Creepers are totally superb bad guys. If only he remembers them for about twenty years and then writes the damn book! I’d quite like to know what happened next!! Definitely one of my better commutes, that one, and sent me into the weekend with a good old giggle which was lovely. So I thought you lot probably needed to share that one.

So now it’s your turn – what is your most embarrassing kid-related story? I’m sure those of you with kids have plenty…

In other news:

Holly 3 continues towards its release – it is now available on preorder for anyone who is interested – and Scarred Artisan is now available in a teeny tiny paperback which is actually quite lovely, so if any of you are looking for a 37 page stocking filler for people who just like a sweet little fairy story, you can find it here.

Alternatively, if you fancy reviewing it, contact me for a review copy. All feedback gratefully appreciated!

So that’s it from me. Have a lovely weekend, guys, and take care of yourselves.

🙂

All the best;

JAC.

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