‘Do you reckon it was that burger, Dad? At the footie?’
My dad is King of questions. Ask him anything.
How many miles is it to the Sun?
Who’d win: Romans or Ninjas?
What are toenails made of?
He frowns at my duvet as if I’ve scribbled on it again.
‘Jimmy said it didn’t taste right,’ I add. Just to help.
Dad’s jaw pumps like it’s gearing up for something big. He clamps me tight to his chest: too tight, like Jimmy used to sometimes, when we played rough.
Air whooshes against my cheek but no answer comes.
I go with my burger theory, because of what Jimmy said. And
because I had the hot dog. And I’m still here.
‘Do you think the cow shivered like Jimmy?’
I’ve never seen a cow shiver.
I picture a quivering, black bulk with paintbrush splashes of white, breath rattling out in coiled, misty heaves. Angry spots marching up knobbly legs. As if someone’s just splattered them with ketchup.
Dad grinds his knuckles into his eyes so hard it must hurt. He once told me if bacteria were the size of plates, I’d be 125 miles tall. They call them superbugs, but it’s not because of their size.
His whiskery throat bobs. ‘I don’t know, Son.’
Yesterday, I smelt bacon frying next door. A tap turned on in my mouth. Next came the tears. They wouldn’t stop. Not until I was gasping, like Jimmy.
I think of those bacteria, floating around the cow, waiting in plastic packets, just for him. Another question sneaks onto my tongue: can superbugs hide in vegetables?
Dad’s panda eyes are busy climbing curtains. So I swallow it. Like one of Jimmy’s stupid pills.
I’ll eat paper. Blu Tack. Glue.
In case the grown-ups are wrong about that, too.