‘Honestly. You should see what Granny made me wear.’
Owen gave a gap-toothed grin, sensing a victim. ‘What did Granny make you wear?’
‘That’s a secret.’
‘Dad, come on-’
I waited behind the door. Owen stopped splashing, listening for me. ‘Dad, what did Granny make you wear?’ Owen shouted.
Kate passed me on the landing. ‘Not the pants Granny made you wear, Dad!’
Owen’s feet slid, squeaking against the side of the bath, like a finger on a balloon.
‘Ah, ah,’ I said, ‘you haven’t washed your hair yet.’
‘Tell me about your pants,’ Owen beamed.
‘When you’ve washed your hair, I will.’
Owen bit his lip. Kate had bought a foam visor to keep the shampoo from Owen’s eyes. It was like one of those concertina paper hats radio stations gave you in the 80s. I slid the visor into place, just above his eyebrows. He screwed his eyes up tight. Owen snorted like a bull as the water fell from his forehead.
‘I’ve had to use the gravy jug,’ I said.
‘No, you haven’t Dad.’
‘I have. I can see bits of onion and carrots and all sorts in your hair.’
‘No, you haven’t Dad.’
‘Don’t you believe me?’
‘Stop being silly, Dad.’
When I’d rinsed the soap from Owen’s hair I told him to get dry. He sat on the bathmat by the radiator, shrouded in the towel.
‘Tell me about the pants, Dad.’
Owen wriggled under the towel, rubbing his shoulders dry. I sat on the edge of the bath.
‘Granny bought me a big pack of pants with the days of the week written on them.’
‘Like Sunday and Monday and-’
I rubbed my chin. ‘That’s the weird thing – there were two Mondays.’
Owen giggled. ‘In case you did a poo in your pants on Monday.’
‘I hated wearing them.’
‘I wouldn’t wear them.’
‘No choice,’ I said. ‘Imagine going to school without pants on.’
Owen thought that was very funny.
‘Anyway, one day I had Games. We’d been playing football. It was a Wednesday in January and freezing. The pitch was spiky and frosty and we had to run around in tiny shorts and vests in sleet and snow.’
Owen giggled. His hair stood up in spikes where he’d towelled it.
‘I was in goal and someone whacked the ball. I tried to get out of the way.’
Owen wrinkled his nose. ‘You’re supposed to try and save it.’
‘It smacked me right on the thigh.’ I pointed at my leg, wincing at the memory.
‘Did it hurt, Dad?’
I nodded. ‘I had a great big red mark. Everyone was looking at me and when I was changing Darren Hunter spotted my pants. ‘Humph is wearing Sunday’s pants!’ he shouted.’
‘I’d grabbed a towel, see, thinking I’d try to dress underneath it, wearing it like a long skirt.’
‘Dad, you don’t wear skirts.’
‘Darren pulled it away and pointed at my pants. ‘That’s disgusting. Humph has been wearing the same pants for three days,’ he said.’
Owen pulled a face. ‘Why did you wear them for three days?’
‘I didn’t, but they had Sunday written on them.’
‘Why weren’t you wearing Wednesday’s pants?’
‘Granny always did Granddad’s shirts first and we had to wait.’
‘I like Granny’s wash basket.’
My mother still had the Ali Baba basket she used for laundry. We used to hide in it and roll each other round the landing as kids. Now the boys were doing the same.
‘I’ve seen snakes in there!’
‘No, you haven’t. Now get dried.’
Owen wriggled into his pants under the towel.
‘Football pants, not Sunday pants,’ I said, winking.
‘Dad wears smelly pants.’
‘Cut it out, you.’
Owen was beaming, ‘Dad?’
‘What is it, superstar?’
‘What are you thinking about, Dad?’
I scratched my scalp. ‘It’s a tricky one,’ I said.
‘Well, it’s back to work tomorrow and I can’t find Monday’s pants.’
Owen shook his head. ‘It’s a good job you don’t go to my school, Dad. I think they’d all laugh at you.’