About a boy

Will is thirty-six and doesn’t really want children. Why does it bother people that he lives so happily alone in a fashionable, Lego-free flat, with massive speakers and a mammoth record collection, hardwood floors, and an expensive cream-colored rug that no kid has ever thrown up on? Then Will meets Angie. He’s never been out with anyone who was a mom. And it has to be said that Angie’s long blond hair and big blue eyes are not irrelevant to Will’s reassessment of his attitude toward children. Then it dawns on Will that maybe Angie goes out with him because of the children. That maybe children democratize beautiful, single women. That single mothers — bright, attractive, available women — were all over London… Marcus is twelve and he knows he’s weird. It was all his mother’s fault, Marcus figured. She was the one who made him listen to Joni Mitchell instead of Nirvana, and read books instead of play on his Gameboy. Then Marcus meets Will. Will belongs to his mother’s SPAT group (Single Parents, Alone Together), and Will is cool. Marcus needs someone who knows what kind of sneakers he should wear, and who Kurt Cobain is. And Marcus’s mother needs a husband. They could all move in together! Marcus and his mother, Will and his son, Ned. Then Marcus follows Will home to his flat, where there are no toys or diapers, no second bedroom, even — and certainly no Ned. This was valuable stuff. If Marcus went home and told his mother about this right away, that would be the end of it. But something tells Marcus that he should hang on to this information until he knows what it’s worth.

Nick Hornby
About a Boy

Love and thanks to David Evans, Adrienne Maguire, Caroline Dawnay, Virginia Bovell, Abigail Morris, Wendy Carlton, Harry Ritchie and Amanda Posey.

In memory of Liz Knights

One

‘Have you split up now?’
‘Are you being funny?’
People quite often thought Marcus was being funny when he wasn’t. He couldn’t understand it. Asking his mum whether she’d split up with Roger was a perfectly sensible question, he thought: they’d had a big row, then they’d gone off into the kitchen to talk quietly, and after a little while they’d come out looking serious, and Roger had come over to him, shaken his hand and wished him luck at his new school, and then he’d gone.
‘Why would I want to be funny?’
‘Well, what does it look like to you?’
‘It looks to me like you’ve split up. But I just wanted to make sure.’
‘We’ve split up.’
‘So he’s gone?’
‘Yes, Marcus, he’s gone.’
He didn’t think he’d ever get used to this business. He had quite liked Roger, and the three of them had been out a few times; now, apparently, he’d never see him again. He didn’t mind, but it was weird if you thought about it. He’d once shared a toilet with Roger, when they were both busting for a pee after a car journey. You’d think that if you’d peed with someone you ought to keep in touch with them somehow.
‘What about his pizza?’ They’d just ordered three pizzas when the argument started, and they hadn’t arrived yet.
‘We’ll share it. If we’re hungry.’
‘They’re big, though. And didn’t he order one with pepperoni on it?’ Marcus and his mother were vegetarians. Roger wasn’t.
‘We’ll throw it away, then,’ she said.
‘Or we could pick the pepperoni off. I don’t think they give you much of it anyway. It’s mostly cheese and tomato.’
‘Marcus, I’m not really thinking about the pizzas right now.’
‘OK. Sorry. Why did you split up?