Because of reasons*, we stop on the way home so that I can buy a new toothbrush. We agree that I will collect a bottle of milk as well. The promised showers are much in evidence and it is getting late. So, it is definitely dark, but not exactly stormy. The mister sits in the car with the boys. I go in.

I have been to this supermarket many times before and so I find the aisle with the toothbrushes easily.

I stand, and I look at the array. I close my eyes for a moment and then I turn away.

I return to the car, open my door, poke my head in, which leaves my bottom in the rain.

I say: ‘which toothbrush do I want?’.

The mister says, after he has rubbed at his balding head and I have wondered to myself ‘when will balding no longer be a process, and become a state of being bald’: ‘you’re serious, aren’t you?’ and I reply.


He says ‘stop wasting my time’ in the tone he very rarely applies to his words. I say ‘will you go and choose it for me?’

His silence – momentary though it is – is that particular parental silence which asks ‘what kind of precedent is this’.

‘All right,’ he says. He is gone longer than I expect him to be.

When he returns – with a toothbrush, milk and a packet of lollies which he shoves between his seat and his door before the children can see them – I say ‘you see, it was hard’ and he says ‘the toothbrush was easy, the lollies were hard’ and I say ‘why, they’re just all variations on a theme of compressed sugar’ and he says ‘oh, why didn’t I think of lolly bananas, that’s what I should have got’.

We are at the railway line by then. We are not stopped.

I say ‘time was, there was only soft, medium, hard, and the colours were only primary and maybe orange. Do you remember? They were all Tek. In the old days, choosing a toothbrush wasn’t hard.’

The mister says ‘next time, just go and pick the first one you see that says medium. There’s no difference after that.’

I say ‘yes there is’ he says ‘no, there’s not’ and by then we are home and all that is left to do is put the children to bed, eat the lollies and clean our teeth.

*oh, yes, every moment of my life is loaded with significance