“Finished,” said Tommy.
His Mum looked at his plate. “You haven’t eaten your greens,” she said.
“Don’t like them,” he said.
“They’re good for you,” said Mum.
“How?” said Tommy.
“They stop you getting scurvy,” said Mum.
“What’s scurvy?” said Tommy.
“It’s, er, it’s um,” said Mum, who hadn’t been expecting this question. “It’s something sailors used to catch,” she suddenly remembered.
“What happens when you get scurvy?”
“Um, one of your legs drops off and a parrot grows on your shoulder,” said Mum. Tommy gave her a withering look. “That was a joke,” said Mum.
Tommy did not look amused. “Do Eskimos get scurvy?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” said Mum.
“But they probably don’t eat any greens at all,” said Tommy. “It’s hard to grow broccoli on solid ice.”
“Yes, but they eat a lot of fish,” said Mum. “The fish oil has the same effect as greens.”
“I ate my fish fingers,” pointed out Tommy.
“Yes, but fish fingers bear the same relation to fish as Mars Bars do to Mars,” said Mum. “So eat your greens. They’ll put hairs on your chest.”
“Do you have hairs on your chest?” asked Tommy.
“Er, no,” admitted Mum. “It doesn’t work with women.”
“Do they give women bumps on their chest instead?” asked Tommy. Mum closed her eyes. “Yes,” she said, eventually.
“Then Megan Fox from Transporters -” began Tommy.
“Is probably a vegetarian,” said Mum, hoping that this might help in some way. It didn’t.
“If you’re a man vegetarian,” said Tommy, “how come you don’t end up looking like a yeti?”
“It only works on your chest,” said Mum desperately. She was starting to get a headache. There was, however, more to come.
“Snots are green,” said Tommy, “but you give out when I eat mine.”
“Snot is not a vegetable,” said Mum firmly, “otherwise the world food shortage would have been solved by now. Now eat up.”
“But it’s sprouts,” said Tommy, and they taste like snot.”
“They don’t,” said Mum, though she secretly reckoned he was right. “They’ve a strong taste because they’re full of iron.”
“So if I eat a lot of them well I turn into Ironman?” asked Tommy, momentarily excited.
I could say yes, thought Mum, it would only be a white lie, and at least he’d eat his greens. She thought ahead, though, to the next time she wanted him to eat soup, and decided not to.
“No, sorry,” she said.
“Will I turn green, like the Hulk?”
“Don’t make me angry,” said Mum, fighting back the urge to say “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
Tommy knew when he was beaten. Well, almost beaten.
“I don’t have to eat the carrots, though, do I?”
“They’re not green.”
“Ok,” sighed Mum. “You can leave the carrots.”