It wasn’t the sort of night that inspires a person to fight crime or go dancing. It was a night perfectly suited to a soft blanket and a warm mug of hot chocolate. The crickets had run out of things to say. The television was a comforting but unobtrusive mumble. The fridge had stopped doing that weird humming thing that hopefully didn’t mean there was something wrong with it.
‘What do you think of Brandon?’ said Dianne.
‘I think he’s great,’ said Russell.
‘Well, obviously. But what do you actually think of him, as a person?’
‘Why are you asking this?’
‘I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately, and I’ve come to the realisation that I just don’t like him. He’s clingy, abrasive, insensitive. He never says thank you.’
‘He’s our son.’
‘I guess that’s why I bring it up.’
Russell took a sip of hot chocolate. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, does he have to be? Our son?’
‘What kind of question is that?’
Dianne adjusted her soft blanket. ‘I mean, Brandon’s a bit of a disappointment, and if we get rid of him we can make another one. We might get lucky the second time.’
‘You want to murder our son?!’
‘I guess we could have him adopted if you’re too afraid to murder him.’
‘I’m not afraid of anything! I’ll do it right now! Give me that peanut, he’s allergic!’
Halfway up stairs, Russell paused. ‘You’re doing it again, aren’t you?’
‘Doing what?’ said Dianne, innocently.
‘Manipulating my insecurities to make me do something I don’t want to do.’
‘Well, if it makes you feel paranoid you don’t have to do it.’
‘I’m not paranoid! Just you… And you’re still doing it.’
‘Clearly you’re not up to the task. We’ll just keep him.’
‘Keeping in mind that it’s taking everything I have to ignore your bait and say this instead of murdering our sleeping child, do you think maybe we’re to blame?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘That nurture plays at least as big a part as nature. That Brandon being kind of an annoying little shit is our fault because we’re bad parents who a sane society would never have allowed to raise a human life.’
‘So you’re saying if we have another kid, we’ll just ruin that one the way we ruined Brandon?’
‘And that we should give Brandon away not for our own good, but to save him from our poor parenting?’
‘Then I don’t understand.’
‘Brandon’s nearly ten, the damage is done, he’s too far gone.’
‘So we murder Brandon, and then…’
‘And then have another kid. But this time we neglect it to protect it from our bad parenting!’ Russell smiled at his clever plan.
Dianne frowned. ‘I want to say yes, but are we sure about this ending? It’s pretty dark.’
‘What, a parent murdering their kid? They have that in the bible. And it’s God’s idea.’
‘Yeah, but then God chickens out at the last minute.’
‘That one time, maybe. But I’m pretty sure there were a lot of kids in Sodom and Gomorrah. And Noah didn’t save any kids from the flood. And for one of the curses in Egypt God specifically killed everyone’s kids. Oh, and Jesus! God even killed his own kid!’
‘When you think about it, God really loves killing kids, doesn’t He?’
‘Can’t get enough of it.’
‘They’ll probably make us dual popes for this.’
‘Without a doubt.’
And hand in hand, they walked up the stairs towards Brandon’s bedroom.
Then stopped outside his door.
‘Wait, stop, I can’t do this,’ said Dianne.
‘Me neither,’ said Russell.
‘Does not killing a kid make us better or worse than God?’
‘It’s surprisingly hard to decide, isn’t it?’