“What is it Bartholomew?”
“Sorry to bother you Peter, but these kids want to see the Master”
Peter steps out of the doorway.
Twitching about behind Bartholomew are a handful of tatty looking children. The oldest looks to be about ten, and she’s holding a chubby toddler. The toddler looks sleepy and has obviously recently eaten something sticky; his hands and face are glazed with a mixture of it and some unpleasant looking mucus. The girl looks scrawny and wary; her jeans are a bit too small and her coat has a rip in the sleeve. She’s obviously the leader of a group that includes an assortment of children aging from about four up to a similar size to the girl.
Peter’s heart sinks. Being the Master’s tour manager is hard enough, what with the groupies, the poor, and the downright wicked, never mind the gang of sick people hovering and humming at a distance like flies. But children!
Each person takes up so much time; they whine about problems and illness and ask stupid questions. And the information pack won’t shut them up; they just want to get in to see him in person. The Catering Manager is trying to get hold of him, the on-site hygiene facilities team has a broken down truck and that Health and Safety Risk Assessment Document is only half done. Peter can’t remember the last time he was in bed before midnight and he has a constant tweak of pain just above his right eye.
Peter muses about how it all started. Andrew said he was a wonder worker and Peter instantly saw himself as a big man, a man on the way, a man of importance. He never thought he would be worrying about Portaloos.
And now this! He takes Bartholomew off to one side.
“The thing is” he whispers “The thing is, the whole operation’s geared for adults. If we’re going to let children in we’ll have to provide chaperones, there’ll need to be a safeguarding policy, We’ll have to get everybody CRB checked. We’ll need to get changing mats. It’s all just too complicated”
“But they’ve been waiting all day” he presses. “They’ve driven me crackers. They’ve climbed on everything, eaten everything they could find, the baby has been sick twice, and weed on my shoe. I swear one of those boys has been picking pockets, and they’ve been shouting rude names at the old ladies”
“Well that settles it” says Peter decisively “We can’t let kids like that in. And in any case they won’t understand what he’s talking about; I hardly do a lot of the time”
“But they’ve waited all day”
“A problem, Peter?”
Peter spins round.
“No Master, we’re just getting rid of them. Sorry to have bothered you with such a rabble”
The Master sighs and grins at Peter and Bartholomew, then he sits down on the step and beckons to the children. He takes the snotty baby off the girl and cuddles it onto his lap. It promptly wipes its face on his shirt and falls asleep.
“So what are your names then? Come and tell me where you’re from”
The children gather round, and the waiting queue of people sees what’s happening and comes over to listen.
The Master draws one of the little boys towards himself and puts his arm round the boys shoulder. The boy relaxes and leans against him.
“Let me tell you what my Father’s Kingdom is like”