‘I hate it, I won’t eat it, I won’t,’ shouted Micky, staring down at his plate.
‘Oh dear,’ said his mother, ‘but you liked it last week, it was your favourite.’
‘I don’t like it this week.’
‘Oh dear,’ repeated Mrs Wells, sounding very anxious now because she couldn’t find anything that Micky liked to eat.
He loathed spinach and peas, beans and carrots, cabbage and eggs, and sausages and fish, AND being the youngest. ‘Why can’t I be old like David and Penny? It’s no fun being the youngest,’ he stormed. ‘They hate me and they never let me do things with them.’
‘Oh, I’m sure they don’t hate you, Micky.’
‘Yes, they do,’ he grumbled. ‘David calls me a disgrace to mankind – and I don’t even know what that is – and Penny says I should carry a health warning. ‘It’s so unfair. Why can’t David have a go at being the youngest – why has it always got to be me? I was the youngest at five AND six AND seven AND I’m the littlest. They’re always telling me I’m too little to do things. Why am I so little, Mum?’ ‘Because you’re the youngest, Micky,’ said Mrs Wells – a little unwisely. ‘But I HATE being the youngest. It’s beastly having to go to bed first and miss all the good stuff on telly.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Mrs Wells sounding very upset indeed.
Micky stomped upstairs to his room and flung himself on the bed. He glared at his reflection in the mirror, a mop of black hair with his face all blurred and fuzzy round the edges. Angrily, he hooked his thumbs into the corners of his mouth, pulled down his eyelids, crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue. The face glaring back at him looked disgusting, but it was still blurred and fuzzy at the edges.
‘Don’t put up with it,’ said Mr Wells that evening after Micky had finally gone to bed.
‘And what do you suggest I do?’ ‘Send him to his room without any supper.’
‘He’ll be thrilled,’ said Mrs Wells, ‘he hates eating.’
‘So why not ask the twins to talk to him,’ suggested Mr Wells. ‘I’ve tried. David just calls Micky a miserable little worm.’
‘And Penny? Surely she’s more sensible.’
‘Oh no, she’s no better,’ sighed Mrs Wells. ‘She can’t bear Micky anywhere near her in case he gets his dirty hands on her clean dress. It’s very difficult being seven, you know.’
‘Nonsense!’ Mr Wells sounded irritated. ‘It’s no more difficult being seven than … er … forty-seven.’ (Mr Wells was forty-seven) ‘Anyway Micky’s nearly eight!’
‘It’s just the same at seven or eight,’ snapped Mrs Wells. ‘You’ve stopped being a baby, but everyone still treats you like one. Please do something. I can’t bear having difficult children.’
‘All right, my dear,’ Mr Wells patted his wife’s hand. ‘Now, don’t you worry, I’ll think of something.’
But Mr Wells didn’t think of anything straight away and meanwhile Micky continued to hate everything except hamburgers and ice cream, and everyone except his dad and mum. He even told his mum he hated her (he didn’t really), because he had to go to the dentist for a check-up and to the opticians to have his eyes tested.
‘I won’t wear glasses,’ he stormed. ‘It’s so unfair. David and Penny don’t wear glasses.’
‘I know, dear, and I’m so sorry. But if you wear them now, the doctor says by the time you’re twelve – like David and Penny – your eyes will be stronger and then, hopefully, you can leave them off.’
‘But twelve’s years away,’ protested Micky weeping. ‘I’m not even eight yet, then there’s nine and ten AND eleven. I shall be an old man before I’m twelve.’
‘Dearest Micky,’ his mum hugged him. ‘I promise you won’t be an old man at twelve. But do wear your glasses, just to please me.’
‘Can I have hamburgers for tea?’
Mrs Wells gave in. ‘Yes, you can have hamburgers if you wear your glasses.’
But in one week Micky had succeeded in breaking them; and in one month he was on his fourth pair.
‘Now I’ve had quite enough of this,’ said his dad crossly. ‘If you lose or break this pair, I shall stop your pocket money and you will NOT watch television until you learn to behave.’
So Micky wore his glasses and added his dad to his list of hates.
Then Mr Wells did think of something. ‘I have news!’ he bellowed as he opened the front door. ‘And it’s great news. David! Penny! Micky! Come here!’
Micky dropped his book on the floor and tore downstairs, closely followed by the twins.
‘De-Dar,’ Mr Wells shouted, beating a drum-roll on an imaginary drum. ‘You’ll never guess in a million years!’
‘WHAT?’ shouted Micky. ‘WE – ARE – GOING – TO – LIVE – IN – BARBADOS – FOR – A – WHOLE – YEAR.’
‘WHERE?’ said David and Penny, speaking together.
‘WHEN?’ said his wife.
‘WHAT’S BARBADOS?’ said Micky.
‘It’s an island in the Caribbean Sea, a long way from here. The sun shines every day, not like here where it’s cold and miserable half the time. I have to go there for work and we leave in four weeks – just after Micky’s birthday. Get the map, Micky.’
The vast outline of the coast of America appeared. Tucked away in a semi-circle of dots, Micky saw a small, green oblong surrounded by a sea of blue. David and Penny chased off to search the encyclopaedia for information, leaving their dad, with Micky perched on his knee, to point out the plane route from England.
‘And can I learn to swim?’ Micky said, when he heard about the blue water of the Caribbean Sea and all the sailing boats.
‘But you hate swimming,’ interrupted Mrs Wells. ‘Not in Barbados, I don’t. I just love swimming in Barbados,’ said Micky triumphantly out-manoeuvring his mother.
Micky was so excited he actually forgot to make a fuss about having to go to bed first. ‘I can’t wait,’ he cried. ‘A month is ages and ages and ages. Why it’s four weeks, which is … er …’
‘Ages!’ Mum laughed. ‘It’s all right for you, you’ve only got to pack your suitcase, I have the whole house to pack; I’ll never be ready in a month.’