All good stories require a central character – a mischievous toddler called Max, a sidekick – his incompetent father named Matt, a love interest – a rabbit called Bugs and an arch rival, whose name I won’t reveal for fear of parental reprisals. Max is quite a placid young man, a gentle soul who will not bat an eyelid if you abduct his truck, throw sand about his person or shout baby obscenities in his direction. He is a lover not a hater and will kiss, cuddle and cavort with anyone who will hang around long enough for him to try, he has an uncanny ability to work out which children are too young to escape his clutches and pounces like a lion on a new born gazelle or a drunk uncle at a wedding. There is however one little boy that really seems to give him the shits.
The boy, who for absolutely no good reason I will refer to as Barry, has become a regular fixture at our favourite park which is not big enough for the both of them. My usually loving son comes over all Mike Tyson every time he sees Barry (I wish I’d chosen a different name for him now). It all started a couple of months ago, Max was parading around the park shaking his tail feathers and working the ladies into a collective frenzy. He spotted the most vulnerable looking girl/gazelle who had strayed from the pack, with his victim clearly impaired by a lack of mobility he began to make his move. Just as he was puckering up for a smooch Barry comes along, pushes Max over (causing him to lose face in front of his harem) and gets the gal.
Curbing my initial desire to take Barry down to Chinatown, I look up at his smug looking Dad, who for absolutely no good reason I will refer to as Larry, force myself to smile and offer an incredulous “kids, hah” (whilst all the while wanting to take both Barry and Larry on a one way trip down to Chinatown). Larry offers an apologetic “what can you do” – I’ll tell you what you can do Larry, you can take Barry to another park and leave Max to enjoy the fruits of his harem (on reading that back it sounds more sinister than I wanted it to, apologies to the harem).
But Barry and Larry still come to ‘our park’ lording it up like they own the place, stealing toys from other boys (I just want to make it clear Larry doesn’t steal the toys……..although I bet he would if you gave him half a chance) and stealing kisses from the girls (Larry doesn’t do that either). Max has had to resort to hiding out in the cubby house, sheltered by the harem who are busy making imaginary cakes for Barry. This isn’t right, we are being chased out of our own park by Barry and Larry, a couple of school yard bullies throwing their considerable weight around (both Barry and Larry look like they enjoy their food). I strategise revenge missions with Max but he just doesn’t seem to grasp the intricacies of a good Pincer Movement or how to apply an effective Choke Hold.
One day Barry sees Max hiding in the cubby house, reduced to stirring the imaginary mix for Barry’s imaginary cake with the rest of the harem. Barry comes charging towards Max, like an angry bull to a red cloth, a look of pure evil in his eye and screaming something threatening. I looked on in horror, knowing that Max was no match for the anger and brawn that Barry brings to the table, how do I explain to Anna that Max got hospitalised on my watch by a bully called Barry? In a moment that instantly made it to the top of my “coolest things I have seen in 33 years of human life list”, Max drops a shoulder, shimmies to the left and Barry runs straight into the cubby house door. Crumpled in a heap on the ground the harem then pour imaginary cakes (tree bark) over Barry and laugh at him in a way that fills me with joy. Resisting the urge to raise Max above my shoulders and perform a victory lap of the park, I look over at a shell shocked Larry and offer up a “what can you do?”
To this day Barry and Larry have not been spotted at ‘our park’ since that fateful afternoon, Max retains his standing as alpha male, enjoying the full attentions of the harem (sinister?) and having his pick of the slides and I get to talk to whichever Mum I want without Larry butting in with dumb comments. The End.