Perfidious racism in the middle classes.

Amanda, with amazing legs, met Horace, the bartender from Bangor, whilst on holiday in Wales. Love was instant, as was conception. Hortensia, was born with wings. They were small at first, barely noticeable during nappy changes, but they grew. Amanda was in denial about the protuberances appearing on the shoulder blades, but one day Hortensia unbuckled the straps and rose from her child’s chair, levitating above the table. Amanda was cool about it. She knew Hortensia was special, but her mother was visiting at the time and had issues with a grandchild that didn’t ask before getting down from the table, or should that be up?

Amanda and her mother argued about child rearing. To maintain peace and harmony, Hortensia returned to her chair and buckled the straps.

‘Hortensia must learn that there are limits,’ grandmother said.

‘She is special,’ Amanda said. ‘I will discuss everything with her. If I have made a bad decision, we will realise that, during the talk. If I have made a good decision, she will agree with me and there will be no cause for strife.’

‘Nonsense! You have no idea, girl. And there is an elephant in the room, isn’t there?’

‘Really?’ Amanda asked artlessly.

Hortensia listened from her high chair, released the straps, rose from the seat with imperceptible flaps of her tiny wings, which seemed to work fine beneath loose clothing, and descended gently to the floor. There, she found her favourite toy and began the task of assembling her Lego digger with 250 parts. She had to stop playing and reached for the box of pampers in the corner.

‘What’s she doing now?’ Grandmother was becoming hysterical. ‘How did she get out the chair? She could have fallen and hurt herself.’

‘Changing her nappy, I expect,’ came the absent reply, and Amanda continued to butter her toast, while Hortensia worked out the delights of the fastener. ‘And she didn’t hurt herself, so that’s OK, isn’t it?’

Amanda had tried to shrug it off, but knew that the wings thing would soon need addressing. And there was the father. He had a right to make an input, too. He had issues about Hortensia’s precociousness. But he didn’t visit that often, so perhaps she could hide the wings. Then again, he said he wanted to take Hortensia to see his mother. How would that work? But it wasn’t an unreasonable request, so a solution needed to be found.

As if reading her daughter’s thoughts, Amanda’s mother dragged her from the reverie.

‘And what about the father? He’s going to marry you, I hope.’

‘He’s lovely, I’m smitten and the sex is good so I wouldn’t mind,’ said Amanda wistfully. ‘But I don’t think he is ready to commit. Brighton to Bangor is a long way. Let’s wait and see.’

‘What about the elephant, Amanda! The elephant!’

‘Oh. You mean the wings? They are only tiny, and hardly show.’

‘What wings? What are you talking about? Has the pregnancy unhinged you?  I can’t see any wings – children don’t have wings. No, Amanda. Hortensia is black. As if you hadn’t noticed, has a black father, presumably, because it doesn’t run in my family, although my great grandmother did have a fling with a Chinese sailor and my brothers are still given to unexpected facial expressions.’

‘You never told me that!’ Amanda squeaked.

‘Not relevant, Amanda. It won’t do, so don’t come the old soldier with me. Incredulity is not a cross I bear. It won’t have escaped your attention, dippy as you are, even if you failed to notice whilst screwing, that the barman was black, there is irrefutable evidence that your daughter is…’

‘Oh that. Yes.’ Amanda interrupted her mother. ‘Bit of a surprise, I must admit – I expected a few more of my genes to sneak through, but she’s lovely, isn’t she?  And any lack of observation on my part was your fault.’

‘My fault!’ her mother screamed, causing Hortensia to wince. ‘How so?’

‘It was you who told me nice people turn out the lights. You remember – that emergency sex education-thirty-seconds, when I was fifteen, just before I went on my first date. Such things make a lasting impression on a girl. You can’t expect me to notice he’s black if the lights are off – unless he smiles of course. I didn’t notice a smile, until afterwards. We were both a bit too preoccupied to observe facial expressions at the time. By the time he smiled, and what a smile it was, his little swimmers were well up my tubes, so a bit late, really.’

‘Too much information, Amanda and did I omit to tell you, most girls take a look, before going upstairs?’

Amanda considered her answer.

‘I’m sure I did. I’m quite choosey, you know, but truth is, when you know, you know. I knew, he knew, and we consummated that moment. Very romantic if you ask me so why are we talking colour? Oh look. Poor Hortensia has trapped her toe under the nappy fastener.’

That sidestep, silenced further enquiries, and of one thing, Amanda was sure. Hortensia was perfect, so she passed her over to Grandma, whereupon Hortensia charmed with the appropriate gurgling noises and smiled her father’s smile and the matter was settled.

Amanda admitted later that hands-on often solved the most intractable problems.

Free reads – more on this story, next week.

Published by Clive La Pensée

Clive La Pensée, ex-science teacher, recognised writer on history of beer, novelist, expressionist, dreamer, believer in never giving up, empathiser, hopeful for a future without class, gender or racial prejudice. It's tough and at the moment, one has to remember distance travelled, rather than where we are at.

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