The twins came home yesterday from boarding school. They were very pleased to see No3 again, and for a short time, in the early evening, I was content with the whole family. Dolores was cooking dinner, the twins were paying attention to No.3, and I was reading the local free paper. There was a story about a local farmer paying someone to dispose of a suspected case of bird flu, a picture of twins who were doing a 3-legged marathon for charity, the sad tale of the demise of the village butcher's shop, and a guest article by the village's new community support officer, warning of a local crime spree.
It was whilst reading this story that I noticed a piece of paper hanging out of the back pocket of Twin X's trousers. I couldn't make out all of what it said, but I did quite clearly see the word 'Experiment'. Pleased to see the twins taking an interest in science, I asked them what the experiment was about. Their reaction was somewhat unexpected. Instead of simply relaying the required infomation, they spun round and began to back away from No 3's cot. They then began disssembling in the manner of 12 year old children caught in the act of some petty crime to which they cannot possibly admit.
So far as I was aware, no crime had been committed. They'd only been back for a few hours, and had been supervised the whole period. The fact that they ran away therefore made no sense. I called them back into the living area, keen not to ruin the peace and quiet that had so far blessed their return. But it was fruitless. They were determined not to yield to my gentle persuasion, and that fact alone made me increasingly suspicious. If they hadn't already committed an act of hostility towards something/someone, they might well be planning it.
'Show me the piece of paper boys!', I shouted down the corridor at their rapidly retreating selves. On hearing this cry, Twin X did not do as commanded, but instead tore up the paper and put it in his mouth, chewing furiously before swallowing. The act of standing still to destroy the paper was their fateful flaw, as it slowed them enough that I could catch up. I just managed to pull the last piece of paper out of his mouth. It was blank.
'Why did you swallow the paper?', I asked in a traditionally firm tone.
'I was hungry?', suggested the youngster. This was an unlikely explanation as they had recently finished a pre-dinner snack of cheese dippers.
Faced with this clear untruth, but a lack of any evidence, I had to concede that they were just being their usual, boisterous, dad-baiting selves.
Or so I thought.
We were putting the boys to bed that evening. It was quite late, as they'd been regailing us with dubious tales of their escapades at school. I volunteered to tuck them in, and held their hands as we walked towards their bedroom. The sound of one of my favourite Genesis tracks - the 23 minute long 'Supper's ready' - was playing on the Hi-Fi in the living area. Ravel was out somewhere with friends, and Dolores was reading a magazine. The scene was set for a peaceful night, free of stress, free of admonishment, free of punishment.
The boys changed into their pyjamas, brushed their teeth and climbed into bed. They looked almost angelic as they smiled and said they were glad to be home. I returned the sentiment, kissed them on their foreheads, and made to leave the room. Had I not paused before switching off the light, maybe the night would have continued to offer a sense of calm, and not a cross word would have been spoken. But pause I did, and all because I wanted one last look at my twin boys, a moment to ponder how fast they had grown, how much they had developed in recent months as puberty began to transform their minds and bodies. I was filled with a small amount of pride, knowing that, despite their flaws, I had raised two fine, intelligent boys
Perhaps I was jumping ahead in my expectations of my children. After all, they were still just only just 12 years old, and it's well known that boys develop slower than girls. On the other hand, maybe I'd just drunk a little too much wine.
It doesn't really matter now.
What happened is this: as I turned back to gaze once more on the face of Twin Y, I saw his hand move rapidly to push a bag underneath his bed. One eye was open, the other tight shut. For a fraction of a second I was tempted to ignore what I had just seen, but unfortunately for Twin Y, the act of pushing the bag had dislodged an A5 sized note-pad that had been sitting in the top. It fell out of the bag with a barely audible whisper, as the pages brushed over the bag's handle, and flopped onto the floor, opening in the process to reveal a page with writing and a diagram.
Perhaps if the boy had remained calm, I might have overlooked what had just happened. After all, I have always tried to distill a sense of tidiness in the twins, and this hasty act of self-organisation could have been considered to fall within that remit. But unfortunately for him, and his brother, and me, and Dolores, he didn't remain calm. Instead, he looked down at the pad with a look of horror, pointed over to his brother and shouted 'he's farted!', before pulling the covers over his face as if to avoid the smell.
Twin X looked non-plussed for a second, which was just long enough for me to realise that the notebook was significant. I stepped forward and peered down at the page. This is what I saw...
We did not get much sleep that night. The pad was full of protocols, the majority of which used No.3 as the experimental subject. None of them, so far as I could tell, had the health and welfare of the newborn anywhere on the agenda. The boys strenuously denied that they were going to carry out any of the experiments, but as I looked back on the evening, I recalled that they had taken a particularly keen interest in the day-to-day activities of the infant, even going so far as to write down details such as what time he generally slept in the afternoon, and where we disposed of his nappys.
I confiscated the note pad. The kids have been confined to quarters until further notice. The bank holiday weekend trip to the village fair has been cancelled. No.3 is never more than two feet away from either myself, Dolores or Ravel.