Every story needs an antagonist.

Since my first post, I have written precisely two paragraphs of plot development for the book. So far I know it’s going to be about thorns. I’ve never seen a work of fiction about thorns before, so I know it’s going to be original at least. This will, in light of what I said about the book trade and their fear of taking chances on new ideas, ensure that, even if it turns out to be good, it will never be published. Maybe I should throw in a sparkly vampire or two.

I have discovered a rich source of inspiration for the villain of the piece. It turns out that my three year old daughter may well be a budding psychopath. She hasn’t murdered anyone (she hasn’t discovered the drawer where we keep the knives yet), but she is developing a rather startling talent for deception.

Two weeks ago, I came home from work one Friday and threw my wallet down on a table. I think. Some people lead empty, shallow lives, and always know where their wallets and keys are. They come home, hang their keys on the special key hook, and carefully place their wallets or handbags in the special wallet or handbag spot. They always know where their toothbrushes are (and squeeze the toothbrush tube from the bottom up), and have special files where they keep their birth certificates and up-to date passports.

Not me. Life is an adventure. Every morning begins with a search for my wallet. And my keys. Toothbrushes are not a huge problem- if I can’t find my own, I wait until the kids aren’t looking and use theirs.  The cause of this daily drama is the fact that I put everything down on the closest available surface. I have, once or twice, found my wallet in the fridge after unpacking the shopping the night before, and it is not unusual for me to leave my keys outside for the evening. In a country with one of the highest crime-rates in the world. Don’t even ask me where my birth certificate is.

Because of this, I was not unduly alarmed when I woke up on Saturday morning and couldn’t find my wallet. The alarm only began to set in as I ran out of possible surfaces where it could have been left. I am merely careless- I don’t seek out rare and unusual places to put my things. As morning turned to afternoon, alarm turned to panic. I started taking clothes out of cupboards, emptying wash baskets, and even went as far as to ask my wife for help. And through all of this, my daughter sat serenely on the couch and watched. She didn’t sit grinning quietly to herself, giggling behind her hand whenever I emptied a drawer or upturned a couch. She was deadpan. When I asked her, more than once, if she had taken daddy’s wallet, she looked me straight in the eye and said “no”.  Not “no, teeheehee” in classic three-year-old style, just “no”. And went back to watching Teletubbies, as if she were a normal child.

Saturday turned to Sunday, and the search became desperate. I cleaned out my car for the first time in months. I checked the pockets of jackets I hadn’t worn for ages. I even asked my wife again. And the three-year old sat and watched, unsmiling. By Sunday afternoon I had given up. Time to cancel the credit cards.

On Monday morning I tried one last trick. I crawled through the house on hands and knees. And found the wallet. On top of a pile of books. Under a table. Behind a couch. This is not one of those closest available surfaces where I put things. Gritting my teeth, I asked the still serene three-year old if she had hidden my wallet. With the tiniest hint of a smile, she looked me in the eye, and said “yes”. Not “yes, teeheehee”. I asked her where, and she stood, without a word, and walked over to the pile of books under the table behind the couch and pointed. And then went about her business.

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The unacceptable face of modern crime

This would all have been mildly disconcerting if it had been a once-off. But it wasn’t. Last Friday she woke up and announced that she had a sore knee. And stopped walking. She didn’t ham it up like a normal child, limping around clutching her leg like a community theatre actor doing a Shakespearian death scene. She didn’t cry out in pain every time the leg was touched. She just wouldn’t walk. For two days. She would demand to be carried wherever she wanted to go, and then busy herself with three-year-old stuff. When she was done, a carrier was summoned again. When told to walk, she would collapse to the ground. Silently. We began to worry. The latest series of House has just started, and it can give a man ideas.

And then we went to a Sunday afternoon party. I carried her in and apologised to the hostess for the fact that I had brought a cripple to her son’s special day, and put her down on a chair. She smiled quietly to herself, stood up, and ran off to join the fun.

I think I’m going to start sleeping with one eye open. For those of you who have owned three-year-olds, the behaviours themselves are not unusual. It’s the delivery that freaks me out. Not for a single moment did she falter. No smiles or giggles, no outrage when questioned. Just empty, emotionless denial. It’s weird.

So if, in a few years’ time you read a novel about thorns, and it has a weirdly deceptive three-year-old as the main antagonist, you’ll be among the select few who know where the author’s inspiration came from.

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11 thoughts on “Every story needs an antagonist.

  1. mightwar says:

    Oh yes, your daughter is definitely a character worthy of playing a pivotal role in your book. Your description of her in this post is sharp and teasing and definitely makes me want more.

    You may have already been asked this already, but: “23 thorns”? Is the number of particular significance? I would have checked out your site just from the title alone.

    • 23thorns says:

      I panicked. When I signed up for a Gmail address, the address I wanted to use was taken. I was writing about thorns, so I tried that. Taken. So I threw in the 23. It is the number of my parents holiday home down in the bush.

  2. javaj240 says:

    I have long suspected that my kid has a screw loose. It’s always heartening to find that you’re not alone.

    Great story!

  3. Ye gods, sounds like my daughter when I ask her if she has her brothers dummy. Older son is a crappy liar but she is amazingly good. I dread what our youngest will be like with so much older sibling inspiration. 😦

  4. Wiepkjen says:

    Great story. Lets hope she is just living in some fantasy world.
    BTW your wife must be very patient 😉

  5. Bambi Lynn says:

    Great story…ya gotta love kids!

  6. Husband of mine…hang your keys on the special hook.

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