“Daddy,” Jacko whined miserably. “I don’t like it? Please, Daddy, don’t make me?” He wriggled uncomfortably as his father tended to him. He looked at his son knowing how he felt and with a degree of sympathy, but there wasn’t that much he could do about it. Sometimes they just had to things that they didn’t really like much, and this was going to be one of those times.
“It’s fine, Jack,” his dad offered and then grinned at him.
“No, it’s not. It’s itchy!” He complained. “It’s nasty and its tight and I can’t even turn my head properly.”
“Oh, I’m sure you can,” Daddy chuckled.
“No, I can’t, see?” He shook his head quite dramatically from one side to the other until his dad worried he might strain his neck as he demonstrated that he was alarmingly flexible and that his head movement was not hindered at all. When Jacko stopped shaking his head he staggered slightly as it felt like the room kept on shaking for a little while afterward. “See? It makes me feel funny, Daddy,” Jacko complained.
“I think that was more to do with you shaking your head so much you rattled your brain,” Daddy chuckled.
“I don’t want to wear it, Daddy.”
“It is just for one afternoon, Jack,” Daddy told him in a voice that said he wasn’t going to get out of it no matter how many times he complained. “I have to wear it too.”
“I told you why,” Daddy sighed. “It is because Granddad is having a business gathering and a party and we have to be there to represent his interests and we need to be smart.”
“But it’s not interesting, it is going to be boring!” Jacko complained. “It is all grown ups and they aren’t fun. Why doesn’t Michael have to wear one?”
“Because Michael is only two,” Daddy stated. “You’re a big boy now aren’t you? If Michael had to wear a tie then he would try to eat it!” Daddy laughed. “He isn’t going to be at the party the whole time. He is going to be with Greta in the kitchens because he will probably need to have a sleep. Do you want to go to the party or do you want to have a sleep with Michael?” Daddy asked him. He wasn’t sure that having a sleep in the kitchen wasn’t better. If he had a sleep in the kitchen then he'd not have to wear the horrible suit and tie.
“What if I try to eat my tie?” Jacko asked cheekily.
“If you chew on your tie then you will be in trouble,” Daddy warned. “It’s not for long, Jack. And you will still be able to have some fun. There are going to be some other boys and girls and you will be able to play with them after the main address and the speeches. All the other boys will have suits and ties on too and the girls will have their dresses on like Aunty Sue and Grandma have to wear. I’ve got to wear a suit and so does Tony and so will Granddad,” Daddy reminded him.
“But why?” Jacko pulled at his collar and his tie. That made it get even tighter and he frowned. Daddy chuckled as he loosened it off for him again. It was like a trick. If he pulled it to get it off then it got tighter. That wasn’t funny. The jacket he had on was horrible, but Daddy hadn’t made him fasten the buttons so it wasn’t as bad as it could be. He hoped Grandma wouldn’t make him fasten the buttons because she was going to come up and inspect them shortly and make sure they were all smart enough. He couldn’t wear jeans and he had itchy trousers on and he didn’t have his Converse trainers on. He had proper shoes on and they were shiny!
“We have to be smart so that Granddad can have his business party. There are going to be a lot of important people here so you need to be on your best behaviour,” Daddy advised him. “You need to remember how to do hand shakes. Can you remember how to do hand shakes?” Daddy asked. He extended his hand out to his Daddy to demonstrate, but when Daddy grinned and went to shake his hand he pulled it away and put his thumb to his nose, wriggling his fingers, as he stuck his tongue out at him. Daddy couldn’t help but laugh at him then. “Please don’t do that to any of Granddad’s business associates,” Daddy giggled.
“I won’t Daddy,” Jacko sighed. “Are they all very important?”
“Harriet is coming,” Daddy nodded.
“But I’ve got wellies!” Jacko exclaimed. Why did he have to wear shiny shoes and itchy trousers just because Aunty Harriet was coming? She always had jeans and wellies on or trainers and they had fun down at the farm. Harriet had even been riding with him and she’d not got cross when she got muddy. She thought it was fun. He didn’t have to wear itchy trousers and shiny shoes for Aunty Harriet.
“She wont be wearing Wellies today, Toad,” Daddy offered. “She is going to be working so she is going to be smart too, and you will have to call her Madam President at the party rather than Aunty Harriet unless she says that it is alright for you to call her Aunty Harriet,” Daddy advised.
“It doesn’t sound like it is going to be a very fun party, Daddy,” Jacko pouted as he wriggled and itched at the top of his leg where the edge of his pants were and his trousers were scratchy. It was nearly his bum! How could he be smart and well behaved and be a proper little business man if his trousers were making his bum itchy?
“I am sure you will have some fun,” Daddy offered.
