Excerpt from Man and Boy by Tony Parsons, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Man and Boy

By Tony Parsons

Man and Boy
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2001,
    340 pages.
    Paperback: May 2002,
    340 pages.

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'For one more month!' she laughed.

'It’s your birthday soon,' our boy said, laughing along with his mother, although he didn’t have a clue why, and tapping me on the back of the head with his bloody light saber.

'Please don’t do that, Pat,' I said.

He was back there with the week’s shopping, strapped into his little car seat and muttering under his breath, pretending to be in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon with Harrison Ford.

'I’ve lost my starboard engine,' he jabbered away to himself. 'Fire when ready.'

I turned to look at him. He was four years old with dirty blond hair that hung down over eyes that were the same shade of blue as his mother’s. Tiffany blue. Catching my eye, he grinned at me with pure childish delight.

'Happy birthday, dear daddy,' he sang. 'Happy birthday, birth-day.'

To Pat, my birthday was a chance to finally give me the homemade card he had hidden under his bed (Luke Skywalker decapitating a space monster with his trusty light saber). To me, it meant that the best might already be over. It really did.

When would I feel the way I felt the night that my wife said that she would marry me? When would I feel the way I felt the morning that my son was born? When would life be that—I don't know—real again? When?

'When did you become interested in cars?' Gina said. She wouldn’t let this car thing rest. 'I bet you don’t even know what kind of petrol this one uses, do you?'

'Oh, come on, Gina.'

'What is it, then?'

Fucking hell.

'The green kind,' I said, taking a wild guess. 'You know—non-leaded. The one that saves a rain forest every time you fill her up.'

'It’s diesel, you doughnut,' she laughed. 'I never knew a man less interested in cars than you. What happened?'

What could I tell her? You don’t tell a wife that some inanimate object somehow represents all those things you know you are never going to have. The places you are never going to see, the women you are never going to love, the things you are never going to do. You can’t tell a wife all that stuff. Not even a wife you love very much. Especially not a wife like that.

'It only carries one passenger,' she said.

'What does?' I said, playing dumb.

'You know very well what I’m talking about,' she said. 'It only carries one passenger—one thin, female passenger.'

'You’re still pretty thin and female,' I said. 'Or you were the last time I looked.'

'What’s brought all this on, Harry? Come on. Tell me.'

'Maybe I’m compensating for becoming an old fart,' I said. 'I’m joining the old fart’s club so, pathetically, I want to recapture my glorious youth. Even though I know it’s ultimately futile and even though my youth wasn’t particularly glorious. Isn’t that what men do?'

'You’re turning thirty,' she said. 'We’re going to open a couple of bottles and have a nice cake with candles.'

'And balloons,' Pat said.

'And balloons,' Gina said. She shook her lovely head. 'We’re not having you put down, Harry.'

Gina was a couple of months older than me. She had breezed through her thirtieth birthday surrounded by friends and family, dancing with her son to Wham’s greatest hits, a glass of champagne in her hand. She looked great that night, she really did. But clearly my own birthday was going to be a bit more traumatic.

'You don’t regret anything, do you?' she said.

'Like what?'

Copyright Tony Parsons, 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced by the permission of the publisher, Source Books.

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