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The child sitting next to me says he knows the f word. Oh, I say, thinking terrible things about his parents. The magician reaches for a rusty saw, hiccups. We all watch, prepared to be amazed. The birthday boy is led to a large rectangular box, mounted on wheels, into which he is summoned.
His mother hovers over a pirate ship cake. The father loiters by the tea urn. He still wears his wedding ring, but she has already removed hers. As the rough blade seesaws back and forth through the centre of the box, edging closer to the boy, the crowd oohs. The boy wiggles his feet, waves his hands, smiles at his parents. He gulps, and the blade reaches his body, the magician slicing harder, sweating, before finally the two sections of the box are pulled apart like a Christmas cracker. Ta-dah! Not a drop of blood is spilt. It’s like the boy isn’t real. His mother claps. His father whistles. The crowd ahhs. I wonder which half each parent will get: the boy’s head and torso or his groin and legs.
I tap the shoulder of the child next to me. ‘Fuck,’ I say, and he gives me a hard stare.