Fret was making tuna pie and Mum and Harry were sat doing homework around the wooden table in the kitchen. As Harry grumbled away at his sums, Mum looked up from correcting them and was in a positive mood.
‘Well, you finally invented something that might help the family!’
Dad looked up from mashing tuna in a bowl with a fork.
‘How’s it going to help us? I invented it so humanity can go to other stars, you know that.’
Mum picked up a wooden spoon and banged it on the table.
‘Why can’t you ever do anything useful for us? You’ve been sat in this house with a part time lecturing job for ten years, and now you’ve finally invented something that works, you want to give it to the world for free after they treated you like a pile of garbage.’
Henry looked up and laughed at this. Glad of an excuse to bypass his homework.
‘Yeah, a pile of garbage!’
Mum was not to be distracted from her tirade.
‘..and they won’t thank you for it, as usual, and your family will suffer.’
Henry feigned suffering with a rictus of pain worthy of an Oscar.
‘Yeah, we’ll suffer Dad.’
Dad added peas to the bowl of tuna, mixed them up and covered the mess with cream of tomato soup.
‘What do you want then?’
Seeing that her point was made, Mum put down the spoon.
‘Let’s use it to go the Canary Islands for a free holiday..’
‘Great!’ said Henry, then in reflection ‘What’re the Canary islands?’
Dad prided himself on being Henry’s live-in encyclopedia.
‘They’re volcanic islands west of Africa, Henry. Oh, be serious Mummy!’
‘I am serious. Can’t you delete the space between here and there?’
Fret put the fork down in the soup, and appeared to be counting to 100 in his head. Harry chose that moment to leap away from the homework-covered table shouting
‘Holiday!’ which did nothing to calm Fret down. Fret rounded on them and stood there for a moment, hampered by a verbal blockage and potatoes on the boil.
‘You don’t understand! After ten years work I’ve managed to project a little fishing net over a space of about 50 centimetres. Now you want me to project all of us a distance of 1000 miles before the Easter holiday?’
‘Yes, why not! Why don’t I just achieve world peace while I’m at it!’
Mum picked up the wooden spoon to make her point.
‘You think you’re a genius. If so, how is it possible that you have the most negative attitude I’ve ever seen? Just get on with it!’
Fret looked at Mum and there was a whole history of argument in that look. He took the steaming potatoes off the boil.
‘Are we going to the Canary Islands then?’
‘Alright! I’ll need more power, and I’ll have to rejig the whole design of the array to refocus it out. Goodness knows how.’
That was that, as far as Mum was concerned and she dropped the wooden spoon and hurried out of the room before Fret could change his mind. Henry had forgotten his school sums and was excitedly drawing a picture of the looped array as it had been. Fret was thinking of all the problems to be overcome: that little array was going to get a lot more complex.