Page One

Jack Meadows was born on a Christmas Day. His mother held the speck of a child close to her face, promising with a whisper to care for this special son with her every breath. Jack’s father stood proudly by, removing the dust from his eye.

The parents exchanged a glance over the crown of their newborn son. It was a glance that expressed the joy threatening to burst from their hearts at the sight of their squealing baby boy, determined to wake every neighbour with his high-pitched cries. It was also a glance that expressed something of their sorrow. Jack’s parents would never see their boy reach manhood.

Jack’s father and mother, having met uncommonly late in life at eight months, ten days, and seven months, thirty days respectively, were past nine months of age on that happy Christmas day.

They would not be around to see Jack reach the established milestone of adulthood at two months and ten days.

They would never see their son fall in love and father grandchildren for them to hold proudly in their arms.

They would only guess at the life Jack would lead, yet even in guessing, Jack’s mother knew by some parental sixth sense that her son was destined to be different.

Their thoughts passed in the flicker of a glance. Meanwhile, I was more than a mile away, treating myself to a final glass of red wine beside the Christmas tree, unaware of anything besides myself and the disappointing day that never quite lived up to its hype.

The night was dark and sounded wet and windy beyond the protective barrier of double glazing that kept my slippered toes toasty. My own parents had long since retreated to the comfort of their bed. I sat, brooding over my future and thoughts of what I could, and should, accomplish. Looking back on that night with the wonderful gift of hindsight, I can see that my musings were rather more selfish than those of Jack’s parents, though perhaps they can be excused by circumstance. It was, after all, now half a year since I had finished my prestigious university degree and still I remained jobless and penniless, forced to return to the small Cornish cottage of my parents to scrounge off their generosity and try to forget the immense heap of debt my studies had dropped me in. The path of my life, so meticulously planned, was closer akin to a tangle of spaghetti than the straightforward route I had dreamed into being.