This sorry business

It's a bit like how sometimes you'll be standing at a tramstop, say, a captive to the timetable, when a child comes barrelling up with a ball which it duly throws at your head. And its mother hollers, grabbing the child by the arm as it collects the ball, pointing at you and looking down upon her spawn with a red angry face. "Hey!" She whisks the child around and it squeals. "Say sorry to the man!" The child, shocked by its mother's sudden fury, writhes and shakes its head. It clutches at the ball.

"Say sorry to the man!" Neither are looking at you now, but you feel compelled nonetheless to act out your part in this drama and stare solemnly at the child. The child kicks its feet and firmly mutters: "No." It suspects the scales of injustice and counter-injustice weigh in its favour.

The mother shakes the child's arm and looks up momentarily; perhaps checking that you are remaining obedient to the role you've been cast. "Say sorry!" she hisses. The child emits another piercing squeal.

"Apologise to the man, or no Happy Meal." The child stops writhing, fixes you a baleful glare, and sings: "So-or-ree!" And the mother stands as you complete the ritual with a dutiful "That's okay", then satisfied, she and spawn continue on to that happy place where gherkins hang from the ceiling.

Joseph | 15 Feb 2005

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