Opening Line

Babies practise their first word in their heads for months before saying it out loud. (BBC News Website)

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He woke at four a.m., flat on his back, chubby little fists clenched either side of his head. He woke because he was wet. For a moment he felt like yelling out “nappy!” but decided against it.

He didn’t want “nappy” to be his first word.

He had been thinking about it for months, like a miniature Neil Armstrong planning the first lunar sentence. He knew, just knew, that it had to be special, something that his Mum and Dad would remember forever.

He was considering simply saying “Hi”, but was afraid that they would think he had hiccups and force gripe-water upon him.

He was considering saying the name of Daddy’s favourite football team which he knew, from the way Daddy shouted it when they were on the TV, were called the Gobshites.

He was also considering saying something clever. After all, his parents always applauded wildly if he simply farted loudly, so if he said something like “physiotherapy” or “Solzenitsyn” they’d probably explode with pride.

Meanwhile he had to continue to act dumb, in every meaning of the phrase. Whenever he wanted his teddy, or his ball, or his Dalek (his parents were Doctor Who fans, and were determined that he would be too) he would point and grunt, rather than ask for them by name. During mealtimes, when he was being fed some mush consisting mostly of carrot, since he was now on what were laughably called solids, he would have to clamp his mouth tightly shut and turn his head away instead of hopefully saying “ice-cream?”.

And sometimes, when his gums were really aching, he had to fight the urge to moan “f-u-u-u-ck”.

Words were important.

The cold dampness around his bum now reminded him that, when applied to nappies, the words “keeps Baby dry” are meaningless. Unable to call out for help, he began to cry.

And her face appeared above him. Her hair was wild and partly stuck to her face, and her eyes were bleary and barely open, but she smiled down at him, a smile of deep, boundless love. He decided.

“Mama,” he said softly.

 

 

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