The Delightful Child by Jarek Adams

(written under the pseudonym Jan Thorn)
(First published in DEBUT Issue Number 1Spring 2009)
As his mother slumped to the ground, little Harry Adams had to work hard to hold back a smile. He waited for silence, and gently nudged her with a toe. Then he was absolutely certain. The woman who’d indulged his every whim since birth lay lifeless on the floor. Little Harry’s mother was dead.
He crossed to the open window and started screaming loudly, making sure his frantic cries could be heard by their neighbour, Mrs Jedburgh. Sure enough, he glimpsed from the corner of his eye the extra large woman peering across at him with a shocked look on her bloated face. ‘My mummy, my mummy, my mummy,’ he cried, until he saw her emerge from the house and waddle into his yard.
The door opened downstairs, and she called, ‘Mary, Mary dear, is everything all right?’ Harry felt a flutter of excitement in his tummy as things started falling into place. ‘Harry, my love, is something wrong?’ She wheezed laboriously up the stairs, and on entering the playroom, the sight of a catatonic boy and a prone figure sprawled across the Bob the Builder play rug, caused a little scream to escape from her mouth.
Harry watched as the elderly woman dropped to her knees and gently rolled the body over. A small, red Lego brick was stuck to his mother’s nose, giving her a clown like appearance, making it even harder for Harry to control his expression.
He watched as Mrs Jedburgh tried to blow air into his mother’s mouth, but she suddenly recoiled. A tiny flicker of concern tightened his chest. Could it be that he’d overlooked a tiny detail? The woman leaned in again, and grabbing his mother’s wrist, she felt for a pulse. Then, apparently copying what she’d seen on Casualty, she started pressing hard on the corpse’s chest. A rib broke with a loud crack, and Mrs Jedburgh recoiled again.
Harry watched with growing anger as the idiot woman flustered about on the verge of panic. He couldn’t compromise the plan by speaking, but he did want to move the proceedings forward. He tried to will Mrs Jedburgh to take control of the situation, and attempted to send a telepathic message, saying, call an ambulance.
To his immense surprise, and delight, the woman started looking around the room, and eventually spotted the Spiderman telephone, which Harry had insisted his mother install for him. Mrs Adams had questioned his need for a working telephone, as Harry was far too special to speak with any of his classmates, but the word ‘please’ whispered through quivering lips was all he’d needed to get his wish granted.
Mrs Jedburgh dialled, and after a brief interval, she spoke. ‘Um, ambulance please…it’s my neighbour, she’s collapsed on the floor…23 Florizel Drive…I…I think she might be dead…no, there’s just me…and her little boy, oh my God.’ Mrs Jedburgh turned to look at Harry, who now had tears streaming down his rosy apple cheeks, thanks to a quick smearing of shampoo, which he’d resourcefully thought to squirt into his pocket that morning.
She dropped the phone and drew Harry into her ample bosom, while he made the little sobbing sounds that he’d been perfecting over the past couple of days. He felt Mrs Jedburgh clasp his head against her hot, yielding flesh, and was uncomfortably aware that her none too clean hands were disturbing his freshly washed golden curls. She murmured, ‘Oh you poor little lamb. To lose your mother so soon after your father died in that terrible accident.’
Buried deep in the woman’s cleavage, Harry allowed himself an unseen smile as he remembered that first family misfortune. Mr Adams had snuck away from ‘the wife’ and locked himself inside his shed for a brief respite. He’d smiled at the extra large box of fireworks on the workbench, which he was going to thrill his son with on bonfire night. But he hadn’t noticed the blue touch paper, which had been carefully unwound and threaded through a thin crack in the window. He was oblivious to the glow that set alight the blue touch paper, and oblivious to the patter of little feet running quickly away.
Harry hadn’t enjoyed smoking his first cigarette at the age of six, but it had been a necessary part of the plan. And, just as he’d hoped, the little heap of butts found by the fire inspector had led the coroner to assume Mr Adams had foolishly caused his own death by smoking a cigarette, whilst in close proximity to unsafely stored explosive devices. Mrs Adams’s protestations that her husband detested cigarettes fell on deaf ears, as there was no other explanation for the tragic event, and the story was splashed across local papers as another example of the many ways in which smoking kills.
However, despite enjoying the memory of that first misfortune in his young life, Harry knew he had to focus all his attention on the one in hand. The sound of sirens drew closer and closer, and eventually there was a thunder of feet storming up the stairs. Harry was prevented from viewing the traumatic scene of the paramedics working fruitlessly on his mother. But he was comforted by the repeated whine and beep of the defribulator failing to have any effect. Then finally he heard those treasured words. ‘Time of death, eleven, thirty-seven.’
Harry was just six and three quarters, but he felt a delicious wave of satisfaction at finally achieving his goal of freeing himself from the parents he so despised. He’d been told he was special from the day he was born, and his parents had done everything they could to show him just how special he was. To the point where little Harry began to loathe having to live with such lower beings. Bored with testing their unyielding devotion, the plan had formed in his oh so clever little mind to free himself from the weak parental chains that had bound him. But he’d never dared think so far ahead before. Not even that morning, when he’d prepared the doll’s tea party. Not even when he’d crushed all his mother’s sleeping pills, and carefully inserted them into the squishy cream filling of the Mr Kipling’s Fondant Fancies.
His moment of elation was cut short when Mrs Jedburgh swooped him up in her arms, and spoke to the paramedics. ‘I think I’d better take him home with me. He’s been through so much lately. I think the poor little mite needs a bit of comfort.’
Harry allowed himself to be carried away from the scene, and into the frilly living room next door. Creepy china dolls glared down at him from every shelf, and the net curtained windows shut the world outside from number 25 Florizel Drive.
Mrs Jedburgh smiled broadly. ‘Poor little dear: such a terrible life, and such terrible accidents.’
There was something unsettling Harry as he tried to work out if she was trying to imply anything by those words.
She went on. ‘And you being such a sweet little thing, no one would think …no it’s completely ridiculous…an angel like you.’
Harry narrowed his eyes, and Mrs Jedburgh narrowed hers back at him in a long, drawn-out spaghetti western moment. Then Harry smiled, creating a cherubic countenance. So what if Mrs Jedburgh was on to him. No worries. He could bide his time, and gain her trust. After all, everyone always said he was such a delightful child.
If I had to choose just one story, it would be Jan Thorn’s ‘The Delightful Child’, for its savant mix of irony, satisfaction and a tinge of suspense. A Eyries.
Bizarre. D Gibbs.