Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Front Hall Agreement

The Front Hall Agreement
By Andrew Hamilton

We decided to form the union right after Mom and Dad made us sign the Front Hall Agreement. It didn’t mean much at first, just an understanding really, but I figure with Christmas coming – why not give it a go. I mean, you remember how things get around here at Christmas.
It all started off well enough. Jim, as the oldest, wanted to be the head of the union and said just that loudly and with great authority, while beating Mike playfully with one of the good wooden spoons he had stolen from the kitchen. That seemed a fine idea and we all agreed that Jim would do just fine as a leader and would represent us with strength and considerable honour.
But then, when she thought about it for a little while longer, Mags remembered the Halloween incident. You know, the one with the car and the urine, the garden hoe and the new beige settee. Mags is always remembering things just lately, and lucky for us they usually turn out to be things worth remembering.
Anyway, after Mags reminded us about that incident, it was clear to everyone, and we agreed unanimously, that Jim possessed neither the moral fortitude nor the strength of character to be an effective leader. So we agreed that Mike – who Jim was just then using as a makeshift pillow – would make a fine leader too.
Mike, by everyone’s reckoning, was the stupidest and most ruthless of all the children, so we though it would be just fine to make him the leader of our new little union. But, just for some safekeeping, we also decided to appoint Jim his deputy, his second-in-command, just in case Mike needed help with any of the extra important decisions. So, like I was saying before, the union all started well enough and things proceed pretty much as they have always done.
But that all changed when little Jane decided to go out and get sick, real sick, with some sort of winter vomiting bug. Do you remember little Jane? She’s five years old now and looks every year of it. The little scamp.
Well, with little Jane sick with that vomiting bug and no longer able to perform her given duties at wash-up time, as set out clearly in the Front Hall Agreement, we really didn’t know what to do. It was quite a pickle, a real big problem.
But then, Mom and Dad sent out a circular to all children telling each of us to take it in turn - one night in every four - to dry the cutlery and put the dishes away correctly, just as Jane had always done. This seemed like a fine idea, and besides, we couldn’t refuse it under the terms set out in the Front Hall Agreement.
Jim didn’t like it one bit and he swore and he spat, and Mags just shook her head as she ran back and forth with fresh towels and basins of cold and hot water to poor sick little Jane.
Mike was angry too. We could all tell it but he didn’t let it show. Instead of shouting and swearing like the rest of us, he took off with Mom and Dad to the cinema – to discuss with them the growing discomfort that the Front Hall Agreement was imposing on the members of the union. You’d be proud of him - he really is becoming quite a fine leader.
So, as the second youngest child after poor, sick, lazy Jane, I took it upon myself to put away the knives and forks that night. That seemed like a fine idea and was working out well enough until Jim pointed out, while he wedgied me quite roughly in front of Mags and poor sick Jane, that I had, in fact, crossed a socially implied picket line and, as such, had basically destroyed the union and screwed us all forever.
After Jim explained the situation, and punched me once in each kidney, we all agreed that he was right and that I was, in fact, a complete fool who would eventually be the ruination of the entire union.
So, to set things back to right again, we all decided that I would use the coffee table, the one that Dad had received in a very favourable will from his Uncle Desmond, to smash the patio door and strike a blow for all the working children of this family, and indeed for the children of every family in this fair country. I know what you’re thinking, what a smart and brave thing for Jim to suggest, we are so luck to have him as second in command of the union. We voted on the whole idea and it seemed to be passed fairly unanimously, or as close as makes no difference anyway.
So, after throwing-up thoroughly and taking some time to stop the bleeding in my nose, I attempted to throw the coffee table through the patio door. But, alas and alas again, the attempt was destined to fail and with it all my dreams of redeeming myself and proving my worth to the union. The table came up against the ruthless stubbornness that is double-glazing – a capitalist product, of course, and a tool of the ruthless parent establishment. So there I was, one sheet of glass broken, the other completely intact, Mom, Dad and Mike expected home from the cinema any minute, Jim and Mags ready to kill me and little Jane crying and wailing from the bedroom. I don’t need to tell you, the whole situation was not what I had anticipated.
“Half a job is no job at all,” Jim said to me and he spat on a piece of broken glass and stormed out of the room. Mags was speechless, in shock maybe, she just stood there and smiled. No need to tell you, the situation as it stood just then was nothing short of obscene.
But just when it all looked hopeless, we struck upon a revolutionary new idea. I think it was Jim - or maybe it was Mags - who suggested it first, be we all quickly agreed that it would be a fine idea indeed. The plan was to use a shard of glass from the half broken patio door to cut poor, lazy, sick Jane – somewhere on her face.
It as a simple idea – a blood sacrifice – a statement that would show Mom and Dad just how serious we really are and also distract them form the failed political statement at the patio door.
We were all mostly in agreement and once little Jane was gagged and bound, she also seemed to adopt a calm attitude towards the whole thing and to realise that this was for the greater good of all the workers in this fine union that we are trying so hard to create.
Mags told Jim, who told me, to collect a medium sized piece of glass from the botched political statement and bring it to Jane’s sick bed. When I arrived back, Mags and Jim were both sat at the foot of the bed and Jane wasn’t even crying anymore – the little trooper. As I approached, she began turning her head from side to side suggesting, or so it seemed, that I should perhaps cut her somewhere on the neck or around the ears. But I couldn’t decide.
So I turned to Mags, who had just then – most bizarrely – taken Jim in a very rough looking headlock, and I begged her to give me some simple directions.
 “Just cut her you little shit,” she shouted, clearly annoyed and out of breath from her struggles with Jim. I’m so glad she was there – if she wasn’t, I’m not sure what I would have done.
So I made one medium sized cut in Jane, running from her left ear in an almost perfect diagonal along her neck. When I was finished, we laid her back in bed, removed her gag and bounds and retired to the sitting room to plan our next move.
As he sat on the couch, Jim, now much revived from his brief spell of incapacitation, made a joke of pretending to rest his feet on the coffee table that was no longer there. He wondered, out loud and in my direction, if we shouldn’t just temporarily retrieve the table from the botched political statement beside the patio door.
“We could put it back when we hear Mom, Dad and Mike coming to the front door,” he suggested. “They wouldn’t know any better, and besides, I’d have somewhere to rest my feet.”
Mags, who had positioned herself right in front of the TV, said that this was an awful and truly stupid idea, so we all agreed that to tamper with the botched political statement was an unethical and highly immoral thing to do.
So, instead of the coffee table, Jim decided to rest his feet on my back while we all waited for the others to return.

Andrew Hamilton

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