The room was stunned at the news that The Memo was now in the possession of my eight year old son, Little Dennis Junior. Thankfully only legally and not literally in his sticky, Bargainsave generic nut-style-ella chocolate spread covered fingers. The paperwork was behind bullet-proof glass as paperwork should be.

“I told you you’d be surprised” said Miles Saragh-Jayne when he saw the look on my face.

“No you didn’t” I replied. “You said no such thing. You just refused to give any details and then spoilt our fund raising efforts. You didn’t say anything about our being surprised.”

“Don’t drag me into this, Dennis Brent” scoffed Francois Devine. “I had my suspicions all along that Little Dennis Junior was behind this.”

“You did not” I told him firmly. He took out his pince-nez and stared deep into my eyes.

“I had my suspicions all along that Little Dennis Junior was behind this” he said slowly.

“You’re wasting your time” I replied coolly. “That rubbish doesn’t work on me. These glasses were cheaply cloned in India and while they didn’t bother with the anti-reflective coating I ordered, their sloppy workmanship and poor quality materials mean they have rendered me impossible to hypnotise. Something to do with them bending the light in a scientifically ridiculous way. Brian C-o-x tried to explain it once when I cornered him in a lift but he went over my head. Literally – he climbed out through the emergency escape hatch before I could stop him.

“Oh” he said, deflated in spirit if not in heft, “in that case I too am slightly surprised by this twist in the tale. Though it seems not to matter one jot who owns The Memo since we do not and therefore someone else does. Ipso factor.”

The crowd had grown restless when they realised our little family estrangement wasn’t going to turn into a full scale brawl like they do on the Springer Show. We convened somewhere more private for a proper conversation. I needed to know, above all else, whether my son was nicely corrupt and would be willing to sell The Memo to us or – and this was my secret preference – me and me alone and no one else in the world except me, me, me.

“Why did you go to such lengths to secure The Memo?” I asked.

“Partly for the reasons I outlined earlier during my victory speech – I need something to set me on my path to telehistorical greatness and set light to what will, I have every confidence, be a glorious career in the field” he explained.

“Your logic is flawed” I began, “since you couldn’t ever publish the contents of The Memo because that would ruin the value of having that which no one else has. Using The Memo as a research source and basing a monograph or article on it would be bootless unless you reveal what it says.”

“I hadn’t thought of that” he admitted, using a phrase that he must’ve picked up from his mother since it isn’t anything that either I nor his godfather, Francois Devine, have ever said. “Then I must rely entirely on my second reason for owning The Memo – to make you love me.”

“Do what?” I asked, fogged at where this was going.

“Love me, like a father should. My whole life you’ve ignored me or tolerated me or sent me out of date book tokens around my birthday and on the 23rd of November each year. I need more, daddy, I need love. By owning something that you crave more than anything else in the world I hoped to pressure you into loving me. You’d have no choice but to at least pretend to love me in the vain hope of getting access to The Memo. And perhaps, in time, your love would become real.”

“Dennis Brent, what is the little fellow talking about?” asked Francois Devine.

“I’ve literally no idea – he seems to be babbling in an incoherently feminine manner. I shall have to send his mother a stern letter by return of post letting her know that our son is not being brought up in the correct manner. Though, in his favour, his deeply flawed stratagem does at least bear the trappings of a manipulative mind so all is not entirely lost. He is using emotion for his own ends and, once he’s learned not to get so excitable, he should make an upstanding gentleman and possible future member of DWAT.”

“Daddy – I don’t want to join DWAT. Well, obviously I do and you will receive the correctly completed application forms just as soon as I reach my twenty first birthday and make the friendship of a professional person who will certify my likeness as genuine – I just want you either to love me or to pretend to love me in order to get something of value. Is that too much to ask?”

“Yes. I’m rather afraid it is. I’ve seen what emotions do to people and I long ago resolved to have nothing to do with them.”

“But lust is an emotion and you must’ve felt lust for mummy at some point for me to biologically exist.”

“That wasn’t lust – that was anaesthetic. When you’re older you’ll come to appreciate the difference.”

“Then all is lost” he said, slapping his forehead with his hand and suggesting to me that he’d already spent too long in the company of Francois Devine.

“Not quite” I said, lowering my voice so the aforementioned wouldn’t hear us. “What if I offered you cash for The Memo. That’s got to be worth considering seeing as how you’re not going to get an ounce of love out of me because it goes against all my principles and common sense. You are a cruel mistake and a financial drain. Nothing more.”

“No amount of money could make up for not having a father figure in my young life” he said, slapping his forehead again. I gave Francois Devine a stern look (but not stern enough that he’d notice, turn round and guess what I was up to).

“Ten pounds” I offered, “which would buy you a lot of sweets.”

“Ten pounds? Piffle. I cannot be bought” he said firmly.

“A hundred pounds – you could buy a pretty good second hand telehistorical research bag for that.”

“Mmmm” he said, wavering noticeably. “But still no – I have no need of a good second hand telehistorical research bag if I have no telehistorian father to take as my primary role model.”

“I did say a pretty good second hand telehistorical research bag – let’s keep this accurate. What about two hundred pounds? You could have a really good telehistorical research bag for that. Or a television for your nursery.”

“I’m eight years old – I have a study these days, father, not a nursery. Proof, if any were needed, that you do not spend enough time with me.”

“Five hundred pounds” I said, “and that’s my final offer.”


“A thousand pounds.”

“I thought five hundred was your final offer.”

“I lied because I underestimated your powers of negotiation. I shall be apologising by post as soon as you are a proper person with your own Post Office approved address.”

“Still no. I will not sell The Memo for any amount of money.”

“Really?” said Miles Saragh-Jayne who had wandered in to our conversation without asking. “I will.”

“It’s not yours to sell” scoffed my boy.

“Actually it is – I’ve decided not to give it to you.”

“You damnable swine” swore Little Dennis Junior.

“Only an idiot would think an eight year old could sign a valid contract.”

“But we had a contract” he said before Saragh-Jayne’s previous remark had sunk in.

“But surely you had a contract” I said at exactly the same moment, my boy and I feeling awkward and embarrassed – the closest we’d ever come to having something in common except for 50% of his deoxyribonucleic acid.

“Nope – whichever way you slice it, I own that memo” said Saragh-Jayne smugly. “And I want a lot of money for it. A LOT of money.”

I wobbled. There is only one good end to be on where a lot of money is concerned and this wasn’t it.