It was another day at the office for Megananny. She and her sound guy/cameraman Luke drove out to a featureless suburb in Middlesex, and there found a young mother, Sam, who couldn’t stop crying and was thinking of killing herself because her four-year-old son Jared’s endless screeching and implacable aggression and defiant incontinence had made her life a nightmare from which there was no awaking. When Sam tried to get Jared dressed to go to nursery, he would screech bloodcurdlingly, bite and kick Sam if she came near him, and try to suffocate his little sister Tamsyn. He would throw his breakfast at Sam, and anoint poor Tamsyn with his milk. When Sam’s mother Janet came by for an hour or two in the afternoon, he would turn briefly into a little angel, albeit a little angel who told Gran, loudly, in Sam’s hearing, that he wanted her to take him home with her because he hated Sam. Nonetheless, at bedtime, he would insist that Sam lie with him until he fell asleep, and it commonly took him two hours to do so. For all of which reasons, Megananny’s producers had loved him. The more horrific the child, the higher the programme’s ratings.
Megananny did all the usual stuff. She spent a day just observing, tsk-tsking either incredulously or censoriously at everything Sam did. There was the usual scene of Megananny pointing out that, by refusing to rein Jared in, Sam wasn’t ruining just her own life, but baby Tamsyn’s as well. Hearing which, of course, Sam wept as though trying to dehydrate herself. Megananny let her suffer for the amount of time the show’s producers had deemed optimal, and then assured Sam that she’d helped mothers deal with children far more awful than Jared. Whereupon Sam burst into more tears, these of relief.
The problem was that Jared simply didn’t respond to Megananny’s customary tried-‘n’-true strategies. There was absolutely no keeping him on The Naughty Step. When Sam implored him to apologise for trying yet again to suffocate or drown baby Tamsyn, he just laughed and said, “And I’ll keep doing fucking doing it until I succeed.” Sam claimed to have no idea where he’d heard such language, or “succeed”, which wasn’t a verb known to most preschoolers. When he tried to take a bite out of Megananny, Megananny rang her producer and said she wasn’t going to put herself at risk of tetanus to complete the segment, not when there were so many more corrigible incorrigible children Out There. Her producer said Megananny would either reform Jared or go back to being an actual au pair, rather than a television personality.
Megananny, who didn’t very much enjoy being spoken to that way, asked Sam if she, Megananny, could take Jared to the park. Sam had never seen her do such a thing, and she was a regular viewer of Megananny, but wasn’t about to turn down having a couple of hours of Jaredlessness.
Megananny didn’t have any intention of taking Jared to a park. Her actual idea was to hand him over to a homeless person, and then tell her producer and Sam that he’d been kidnapped. Luke the cameraman/sound guy wasn’t comfortable with the idea, but just shrugged his shoulders and sighed, “It’s more than my fucking job’s worth,” when Megananny wondered aloud if maybe his work hadn’t been going downhill the past several episodes, and he read the writing on the wall. Seeming to sense that he was in some sort of danger, Jared, in the back seat, took to whimpering piteously in a way they hadn’t heard before.
They headed, on Megananny’s hunch, toward Heathrow, and drove around in Hayes until they observed a guy in what appeared to be someone else’s manky trainers — they seemed several sizes too big for him — looking through rubbish bins for uneaten kebabs. Megananny rolled down the passenger window of the production company’s van and asked if he realised how many more benefits he might be able to claim if he had a child. The guy’s very bloodshot eyes widened. “I didn’t know that,” he admitted. When Megananny told Jared to go with the nice man, Jared became himself again, said, “Not fucking likely, mate. He fucking reeks, innit.” He tried to take a bite out of Luke when Megananny motioned for him to do what had to be done, and then out of the homeless guy, who howled in pain and shock, but in vain, as Megananny had moved into the driver’s seat, and sped away, toward a bratless future as a contestant in C-level-celebrities-in-peril reality shows. Little Tamsyn grew up much better-adjusted than she might have had her brother succeeded in suffocating her, and Sam remarried, to a doorman at the club where she and her mates Pippa and Anne went binge-drinking every Friday evening.