I wasn’t supposed to be in Daddy’s study that day. I definitely wasn’t supposed to be in the closet of Daddy’s study that day. And I certainly wasn’t supposed to find out the real reason that Daddy was a very rich man indeed.
I was only in there because my Tesla (a mini remote-controlled version that has the same number plate as Mommy’s but I’m not telling you what it is because it’s embarrassing) took a wrong turn and nosed the door open. The big brown door with the peephole in it too far up for me to even try to look through, the door that was usually locked. I had to go in and get my car back. I didn’t want Daddy kicking it with his clumsy feet. Mommy used to joke that he must’ve been the son of a clown with feet like his. I used to wonder if that were true, then what made the clown want to settle down and have children and give up the fun life of the circus. Although I guess clowns would make good fathers. Entertaining ones for sure.
I was brought up to take good care of my toys (even though I didn’t really see the point as if they got messed up they were quickly replaced, usually with an even better version) so after a quick glance down the hall – coast clear – I pushed the door wide open.
So, I was told Daddy worked in a bank. That’ll make you laugh when you see what’s coming next. Mommy’s job is to look after me. But at eight years old I'm the oldest out of all my brothers and sisters (there were ten of us), so I'm pretty good at looking after myself. Or rather, I was so busy looking after them while Mommy ducked out to get stuff injected into her face or shop for designer baby clothes that I didn’t get many opportunities for getting up to mischief myself, even if I’d wanted to.
So, it turns out Daddy does not work in a bank. He works in this room. I saw him through the crack in the closet door. I’m holding my car, fingers clutching the wheels in case they get the idea of spinning (for a quiet car it could still surprise you at times). I had to quickly run in there because I heard voices while I’d been distracted looking through a book about ‘metallurgy’. To my disappointment, there were no pictures of rock stars or descriptions of any of the allergies they suffered from. I was hoping I could impress Gina with some cool facts at school on Monday. I’d seen band logos she’d drawn on her bag. Yeah, sometimes I even noticed stuff other than her face and how she was wearing her hair that day.
So, I see him open a cabinet opposite that looks like it contains the contents of a candy store, it’s so flashy and bitty. Hundreds of different colored glass bottles, things in cans and little droppers filled with funny fluids. Then he goes and gets something out of his desk draw, I can hear a key going into a lock and draws sliding in and out but I can’t quite crane my neck for a proper look as the closet door is in the way.
So then the strangest thing happens. Daddy presses something on his watch. He told me it’s so the bank can communicate with him but instead what it really seems to do is summon Mommy.
They both say hi to each other but it’s so business-like for a minute I actually think they’re gonna shake hands. Then he picks a small grey felt case off his desk and starts doing some tests on Mommy with the instruments he pulls out the case. It looks like he’s checking her heartbeat and stuff.
But then this is where I nearly cried out but instead I let go of a wheel and clamped my hand to my mouth instead – he undoes Mommy’s shirt buttons and then her badonkers are out and I’m like what the heck, should I close my eyes or do I make sure he’s not gonna hurt her? Cuz in school they’ve been telling us about stranger danger and watch out when you’re using the internet, but then my aunt Becky told me most rapes and murders are carried out by someone the victim knew. And I trust my aunt Becky, she’s cool. Cooler than school, though that ain’t hard.
So I force myself to watch.
Turns out, it’s nothing that bad. Just…kinda…mind-blowing. Hear me out.
So, he milks her. Yep. He milks Mommy. He attaches this tube thing to her and I can see the milk flow out of her and go into this pot where he’s been putting the other potions and ingredients and stuff. Meanwhile they’re both chatting about their plans to go out for dinner later like it isn’t weird that he’s massaging her nipples to hurry the milk out. She winces at one point and I get ready to strike, but then I hear Daddy murmur an apology and adjusts the tube, and then she says it’s okay now.
When she’s emptied (or when he’s got enough Mom-juice) he puts the pot in a machine, presses a button on the machine and it makes a sound like a washing machine. Mommy’s saying she might go for the quinoa salad as the pieces of butternut squash were so good last time and Daddy’s saying he might get the surf ‘n’ turf special because it’s Saturday and they only do it on Saturdays. Then the machine goes BEEP BEEP BEEP and a lil hatch opens. And in the mouth of the hatch is a bar of solid gold.
You can just tell. It’s the gleam. It’s fairy-like. Not like the gold trim on Gina’s sneakers or on the face masks my sister Angelica sometimes wears that make me jump when she comes out the bathroom or the colour of the rings on uncle Matty’s foul cigars. No. this is true, pure, solid gold.
So, that was the day I found out Daddy wasn’t a banker. He was an alchemist.
I watched them take the bar out and put it on a shelf that had been pretending all this time to be part of a library, like I’d been pretending to be part of a closet. The secret shelf was stuffed with other blocks of gold.
I watched as they tidied things away and left the room. I heard the key go click in the lock and I thought oh sh-
But it was okay. I snuck out of the window and went back to my room.
The next day I didn’t want to play with My Lil Tesla. I wanted to see if I could make my own gold. Maybe make some earrings out of it for Gina. But I knew if I tried what Daddy had done with Mommy on any of the girls I knew I’d be in a whole heap of trouble, so I figured I’d try something else.
I know this field right the other side of the city that had some cows in it. I knew milk was one of the ingredients and I’d figure the rest out. Once I want to achieve something, you can pretty much consider it done.
“But what our intrepid explorer and would be child genius/alchemist extraordinaire didn’t count on was one of the cows not liking a strange boy just walking into her field and milking her, and she kicks him in the face. The camera cuts to the boy’s point of view – the angry flaring of a cow’s nostrils, then, as his eyes roll up he sees clouds. The clouds are all shaped like sad animal faces. Then an airplane flies over with a banner trailing from it saying ‘AJ’s PLANT-BASED MILK = AS GOOD AS GOLD’. What do we think, huh?”
AJ’s assistants sat at the table, speechless.
AJ peeled his weary eyes from the screen that the concept writer had now gone to stand in front of, where he was shifting his weight from foot to foot, eyebrows expectantly raised above thick-rimmed glasses. Where do they find these people, AJ wondered, not for the first time.
“I think you have a wonderful imagination,” said AJ, “but I think we’ll be going with something else.”