“John?!” Grandma shouted in from outside the flat. “Are you nearly ready?” She asked him as she came into the flat. “What is taking you both so long? Honestly, you’re like a pair of women the amount of time it is taking you to get ready. The guests are starting to arrive,” she came into the room and took in Daddy and Jacko in their matching suits. “Oh, don’t you both look sweet,” she chuckled and she grinned at Jacko.
“I don’t like it, Grandma. Can I get changed?”
“I don’t think so, Sunshine,” Grandma laughed and glanced at John.
“He doesn’t like it,” Daddy offered as he stuck his finger down his own collar in a vain attempt to loosen it off from his neck.
“Aw, but you look so sweet,” Grandma told him. “Everyone is going to think you look adorable,” she grinned as Jacko pouted. He was wearing a medium grey suit with a light purple pinstripe running through it. He had a white dress shirt on, but he had a royal purple cumber-band and a matching tie on. They were the same colour as his dad’s. He guessed that bit was alright, but it didn’t mean he liked it. Grandma was looking very smart as well. She had a turquoise cocktail dress on with a dark teal shawl around her shoulders and her hair was up in a French pleat.
“You look lovely, Jax,” Daddy told her. “Don’t you think Grandma looks lovely?” He prompted and Jacko nodded.
“You don’t scrub up badly yourself, now, lets go? Sue is downstairs. She has got Michael while Greta finishes setting the buffet out in the main room. She looks great as well, John,” Jackie advised him. “Have you seen the dress she is wearing?”
“Not yet,” Daddy admitted. “She came straight from work.”
“Right, are you ready to go?” Grandma asked Jacko. He wriggled and pouted and pulled at his jacket. “Stop fidgeting,” Grandma chuckled. “You’re as bad as your Daddy,” she smirked and glanced at John seeing that he was doing almost exactly the same wriggle as his son. They both frowned and Jackie couldn’t help but laugh. Jacko ran his hand through his hair in a manner the same as his dad, but it made his hair stick up a little bit more. He had even had to have his hair brushed and he didn’t have the usual amount of gel in it. He felt restricted, hot, and he had itchy bits from the trousers and his feet were going to be sore from his new shoes and he scratched the top of his leg and his head at the same time.
“Oh, look at your hair now?” Daddy complained slightly at him. “Come here a second,” he pulled him around to face him as he crouched down and tried to get his hair to go smart and flat again. Jacko wasn’t quite sure why Daddy was worried about his hair when his own was sticking up too because he had run his hand through his hair and he didn’t have the right amount of gel in to make it deliberately sticky up either. Daddy couldn’t get his hair to lie back down, so he licked his hand, and then he tried to flatten it again.
“Daddy?” Jacko pulled a face. “You put spit in my hair?!”
“No I didn’t,” Daddy laughed.
“Yes you did, you put spit on your hand and then you put it in my hair,” he complained, but Daddy just laughed and continued trying to make his hair go flat.
They went down to the party. There were lots of people there and they were all standing around and looking like they were supposed to be impressive because they were important. Jacko heard his Daddy groan when he saw all the people that were there. He thought perhaps Daddy wasn’t going to have a fun time either as he went and said hello to some people. Jacko had seen some of the people before, but not all of them, but none of them were really bothered about him. He wasn’t a business entrepreneur or an investor, he was five and he was bored already as he scratched his bum again because his trousers were making it itchy.
“Oh, don’t you look a picture?” Harriet came over and talked to him. She was the only one and she was the most important person in the room because she was the president. Daddy winked at him as he kept an eye on him and made sure that as he was dragged from one conversation to another by people after his seal of approval or investment or some other kind of association with him as a Tyler or with him as a musician. It was tiresome and he did feel for his son, but it was part of what their life was. Tony was well accustomed to being in these kind of social situations and he was mingling as confidently as any adult, and probably more confident than Daddy did. At least Jacko knew that Daddy didn’t like these parties either.
“Hello Madam President,” Jacko offered her his hand.
“Oh, don’t be daft,” Harriet grinned at him.
“Am I allowed to call you Aunty Harriet?” Jacko asked her quietly.
“Of course you are,” Harriet agreed.
“Have you got your wellies here?” He asked her.
“Not today, I have to work today, but tell you what? I have got some time at the weekend. Can I come and bring my wellies then?” She asked him.
“Yay!” Jacko grinned and hugged her tightly. She laughed and hauled him up to give him a proper hug.
“I think you look lovely in your suit,” she told him. “It matches your Daddy’s one doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, but it is itchy and horrible,” Jacko pouted. Harriet ruffled his hair and made it all stand up on end again. He hoped that it didn’t mean Daddy was going to put more spit in it to make it lie down. He could make it lie down with gel. He didn’t need to put spit in it. He scratched his bum and then Marcia came and gave him a little glass of orange juice. She told him he had to be careful with it because it was a proper glass and not his usual tumbler or plastic beaker.
