David sat at the table staring down into the quickly-cooling bowl of oatmeal that sat before him. Brown sugar and cinnamon flavored, it was normally his favorite breakfast item in all the world. Today, he had no taste for it. The soggy oats were lumpy in some spots, too runny in others and not at all to his liking. Mum made it much better...but she was not here. To hear his father talk, she would not be here...anymore.
"Eat up sport. We're burning daylight here. With things the way they are, I'll be needing you ready earlier so I can get to the office on time. So, hurry on with it."
David spooned at the sodden mass in his bowl dejectedly. He knew, with the wisdom of a 7-year old lad, that things had not been right between his parents for some time. His father started to slip in later and later in the evening from work. His mother seemed always bleary-eyed and distant. Her breath when she kissed him goodbye each morning still carried the telltale sweetness of wine. Then there was the shouting. The accusations and the recrminations flew back and forth so heatedly that, as tightly as he held the pillow to his ears, they still intruded on his sleep.
"But dad...when is mum coming back. When will she..."
"Get it in your head sport!", his father's voice was harsh and strident, "She is gone! Left us in a lurch and gone her own way. That part of our lives is behind us and we need to move along eh??"
The words stung David like a swarm of bees. He dropped his spoon to the bowl with a lound clank.
His father leaned in close and his face softened. He placed his large, warm hand upon David's.
"Here, here, now sport. Chin up. Things are changing for us all and I need you to be my big, strong boy. Can you do that for me lad?"
David could only give the slightest nod as no words seemed to come. His father nodded as well and leaned back to his tea.
"Now don't forget what I told you about your room boy. All that clutter and such needs boxed up the moment we get home tonight. Mrs. Carstairs has graciously agreed to keep us two duffers in a clean, orderly place but she can't be troubled to work around all that rubbish in your room."
David bristled. "But dad! That's NOT rubbish!! Those are my subjects and my kingdom needs me!!"
His father made a dismissive gesture. "What they ARE sport, are dolls and stuffed animals and the kind of frippery no BOY should have about him!! Now go and get your things or we'll both of us be late."
David made his way to his room and entered. He softly closed the door and glanced about. His knights were busy brushing down their horses. The dragon, the manticore and the other monsters cavorted about doing monsterly things. As one, they all stopped and glanced his way.
"And so, your Highness, what news bring you?" It was the tiny voice of Brave Sir Bryan, commander of his castle guard.
David looked over his diminutive subjects and about at the realm he had fashioned of cardboard and paint and tube after tube of glue.
"It's no good men. It's over...done. I have no place for you and it is time I moved on to other things. Or so my old man says."
His assembled group all hung their heads in defeat. The faintest sobs could be heard from some. David snatched up his bag and his blazer and fled the room to the sound of his father imploring him to hurry.
David sat at the table and glanced down into the chipped earthenware bowl. He spooned at the soggy oatmeal within and took a mouthful. Swallowing it down he ran a hand through his thinning hair.
His eyes wandered about his shabby West End loft. They scanned across the lumpy couch, the mismatched items that comprised his home.
"Happy Birthday to me.?"", he muttered glumly.
For today was David's forty first birthday. His mind wandered back in time to a birthday long since passed. He had just turned seven years old and Mum had given him the large stuffed dragon named...called...David sighed, unable to remember what he had named the silly thing.
He reminded himself that only two months after that, the toy was gone and was never to be seen again. That day, David recalled, was when the magic had gone away, and sod all if any of it was liable to ever return. With little enthusiasm and far too much resignation, David pushed the memories down deep inside and finished off his oatmeal.