Julie Myerson

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Thursday morning, early; the bedroom is freezing and my legs are weighed down with cats. I kick, but accustomed to my irritation they ride it out, sturdy little coracles bobbing on my duvet storm. The clock glows 6.56. Thump, thump - the sound of Raphael coming down, one stair at a time, on his bottom.

As he climbs into bed, I shudder at the touch of his icy hands and feet. He breathes, thumb moving urgently between his lips, then. "Mu-mmee?"

"Mmm?"

"You be Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I'll be Jemery, OK?"

"You mean Jeremy?"

"Yeah."

"Well say 'Jeremy'."

"Jemery."

"Cut it out, you two," says Jonathan.

6.59. Flash of Chloe's short, straight pale hair in the darkness. She crawls over our legs and the cats, inserts herself between Jonathan and me. Warm, pissy smell of unwashed little girl - huffing and puffing. "You're Jemima," Raphael tells her. "Mummy is Truly."

"No!" - she wriggles, staccato and petulant.

"Keep still," warns Jonathan, "or you're out."

Chloe begins to cry. "Now you've made me cry."

"Jemima's crying," says Raphael.

"No!" Chloe cries louder.

"Oh, come on," I am brisk. "Daddy said to keep still, that's all." In the dark, I sweep her hair from her eyes - discover her head is burning hot.

7.02. Snap on the light - we all screw up our eyes. "I think Chloe's got a temperature."

"You mean Jemima has," Raphael corrects.

"I'm poorly," Chloe agrees. Raphael begins to cough. Chloe moans. I go to the bathroom for the strip of plastic to press on her forehead. On the varnished floor, the kitten is skittering around, her tail electrically alert.

"Oh God, I think the kitten's got something."

Then that terrible, familiar sound in the bedroom.

"Quick!" shouts Jonathan.

7.04. Chloe is being sick over my pillow. Raphael shuffles closer, fascinated. Jonathan brings two bath towels, a flannel and a potty.

"The Childcatcher's coming," Raphael mutters under his breath.

"Shush, Raphael. Poor girl." I hold her forehead as she retches again.

"Jemery. I'm Jemery."

"Oh my God," says Jonathan. "You're right, I think the kitten's got a mouse." On the corner of the duvet the kitten has pinioned something wriggly and grey with her paw.

7.04 becomes 7.05.

"Chase her into the bathroom and shut the door!" I advise as Chloe vomits into the potty.

"I know, pretend the potty's Chitty," says Raphael, "Look, she's being sick into Chitty... "

"Shut up, Raphael."

"I'm Jem-er-y! Shut up, Jemery!"

Jonathan throws a bath towel over the mouse. The fabric trembles as a quavery shape glides beneath it. We scream. Jacob enters, face patterned with sleep. "Mummy, where are my pretend tattoos?"

"Not now!" I tell him. "Chloe's being sick and we're dealing with a mouse."

"Dead or alive?"

"Half and half."

"Good morning, Childcatcher," chirps Raphael.

Jacob ignores him. "Where's the mouse? I'll get it." But Jonathan has bundled the towel and its contents into the bathroom. He yanks up the sash window.

"What're you doing?" I call.

"Putting it out of the window."

"Putting?"

"Throwing. It's got no mass. It's like parachuting. It'll be fine."

7.07. Chloe's lying back grey-faced. "Is the mouse going to die?" she asks weakly.

"Don't know."

"I need to see it."

Jacob picks up the kitten, who struggles in his arms. "After this, can I do my tattoos?" he says as if we'd hired the mouse to delay him.

Raphael struggles into the room with a huge cardboard box he felt-tipped in green yesterday. "This is Chitty," he announces, though no one's listening, "Chitty's magic. She can fly."

"Shush!" We all freeze as Jonathan tips the mouse from the window. The kitten cannon-balls out of Jacob's arms. We rush to the window. Sure enough, the mouse lands safely and begins to run.

"Piss off, mouse," says Jonathan. No sooner has he uttered these optimistic words than the cat flap in the back door bangs open and - yes - the kitten dives through, Superman-style, jaws and claws working overtime. We send Jacob to lock the catflap.

"Here's one she made earlier!" Jacob comes in carrying a towel containing another - totally dead - mouse he just found in the kitchen.

"Get it out of here at once!"

7.12. I pour Calpol into a white plastic spoon for Chloe. As I bend to give it to her, Jacob lifts my dressing-gown and slaps a heart tattoo on the left cheek of my bottom, fixes it with a wet flannel. "Sexy," says Jonathan.

Jacob grimaces: "Sex, oh yuk, I can hardly bear to think about it."

Tattooed, shattered, I part the curtains. There's a thick frost, the sky's the colour of Turkish delight - chubby clouds, heavy with cold. 7.14. Eighteen fun-packed minutes ago I was asleep.

A crash on the stairs. Raphael has dragged his cardboard box up four steps, climbed into it and slid down and banged his head. Screams and tears. "Sweetheart," I pick him up, comfort him. "The box won't really fly - it's not the real Chitty." I rub his head. "Poor old Raph."

He glances at me, puce with rage. "No, bumface! Not Raph. Jemery. Je- me-ry!"

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