BREAKFAST TV - NIGEL BIRD
It was hot under the studio lights.
Even in a tee-shirt and shorts Mitchell was sweating.
They’d told him what to wear a week before filming. Explained they were going with the beach barbecue theme.
No way on Earth he’d ever seen himself being painted as the villain in the piece, but that’s what they’d done.
He’d persuaded Ellen to have the kid. Said he’d be there whatever happened. They could move into his mother’s place until the council offered them somewhere of their own. Nothing would have got in the way on account of the way he felt about her.
But they were twisting it all around.
The audience booed when he tried to defend himself.
Maybe he should have seen through it from the start. Realised when the Daniel Dean story broke he wasn’t going to get a look in. Way the papers told it, Daniel and Ellen had got drunk at a barbecue on the beach and had got carried away. Didn’t mean much by itself, only it made Daniel the youngest recorded father in Britain.
The little shit didn’t look old enough to cross the road by himself, let alone shave. Hadn’t let go of her hand since the ‘LIVE’ sign lit up. Smug bastard.
They must have been coining it in with all the attention they were getting. Front page most days. It just wasn’t fair.
Mitchell might not have minded if the host had given him a fair shot. She was supposed to see it from all angles. Keep it on a knife edge to the end.
Only thing on a knife edge were his nuts.
“You forced her to have the baby and then left her as soon as you heard about Daniel. What kind of a man are you?” Agony Agnes, host and star of the show, seemed to have it in for him as much as everyone else.
“It wasn’t like that...” He might as well have been pissing into the ocean. The audience shouted and jeered so loud he couldn’t even hear his own voice.
Daniel and Ellen lapped it up, circling their arms at the crowd and urging them to call louder.
How the baby slept through it all, Mitchell had no idea. Wouldn’t have surprised him if they’d doped him up for the show.
“So who is the father of baby Nathan?” Agnes said directly into the camera. “We’ll find out after the break.”
One of the chefs served out food as the director counted down to the adverts.
It was the part no one at home got to see.
Daniel took a big bite from a burger and spat it in Mitchell’s direction.
Mitchell knew he shouldn’t let it get to him, but he was raging.
Kept his cool though. Took a bite of his kebab and chewed. When the result of the paternity test arrived he’d be laughing loudest of all.
When the ads were over Agnes reminded everyone of the story in case they’d missed it the first four times, then she clicked her fingers.
From behind a partition wall a lady appeared. In her hand was a silver platter and on the platter the golden envelope.
“And the father is...” Agnes theatrically slid out a slip of paper, read it and held it into the air like a trophy. “...Daniel.”
Something in Mitchell snapped.
He leapt over to the other side of the room and stuck his kebab skewer all the way through Daniel’s chest. Cut the bugger’s celebrations short, that was for sure.
As the bouncers dragged him back Mitchell just stared at the boy.
The boy stared back.
“That the best you can do?” he goaded, his face pale and tight.
“That the best you can do?” he asked as they pressed at his chest with their hands.
“That the best you can do?” he said, his lips turning blue as they moved.
“The best you can do?” he challenged, his pallor turning grey.
“The best you can do?”
BIO: Nigel Bird is a Support For Learning teacher in a primary school near Edinburgh. Co-Producer of the Rue Bella magazine between 1998 and 2003, he has had short work published in such places as ‘The Reader’, ‘Crimespree’, Needle and Dark Valentine Magazine and was interviewed by Spinetingler for their ‘Conversations With The Bookless’ series last year. He is bookless no more as his e-collection Dirty Old Town (And Other Stories) was recently released to critical acclaim and can be purchased here.