Has it really been three months? I should really explain myself, but the explanation albeit potentially cathartic, would bore you to death which wouldn’t be good so close to the weekend.
So. I’ll launch straight in to a story. Or, maybe a snapshot… ten minutes out of my life which summarizes somehow how things should be, or the way things be since last we spoke. I wrote this in the First Aid post at Dublin Zoo, for I had had far too many coffees.
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Among my various other dubious talents, did you know that I’m a face-painter? I’m not a very good face-painter but then again my services are free; so I suppose you get what you pay for.
The trick to face-painting is not in the art in itself as you might think, instead it’s about placating small children, tactfully stopping them from fidgeting, telling them not to breathe in a nice way, and withholding a gag reflex when you need to wipe sticky matter from around their mouths. It’s also very much about the parents. You need to perform rapidly, smile at all times, and ultimately provide them with a wonderful Kodak moment with their little darlings for their social networking sites.
Hey, I’m a parent, owner of snot-streaked ice-cream-caked nose-minors so I understand.
Last weekend, I was volunteering at a ‘Family Fun Day’ (an oxymoron surely?) in aid of Cancer research. It was a beautiful day and the crowds were out in their masses. The queue for the face-painting stand was a half-hour deep. I had been smearing gunk on kid’s faces for two hours, and my back was beginning to hurt.
Next in line was a four-year-old boy. His mother was pushing him around in a buggy and reasonably (and judgmentally enough on my behalf) was quite chubby as a result. His hair was bright orange, and clashed weirdly with his skin tone which had turned an alarming shade of red upon being told that his hand-held console was to be momentarily pocketed.
“NOOOOO, MAAAAAAAA! NOOOOOOO!” he had the sort of voice that would remind you of a wooden chair being scraped across a carpet of birthing dolphins.
Then he noticed ME.
“He wants Batman” she said.
I regarded the kid dubiously. The kid regarded me with a look of pure horror. The brush I held in my hand might as well have been a large bore hypodermic needle. He screamed with pure unadulterated terror, snot and tears streaming down his face mixing unpleasantly with the undefined food stains on his chin.
“I’m not sure he does?” I offered tentatively.
“He does yeah, he’s been whining for face-painting for the whole day, we haven’t been queuing for this long for nothing! Just do it QUICK. BATMAN he wants.” she was becoming unhinged at this stage.
I smiled at the kid through gritted teeth, and told him what an amazing and brave Batman he would make, too. He continued to roar with a grimace nobody could possibly describe in the written word.
Armed with a face-wipe, I began to clear the slimy crud off his face and as I did, a vicious looking rash appeared from behind the mess. Impetigo/Coxsackie/Measles/Thrush… I thanked the patron saint of face-painting for the fact that Batman make-up is mainly north of the noseline and need not go anywhere near this mass of pimpled sores. The kid continued to squirm and scream as I prepared my yellow and black paint.
As the brush neared his forehead, the child’s screams increased with proximity. Time seemed to slow exponentially. A smear of paint finally made it to the spot right between his eyes, Batman’s right ear was an eventual success.
The pain, however, of having a soft-bristled brush applied to that beautiful spot, that point between your eyes, your third-eye if you will… was far too much for him. His eyes widened to the size of teacups and a fresh pint of drool erupted from his mouth as his terror escaped. I loved that kid right there and then, but I don’t know why. He leaped from his chair and tried to run away. His mother caught him firmly by the arm and dealt him two fierce smacks to his shoulder and back.
“SIT DOWN AND SHURRUP!” she yelled.
What a nice childhood memory.
“I’m sorry” I said. “I can’t do this, he doesn’t want his face painted by the looks of things.”
“HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? HE JUST NEEDS HIS NAP!” She shouted irately.
Other people in the queue shuffled, and glanced at each other knowingly.
She clamped the screaming head firmly between her hands and shouted: “DO IT!!” as though I was to pull a septic tooth, not decorate her darling’s face for the benefit of her Internet friends.
“no” I said meekly, and smiled. “Come back later maybe, when he’s more settled.”
“Tsk. Fafussakemuvafrkesferkenjustisfuk…” her cursed mumbles disappeared into the kid’s fiery hair as she turfed him back in the buggy and buggered off.
From that moment onwards, all money that went into the donations bucket beside me at the face-painting booth was made out of paper, not coin, so I’m pretty sure that cancer research benefited from at LEAST a hundred Euros as a result of this family’s dysfunction.
It’s funny how some things work out.