There was no doubt The Kid was going to give me a headache ... and soon.
He was a 1-in-700 kid; an eight-year-old with an M.O. unlike any other kid on the block. Unlike any other kid on any block.
Young in mind and body - developmental delay, they called it, and learning disability. And now the ‘C’ word was hanging in the air like a bad smell.
Yeah. The ‘C’ word.
Sometime soon it was going to come swaying seductively through the door, all festive red and voluptuous fur, with bells on. And when it came to writing letters to Santa, The Kid could give you a bigger headache than a bottle of bourbon and a smack with a baseball bat combined.
OK, not so much downtown: downstairs: in the living room, staring out the window through the rain-spatter at the gun-smoke clouds, chewing over my options.
I needed a light bulb moment – not a fairy-light bulb, a municipal Christmas tree bulb, and I needed it fast.
But the only flashes of light I could see were from the neighbourhood garbage truck, bleeping in the deserted street, emptying cans.
I took a long pull at my coffee, and closed my eyes.
What made this kid tick? What makes most eight-year-olds tick?
This kid. He was a lover, not a fighter. Batman? Spidey? You could blow ‘em out your ear.
Lego? C’mon, every kid loves building bricks.
Every kid with good fine motor skills. Duplo would be easier to handle, but The Kid had already cornered the market on that, a racket he’d inherited from a brother who’d left town.
The word on the street was all Code-A-Pillars, Nerf guns and karaoke selfie sticks.
But that was no good to me. I needed specialist advice from someone ‘in the know’.
I tracked my source down in the dark back streets of the web. I put the squeeze on it, pushed all its buttons, and it began to sing like a bird. Apparently there were whole sites devoted to kids like, well, The Kid.
It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it.
I checked out a few. They were mostly drab joints, full of functional aids for daily living. That’d be like giving your mother an iron for Christmas. ‘Toys!’ I yelled. ‘Gimme Toys!’
Then, on one of the better sites, I spotted something. Binoculars.
The Kid was known to take his dad’s binoculars and while away the hours spying on the neighbours from his bedroom window, or scoping the garden through the French doors.
They’d have to be the real deal, then, but kid-sized. They’d need to have rubber eye-pieces too: The Kid rocked a pair of specs.
Where you find binoculars, you often find bird books. But it would have to be something straightforward, entry-level. My First Book of Garden Birds.
That’d be the one, I’d stake my badge on it (OK – my apron).
He wouldn’t just be eyeing up the birds, though: The Kid lived up by the woods, all kinds of characters passed through his garden – cats, squirrels, urban foxes, even the odd hedgehog down on its luck.
But they preferred to hang out under the cover of dark. So, maybe a night vision torch – there could be some mileage there.
Those in the know whispered that The Kid was a shooter.
Once, in Malaga with The Family, he spent his days hanging round the port, taking pot shots with his mother’s new camera, strange shots, taken from table top height, of his father apparently startled by a flying saucer.
Trick shots – the UFO, it was rumoured, was just a dish of Iberico ham. Maybe, they said, The Kid had ‘an eye’.
A digital point-and-shoot, then, but not a child’s toy, he’d already made mincemeat of one of those.
The sun came out and burned away the rain; the ideas began to pour in, thick and fast.
An ‘explorers’ hat, stencils, of the dinosaurs and elephants he’d like to catch, so he didn’t have to draw round cookie cutters.
Tough guy plastic stencils – not flimsy cardboard. Chunky, easy-to-hold pens, a magnifying glass ... oh yes, I was getting somewhere now.
Father Christmas didn’t have nothin’ on me.
He could come at me any old time he liked. I was ready for him.
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