Daddy called him over and he stood just in front of him with Daddy’s hand on his shoulder as they stood at the front of the foyer by the big staircase in the hallway. It was like they were on display to the rest of the people who had all gathered around and were looking at them. Granddad gave a speech, but Jacko didn’t understand most of it, and then Aunty Harriet gave a speech, and then Grandma said it was time to have a knees up. It didn’t feel much like a knees up though.
Jacko wandered through into the lounge to see if he could put the television on, but there was a screen in front of it and there were more people being business men and having boring adult conversations. He pouted and was about to go and find his Daddy to figure out if he could do something fun even if there were important people around. When he went past the bottom of the stairs there was another boy sitting on them. He had a suit on and he didn’t look very comfortable in it either. He had his elbows on his knees and a glum face and he looked very bored.
“What is your name?” Jacko asked him.
“I’m Steven,” the other boy commented. “You are the Tyler boy aren’t you?”
“Um, I’m Jack,” he nodded. “I live here.”
“It is a splendid house.”
“Do you like parties?”
“I don’t really like gatherings such as this,” Steven complained. “Father has them all the time,” he offered. “They are always most tedious.”
“Right,” Jacko regarded him curiously. He wondered if he always talked like that or if he was just trying to be posh and grown up because they were in the business party. “How old are you?”
“I shall be seven in just two months,” he advised.
“So you’re six then?” Jacko shrugged. “I’m five. Do you want to come and see my farm?” He asked. “I am sure Daddy will let us go and have a look.”
“That may be slightly more interesting,” Steven agreed. “Do you need to let your father know you are going?”
“Nope,” Jacko thought he probably should let him know they were going, but then if he let them know he was going, what if Daddy said no. Then they would be stuck in the house with all the boring people, and even if he thought Steven sounded like he was going to be boring, he was going to give him a chance.
They snuck out of the mansion and Jacko led the way down towards the farm. To begin with they were quite sedate and Jacko was content to show him from one pen to another, but then, as they looked at the animals they kind of forgot that they were supposed to be on their best behaviour and Steven forgot that he was supposed to be setting the best example for his father. They started to run around and to have fun and play games, whooping and running, and not caring about the silly ties, or shiny shoes, or the itchy trousers.
“Jack Tyler!” Daddy came down to the farm. He had his cross face on and Jacko realised that he might have been naughty. “What do you think you are doing?”
“I wanted to show Stevie the farm, Daddy. He thinks it is great.”
“It is,” Steven agreed.
“Look at the state of you both?” Daddy sounded worried when he saw them. They had been running around and it was muddy and they had both fallen over a couple of times. They were dirty and dishevelled and Jacko’s tie was somehow on sideways and he had ripped the knee of his trousers. If Steven hadn’t been nearly seven he might have cried a little bit as well because it hurt as he had cut his knee underneath the ripped fabric of his trousers. Steven wasn’t in any better condition. He had a lighter coloured suit on to him and he had grass stains on his jacket and his shirt and he had goat poop on his trousers from when Donald had last got out. They both had faces streaked with mud and messy hair and Jacko’s shoes were no longer shiny. “Come on,” Daddy sighed as he led them back up toward the mansion. “What is your dad going to say,” he asked Steven.
“I didn’t mean to cause trouble, Professor Tyler,” Steven stated.
“It wasn’t his idea, Daddy, it was mine,” Jacko tried to defend Steven. He didn’t want him to get into trouble. It sounded bad if he had to call his Daddy father and not Daddy.
Daddy reluctantly led them both back into the mansion. There were posh people everywhere so there was no way they could come back in and not be seen, but Harriet was in the foyer when they came in. She looked at Jacko and Steven and burst out laughing. She couldn’t help it, and then everyone else started to laugh, and to make comments about how boys would be boys and it looked like they’d had a great time, and that there was no harm done. She winked at Jacko and then went and ruffled Steven’s hair.
“Next time bring your wellies,” she advised Steven as she chuckled.
“Well, I think better take you upstairs and get your changed and bathed,” Daddy suggested and went to take Jacko’s hand.
“Not so fast, Mister,” Jackie came over. “I’ll take him up and get him washed and changed.” She offered. “You can stay down here and mingle. There are at least three more people who are looking to talk to you, John.”
“But…” Daddy complained and pouted.
“Daddy?” Jacko grinned at his father. “Perhaps next time you should bring your wellies as well?” He giggled and ran up the stairs to get out of his muddy suit. He did feel slightly sorry for Daddy when a fat man in a bad suit went and shook his hand firmly, putting an arm around his Daddy’s shoulder and leading him away from the bottom of the stairs. Jacko was sure that he heard him say something about him being a leading manufacturer of toilet cleaning fluids. He was sure that was going to be a riveting conversation for Daddy. He got out of his suit, into the bath, and then he sat down to watch a DVD with grandma. Aunty Harriet arrived up to watch the film as well, as she kicked her high heels off and slouched on the ground next to him in his I Robot pyjamas he thought that the party wasn’t that bad afterall.