She turns the paper round so we can see a lineup of six miserable kids, all in matching spotted shirts.
“That’s made my day!” Mum hastily adjusts her expression. “I mean, poor kids.”
“Poor kids.” Dad nods.
“But at least we’re not as bad as that.” She hits the paper. “At least I don’t make my children wear vile matching clothes. Things could be worse.”
I don’t know where Mum would be in life without the Daily Mail.
MY SERENE AND LOVING FAMILY—FILM TRANSCRIPT
INTERIOR. 5 ROSEWOOD CLOSE. DAY.
The camera (held by Dad) shows the playroom littered with empty Coke cans and water bottles.
Seen from behind, Frank, OLLIE, Linus, and Audrey are playing LOC intensely. Mum is looking from screen to screen, peering over their shoulders and trying to follow, without success.
Go on him. Jesus.
He clicks madly and his screen explodes in graphics.
What was that? Which one’s you?
Stay in the trees. Nooo! Ollie, you noob.
Ollie is desperately clicking, his face red.
Mum’s head is swiveling wildly from screen to screen.
Are you dead? What happens when you die? How can you keep up?
Fireblast the fucker. Die! Die!
A series of Russian swearing comes from the audio Skype link.
Na kaleni, cyka.
What does that mean? Is that in the game?
It’s Russian. You don’t want to know what it means.
So is that chap a Russian? Or is that you, Frank?
She points at the screen.
I mean, they all look the same to me. Do they look the same to you, Chris?
The camera (held by Dad) focuses in on a screen.
Of course they’re not the same. Die! Die!
We didn’t win. Not only did we not win, we were stomped.
Mum was genuinely shocked. I think she’d mentally checked us in for the finals in Toronto and the six-million-dollar prize pot, with her lording it over all the other parents.
“So, how did they beat you?” she said in astonishment when we’d finally got it through to her.
“They played better,” said Frank despondently. “They were really good.”
“Well, you’re really good too,” says Mum at once. “You killed loads of people. I mean, you have great technique, Frank. Doesn’t he, Chris? Very good technique.”
You have to love Mum. She’s now behaving as though the only thing she rates in life is LOC.
“Anyone want the last Krispy Kreme?” she says, and we all shake our heads. It’s a pretty sad atmosphere in here, what with the silent computers and the Coke cans and the air of defeat, and I think Mum realizes this.
“Well, anyway!” she says brightly. “We’ll go out for a team lunch to celebrate the taking part. Pizza Express, everyone?”
“Cool.” Frank takes off his headset and switches off his laptop. “And then I might go in to the Fox and Hounds,” he says casually. “Ade said I could help in the kitchen or whatever at weekends. I need to talk to the head chef. I’ll give Ade a ring now, sort it out.”
“Oh.” Mum looks a bit flummoxed. “Well…OK, Frank. Good idea!” As he lopes out of the room, she turns to Dad, her jaw sagging. “Did I hear that right? Is Frank getting himself a job?”
But Dad can’t hear. He’s put on one of the headsets and is logged into another LOC game with Ollie.
“Dad, can you play?” I say in surprise.
“Oh, I’ve picked up a bit,” he says, and clicks furiously. “Here and there.”
“But who are you playing with?”
“A couple of friends from school,” says Ollie, who is equally engrossed. “They were online, so…Go on him!”
“I’m on it,” says Dad breathlessly. “Oh, shit. Sorry.”
Mum is staring at Dad, flabbergasted. “Chris, what are you doing?” She pokes his shoulder. “Chris! I’m talking to you! Did you hear what I said about Frank?”
“Right.” Dad pulls off the headset for a moment. “Yes. I heard. Ground him.”
I can’t help giggling, and even Mum gives a little smile.
“Get back to the game, you big kid,” she says. “But we’re going out in half an hour, OK? Half an hour. And I don’t care if you have to interrupt the game.”
“OK,” says Dad, sounding just like Frank. “Great. Yeah. Can’t wait.” He clicks madly, then punches the air as the screen explodes in colour. “Die, you bastard! Die!”