Castor and Pollux rushed in from school and abandoned their
rucksacks on the hall floor, just where they were guaranteed to trip
up their father when he came in from the garden.
Cosmo entered on cue and narrowly missed the obstructions.
Is someone trying to make a re-run of Home Alone? he joked.
Sorry, dad, but guess what? enthused Castor.
What? Brassica swivelled round from emptying the dishwasher. It
had been a relaxing afternoon, as she hadn’t been on the school run.
Calm down, dears, said their father in his David Cameron/ Michael
Winner parody. He knew that this irritated Brassie, who thought it a
politically incorrect exhortation.
Well, we have just heard that they’re looking for a middle-aged
couple to go to the Red Planet in 2018. We’ll be grown–up by then, or
practically. You and Mum could make space history. You’d only be
away for 500 days, gushed Pollux.
Or maybe 501, qualified Castor, ever the punctilious one. Anyway,
Aliona or Magda could keep an eye on us. We’ll be driving by then,
so we could transport ourselves to Sixth Form College.
Steady on, old chaps, cautioned Cosmo. Not so fast. He looked
mildly interested, though.
Brassie appeared horrified. She placed their mugs of hot chocolate down
on the kitchen table and refused to take all the sci-fi nonsense seriously.
She had heard this subject being discussed on the news and had
been instantly convinced that there was absolutely zero chance of any
couple being able to stand each other for that length of time.
Goodness only knew how she was relieved if Cosmo went up to his
astral shed, also known as the observatory, after 500 seconds of
interaction. She’d read about Biosphere 2, a sealed ecosystem where
people had been cooped up together for 2 years in 1991, in a kind of
self-styled New Age Paradise. And where there is an Eden,
there is always a Fall from Grace, she thought.
Cosmo held his hand up to stem the torrent of excitement.
Listen, guys, he said, we would be subjected to a massive degree of
radiation. Your mother is frazzled enough.
Brassie added: I wouldn’t want to return, looking like a deep-fried
Very funny, Mum, they objected, picking up two mini-Mars bars and
scoffing them in a single bite.
You could imagine the lack of hygiene and weird toilet arrangements,
Brassie went on.
Oh, they provide you with 28kg of toilet paper, which should be
enough for 500 days, for two people, smirked Castor.
Too bad about Day 501! sniggered Pollux.
We had it all worked out, said Castor. Dragon and Falcon Heavy
Systems of Space X could have provided us with a Carebot P 37 S65.
Carebot? Brassie wondered if this was some sort of lavatorial
Cosmo said, Yes, I’ve heard of those. They can be programmed to
look after people. They can answer questions, do your prep and
even tell you a joke. They provide meaningful interaction to
supplement human contact.
Good! Let’s get one then, said Brassie. Living in a household of
uncommunicative males makes me a prime candidate for being in
need of one.
Castor leapt in: We could get one for Ginevra and it could remind her
when her next gin and tonic is due.
I don’t think that is necessary, replied their mother.
They recognise faces too, volunteered Pollux.
Which is more than I can, admitted Cosmo. I saw that masseuse
woman in the street the other day and I didn’t recall having encountered
She probably didn’t have her full maquillage on, bitched Brassie.
Nice idea anyway, boys, said Cosmo, ruffling their hair as he made his
exit to the garden pathway leading to his astral cave.
Yip, thought Brassie: Men are from Mars and Women are from
Venus, right enough. By 2018 my two will probably wonder what
planet their parents live on anyway.
For now she would be Soup Dragon to her family of Clangers. And if
she restricted their viewing time on the computer screen, it was only
to save them from too much radiation. Or that was what she told
them, in any case.
If there was to be a future generation, she felt that she had to look
after their little gonads. Thank goodness she sourced that salt crystal
lamp the other day! It was supposed to protect the home office from all sorts
of nasties. Now to dispose of the microwave…