Asleep he sounds like a pig hunting truffles in soot. It isn’t snoring, more of a death rattle. But for that it is a quiet morning, the morning of Day Seven Thousand Four Hundred and Eighty-Three, according to the display on the wall.
The peace is punctuated only by the crashing of a crow into the patio door. This almighty clatter doesn’t wake Mal, who continues to produce great growls from deep within his chest. They echo in my ears like the sonar conversations between dolphins and submarines.
Mal weighs a hundred stone, they predicted. That’s big. That’s more than half a ton. Those photographs...
Mal liked to be the first person to do things. Not just the first person in the house, or the first person in his class, but the first person in the entire world. There is a limit to the things you can be first to do when you are a child. He used to ask, “Has anyone ever . . . ?” Mum would say yes, if only to stop him trying to walk across the bottom of the sea. She learned this lesson on a rare occasion when she chose not to listen to him. Five hours after she had palmed him off with an absentminded “no,” the policeman that came to placate her worst fears spotted Mal naked on the roof, clinging to the...