Karen put a large cupful of lentils on to boil. They were nourishing and cheap, unless you got conned into buying those ridiculously over-priced Puy lentils. The bake would be ready by the time Ashley came back from his friend’s, where he always went after Sunday football.
Rose was already at the gate with Edward. Through the kitchen window she could see her youngest stumbling up the garden path, complete with Mister Cow under his arm even though he was in Year Two now.
“Mummy!” he shrieked as he crashed into the hall. “Need a wee-wee!”
“Well, go on. You know where the toilet is.”
Of course Edward knew. Didn’t mean he always used the toilet though. Sometimes he tried to pee on the carpet and had to be reminded that six-year olds didn’t do this.
“Thanks so much, Rose. I owe you.”
“No problem. It’s a madhouse out on the roads today. Got any tomato paste I can borrow?”
Karen located a much battered tube in the depths of a cupboard. “Here you go.”
Damon eyed his dinner plate. “What’s this?” he said, using his knife to poke at the edge of the crispy potato topping.
“Lentil surprise,” Karen lied. Lentils were hardly a surprise anymore. She’d made lentil bake many times before, only this one was minus the tomato paste that she’d lent to Rose.
“Mu-um!” Charlotte looked as if she was about to cry.
Edward was feeding bits of lentil bake to Mister Cow. Ashley was silent, obviously plotting something. The scheming powers of a seven-year old were not to be underestimated.
“I’ll make something nice tomorrow night,” she promised. She was pretty sure she’d said that last night.
“Can you make carfoolay? Belinda’s mum makes carfoolay.”
Damon gave up prodding his dinner. “Who here knows how many teeth a crocodile has?”
Edward looked up. “What’s carfoolay?”
“I’ve been thinking,” Ashley piped up. “Why don’t they build car parks on top of towers? That would save space on the ground.”
“Go on. How many teeth? Just guess,” said Damon.
“Carfoolay is really lovely. Belinda’s mum puts vegetarian sausage in it.”
“I’m going to guess eighty teeth,” Karen offered.
Damon snorted. “Course not.”
“WHAT’S CARFOOLAY?” yelled Edward as he kicked the table.
The penny dropped. “Cassoulet,” said Karen. “I made it for you once.” As they had barely touched it, it had been a complete waste of five hours, not including soaking the haricot beans.
“It’s different when Belinda’s mum makes it,” said Charlotte.
“It would save a LOT of space on the ground. Then you could build another football pitch.”
“Sixty-eight teeth.” There was triumph in Damon’s voice. “And none of you knew.”
Mister Cow had finished and now Edward was busy lining up lentils on the edge of the plate again.
“I could get the recipe from Belinda’s mum,” said Charlotte.
Something was bothering Ashley. “Who counted all the teeth? Because someone must have had to hold the crocodile’s mouth open while another person counted them.”
“Duh, door-brain! They probably killed the crocodile first,” said Damon.
“That’s horrible,” said Charlotte. She said that a lot since she’d turned vegetarian.
“How did they kill it? With a spear?” asked Ashley. “Or with a laser gun?”
“Please try to eat up.”
“Did they just shoot it? Or maybe they used a poison dart.”
Karen asked brightly, “Now, what shall we have tomorrow evening?”
“Chocolate soup!” shouted Edward.
“Cassoulet,” said Charlotte. “Belinda’s mum can email you the recipe.”
Ashley asked, “I wonder what they did after they killed the crocodile and counted its teeth?”
“Probably made a handbag,” said Damon.
“Crocodile soup!” shouted Edward.
Damn heat. Another hot flush was on its way, and she wasn’t even forty yet. Karen stood at the sink and ran cold water over her arms. It sometimes helped, but it didn’t prevent the flushes. She just hoped she wouldn’t get them at school next term, when she’d have a whole class of six-year olds to contain.
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