Johan was a horrible man. He went to work all day, leaving his children, Fred and Max, in the care of their grandmother. She picked them up from school, took them home and then spoiled them rotten on snacks, allowed them to watch hours of advertisement-funded teenage soap operas where the actors have perfect hair, new clothes, don’t work and seemingly have no parents whilst the Coca Cola was served ad libitum. It was only their father Johan, who spoiled the endless party that was school and free time by coming home from work, picking them up from their gran’s, making them eat dinner, not allowing them to watch hours of advertisement-funded teenage soap operas where the actors have perfect hair, new clothes, don’t work and seemingly have no parents because he thought they were “damaging” and insisted that if they watched TV, they could “at least watch something that had at least one element of creativity, fantasy or magic to it like children did in my day.”
Rotten, spiteful man.
He was the kind of father that didn’t tell his children how much their clothes had cost, or didn’t buy them labels like the other kids in school as “children your age shouldn’t really be worried about all that stuff.” “Our age?” the boys would cry. “Max’s 12 and I’m nine,” Fred would wail helplessly. The old man just wouldn’t see it. Couldn’t. Hateful.
The boys had to endure his discipline on a daily basis. “He’s your father, he knows what’s best,” their grandmother would say in between, “would you like more Cola,” and “yes, of course you can,” and “I’ll get that computer game you want next week.” She was an idiot.
“He’s our father!” they’d reply on the way home from school everyday. “He doesn’t care about us!”
Something had to be done. Tim “The-like-meister” Husballe’s FB profile had increased exponentially with the amount of stuff his parents bought him and the things he was allowed to do after school like going to the shopping centre, getting haircuts and eating burgers. Fred and Max wanted haircuts but Johan The Stupid-face (“Dad” was so “baby”) said they only need their hair cut once of six weeks, not every fourteen days. And no, he didn’t care what their friends did. They even had to keep their hair gel in their locker at school as Johan had confiscated it saying, “you’re too young to be worried about appearance, just enjoy yourself and roll around in the mud, play football, climb a tree” and other pathetic, namby-pamby notions like that. “I mean seriously, what normal child doesn’t care about their image these days?” repeated Max. It was something he’d heard on one of those kooky teenage advertisement-funded soap operas, he thought. He couldn’t remember.
Just when they thought their lives couldn’t get any worse, the thing they feared the most happened: ‘Fat’ Johnny Jumpers, or ‘JXL’, turned 12 years old. His party was Saturday week. Everyone who was anyone in the third year was going to be there. Max and Fred had feared this. JXL was like them. He too, was cursed by evil parents who had rules and principles and BORING!
The day of the party came. All the children sat in a circle on their mobile phones taking pictures of one another, uploading them to Facebook. They then criticised each other in the comments section until it was time for the cake that no-one apart from JXL wanted to eat because they didn’t want to get fat. “My mum said she’d take my Fitness Centre membership away from me if I eat it,” the children said to JL’s mum. She just smiled and carried on filming Johnny on her mobile phone. The party was almost over, Max and Fred smiled at each other, they thought they’d got away with it. He didn’t get “the present.”
Oh, but how wrong they were.
Just before they all started one of Max’s favourite party traditions, comparing muscle growth and aftershaves, JXL’s bitch – she didn’t mind him calling her that, it made his friends laugh: “Kids, eh?” – pulled out the last present from a kitchen drawer. Max grabbed Fred’s arm tightly. Fred looked on nervously as Johnny Jumpers open the wrapping. The box was white. “Oh no,” they said in unison. Husballe squealed with delight looking directly at Max and then suspiciously touching the screen of his mobile. He lifted it up, pointing the white shiny flipside at Fred’s face.
It was true. It had happened. Max knew it. He’d lay awake at night crying the past three weeks thinking about it. He even went into Fred’s room crying about it, making him swear not to tell anyone or he would pour his secret under-the-floorboard Paco Rabanne stash down the toilet. This was the moment, the turning point.
“Fat” Johnny bloody Jumpers had been given an iPad. This means that Max and Fred were the only two children in the whole world not to own one. “It’s not necessary” said their nasty father Johan. “Whateverstfuarrghhh.” Nan had no money, either. Well, not real money, anyway. Stupid old pensioner.
Max knew that when Monday came his life wouldn’t be worth living. He didn’t even notice the Like-meister’s mobile going off like crazy right in his face. Framing the disappointment. The comments section was going to go crazy.
The fragility of Fred’s future was now all to clear to him. He was as seriously worried as a nine-year-old could be about anything.
The had to get one. Only Johan The Horrible stood in their way. Something had to be done. It had to be done now.