ALFRED AND ME

By Tracy Lee-Newman

My brother Alfred wakes up from a dream.

He says that in the dream he was a giant Action Man. All bristle-haired and plastic private parts.

We’re in the caravan. I can’t see my brother. I get out of bed and lean over him and my hands feel about for his head. His hair is long and the elves have been tangling it up in their night knots.

So I tell him he’s fine, but he says, Katie, get in bed with me.

We’re twins, me and Alfred, and Mum says that when we were little we always slept cuddled together. But now we are giants. We are eight years and two months and thirteen days old. I am older than Alfred by six entire minutes.

Mum says holidays are good for making friends. She says, Stop being giants and go to the playground and find some new friends. Well, she doesn’t say the giants bit but that’s because she doesn’t see we’re giants now. She has her phone on and she’s Facebooking that man she likes. He makes her laugh. That’s because he has this massive orange beard and it’s like Mary Poppins’ bag – it has everything in it, like hat stands and bluebirds and new patent school shoes and twenty pound notes.

Come on, I say to Alfred, let’s go to the stupid old playground.

Okay, he says, but not to make friends.

No, of course not, I say. Just to look at them; look down at them; like they’re just little ants we can squish.

Alfred doesn’t like Mum’s man. He says his beard’s scratchy. Scratchier than Action Man’s head.

Where’s Dad, he keeps asking.

I’ve told you, I say. Dad’s gone to the moon in a rocket. Or was it to Mars? I forget.

You told me he was in Africa, says Alfred. Or the rainforest.

The rainforest is in Africa, I say. He went there before he went up in the rocket.

We’re up at the top of the slide and we’re not letting anyone else up or down so they’re stamping their feet and saying they will get their mums and dads to tell us off.

Go on, we say. We’ll kill them with our laser eyes.

Mum says if I keep telling fibs I’ll get a nose like that puppet-y boy in the book.

No you won’t, Alfred says. She’s just lying.

She says if I keep telling fibs I won’t have any friends.

Good, Alfred says. Friends are stupid.

Alfred never tells lies.

There’s a girl in my class called Amelia Rose. One day she saw me being a giant white shark in the playground and chasing and eating the fish who were screaming. She asked me if I’d be her friend and I said, only if you’re Alfred’s friend as well.

Who’s Alfred? she said.

So I bit her.

In the playground this lady comes up and says, I don’t know what you think you’re at, my girl, but you better start letting the other kids use this slide right now, do you hear me? Standing up there like you’re some flipping queen or what have you.

We’re giants, I tell her. And monsters. We are monster-y giants with eyes that shoot lasers.

You’re a pain in the backside, she says. Where’s your parents?

Dead, I say.

My teacher says, Tell the truth, Katie. She says, Amelia Rose said you bit her.

I didn’t, I say.

She has teeth marks on her arm, my teacher says.

I say, If you look closely you’ll see those were made by a shark.

I want to go back to the caravan now, Alfred says.

Okay, I say.

I give the lady my full laser eye blasts.

‘Now you’re dead too,’ I say.

If you want the truth, I’ll tell you that when we were four and a half, Alfred died. This big tree fell down in a storm and it squashed him, and his Action Man. I found them. They were really flat.

Back at the caravan Mum’s still on her Facebook.

You make any friends? she says.

Oh yes, we say. Loads and loads of them.

Brilliant, she says. See? I knew you could do it.

Alfred didn’t get squashed by a tree. He just had a disease. But it’s true that he’s dead and it’s true that he’s never been dead and is still here with me all the time. And no, he really doesn’t want me making friends.

I do wish I had laser eyes.

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Tracy Lee-Newman is a fiction writer. She tweets at @writeatme

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