Sunday, March 9, 2008


I made a mistake with the beetroot yesterday.

It's been keeping me awake.

Wherever I sow; cats dig. Whatever I plant; cats bury.

So I made little holes in impacted ground and dropped the seeds in.

"Ha!" I thought. "You won't be able to dig them up!"

Nor will the beetroot grow.

* * * * *

On Thursday evening, I took our jumpers from the blanket drawer and laid Ming there for the night. He slept well.

In the morning, I bathed him, wrapped him in a towel and took him down for breakfast with the children.

The living room and kitchen were full of clothes festively airing; cardigans brightly coloured; jeans and trousers hanging like bunting from the backs of chairs.

The phone rang.

The M.O.D.

Why wasn't Ming at work?

"He's ill."

They wanted to talk to him.

"You can't. He's ill."

My heart beat uncomfortably.

Ming has a special code. The M.O.D. woman wanted me to recite it to her. I must ask Ming for it, she said. His answer would confirm whether he's ill - or kidnapped or under some other kind of duress. If I couldn't elicit the code from him, she would assume he was dead - or had defected. Appropriate action would follow.

"He's a cleaner," I said. "Not a scientist. He knows nothing."

Her voice was cold.

"Even nuclear warheads need dusting!"

_ _ _ _ _

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