Excerpt: 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'

What most aggrieved Miss Fabricant, of course, was the fact that one after the other of her other charges started to regress in the potty department. She and I had concurred hopefully at the start of the year that Kevin might be inspired by the example of his peers on bathroom breaks, but I fear that quite the opposite took place, and by the time he graduated there was not just one six-year-old in diapers, but three or four.

I was more unsettled by a couple of passing incidents.

One morning some delicate slip of a thing nicknamed Muffet brought a tea set for show-and-tell. It wasn't any ordinary tea set, but an ornate, many-cupped affair whose elements each fit into the formfitted cubbies of a velvet-lined mahogany box. Her mother later huffed that it was a family heirloom that Muffet was only allowed to bring out on special occasions. No doubt the set should never have been taken to a kindergarten, but the little girl was proud of the many matching pieces and had learned to handle them with care, painstakingly laying out the cups in their saucers with china spoons before a dozen of her classmates as they sat at their knee-high tables. After she'd poured a round of "tea" (the ubiquitous pineapple-grapefruit juice), Kevin hoisted his cup by its tiny handle in a salutary toast — and dropped it on the floor.

In rapid succession all eleven of his fellow tea-sippers followed suit. Before Miss Fabricant could get hold of the situation, the saucers and spoons quickly suffered the same tinkling fate, in consequence of which when Muffet's mother retrieved her sobbing daughter that afternoon, nothing remained of the treasured tea set but the pot.

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