The Agony of Choice

by James

There was an open bottle of wine on the table, and an empty one on the sideboard. Kenny knew he must be in deep shit this time – half past six and his parents were sloshed, their only tactic when it came to dealing with parental confrontation.

Dad was busy holding up his own nearly empty glass to the light, twirling it by the stem and squinting with one eye as though he was appraising a diamond. Mum was sipping at her wine, knees prim together, perched on the edge of the chair.

Contrition was called for, Kenny knew, but for the life of him, he could not work out what he had done.

At last Mum started to speak. ‘It’s time to talk to you about the natural world. About…the way that the world naturally moves from Spring into Summer, and then back again.’

‘That’s right,’ Dad said. ‘And Autumn, and Winter.’ He turned his eye screwed up squint onto Mum. ‘Bloody long winters, some of them.’

Kenny looked at the bottle of wine and considered chugging it, let them bollock him about underage drinking instead. They couldn’t want to talk to him about sex, could they?

Then things got worse.

Mum said, 'Pornography.'

Dad said, 'Pornogrpahy,' and stifled another giggle.

Mum gulped at her wine. ‘Now you're a little older, we feel perhaps that it's time to acknowledge your maturity, to talk to you about it. Set some ground rules.’

Dad pointed at Kenny with his glass. ‘Yeah – use a tissue, don’t just leave some manky old hanky around for your poor Mum to clear up.’

Mum elbowed him. ‘We mean, things like relaxing some of the internet controls, but setting limits. You’re getting older, it’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate some responsibility.’

Kenny nodded, stunned at the possibilities opening up before him. How many times had he woken in the middle of the night, filled with horror that he might have forgotten to go back on the router and turn the smut blocking back on again?

Dad said, ‘We’re giving you the keys to the kingdom. You know what we had in my day? Films like the bumbling window cleaner giving his customers the full suds and rub down service, if you know what I mean.’ Dad hiccupped. ‘Nipple, that’s all we had. Maybe a little bit of bum. If we were lucky.’

Mum said, ‘Well.’ She took a big glug of wine, and tried to meet Kenny’s eye.

Dad shook his head morosely. ‘These days, all it takes is an incognito window in Chrome, then type in, oh I don't know, teen lesbo’s or double headed strap on teens, and it's all right there in front of you. You have your cougars and your panthers, and you have your Tiggers and your Pot-holers. Then there’s your bulls, your Primals, your Shintos, the bento brigade.’

Dad pointed his wine glass at Kenny again. ‘You youngsters, you have it all on a plate. You know what I had? The Argos catalogue, page three hundred and forty seven: the woman in the shower enclosure with the top of her bum showing.’