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The Dominic Effect - 4

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4.

It all sounds so deliberate and calculating – it must be the way I’m telling it – but the reality was slightly less sinister.  My interpretation of the dramas that I watched with my mother was that they were exciting moments of life which were presented to us for entertainment.  They were different to cartoons because they contained real people, and in my mind this meant that it was all completely genuine.  I had no reason to suspect that these people were acting, and I had no idea that the whole thing was scripted.  I didn’t trouble to think how these depictions of real life came to be. 

By becoming Dominic’s friend I was trying to get in on the action, and had I been right I would have earned myself a lot of screen time.  There were many incidents on Dominic’s rocky road to normality, although most of them just involved him crying when something reminded him that his Mum had just died. 

            I was by his side when he called a dinner lady a “stupid cow-face” after she enquired as to why he wasn’t eating his pudding.  I looked on in horror as he kicked Hannah Forsyth in the shin when she wouldn’t share her crayons with him.  I was sent out to talk to him after he burst into tears during story-time when a character was called Pam, just like his Mum had been.  I spoke to him on the telephone for five minutes each night, making sure that he was alright.

            Both of my parents were impressed with the level of compassion I was showing towards my new friend, and they must have been thrilled at the prospect of a morally sound son.  They encouraged the friendship and showed a great deal of sympathy towards Mr Austen. 

            “Can he come over and play after school one night?” I asked my parents one evening.  I liked Dominic, but the main reason for me having him over was so that I would get an invite in return.  I was itching to see what life was like for him outside of school, and I was even more desperate to see where all of the action was taking place. 

            After a successful evening at my house, I was invited back to Dominic’s. I was so excited over the course of that week; it was as if I were heading off to Disney Land.  In my mind I had all sorts of ideas of how things would be.  The house would be dark and untidy.  Dominic’s father would sit in the living room, unshaven and drinking whiskey straight from the bottle.  His sister would sit in her room crying, and Dominic would wander from room to room looking lost.  Arguments would erupt from nowhere as everyone took Mrs Austen’s death out on each other.

            I was viciously disappointed to find a family moving on with their lives.  The fish fingers were prepared with motherly expertise, and Dominic’s sister didn’t even have puffy red eyes.  The place was tidy and the atmosphere pleasant.  There was no threat of an argument.  In fact, the family seemed extremely close in light of the tragedy.  Mr Austen didn’t even flinch when I asked him whether he missed his wife. 

            Being at Dominic’s was no different that being at any other house, and I felt quite put out by this.  It was like getting to Disney Land, and discovering it was just another Wacky Warehouse.  I was disappointed in Dominic. It tarnished the way I viewed our friendship. 

            Real life just wasn’t packaged the same as television, and I was starting to see this.  Nothing of my friendship with Dominic had lived up to my expectations, and I just saw him as a huge let down.  I’d decided to dissociate myself from him well before my Dad came to pick me up.


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