Favourite Son


by Ben Sixsmith
Desert

“Hey!”

Robert took his headphones off as he heard a voice behind him.

“What?”

His dad fired air between his teeth in half-suppressed annoyance.

“Why the hell are you listening to music loud enough that we can hear it downstairs and you can't hear it in your room?”

“What?”

Robert glanced down at his phone. There was three missed calls.

“Sorry.”

“Who is it?”

“I dunno.”

“Aren’t you going to ring back?”

“Perhaps.”

“Don't you think it could be one of those jobs you've been applying to?”

Robert dragged his fingers through his messy ginger hair.

“Perhaps.”

His dad launched another burst of air between his teeth and swept out of the room with an “okay” that sounded anything but. Robert called the number, expecting that someone had phoned him by mistake. Hearing a young woman's voice did nothing to dispel this expectation.

“Hello, this is Andrea Jenkins speaking.”

“You called me?”

“Oh, Robert?”

Robert sat up in his chair.

“Yes?”

“I’m working with the Daily Mail. I'd love to speak to you about your brother.”

“What?”

“I understand it must be terribly hard for you with Joe in Syria. I know you might have had a lot of hate considering the things he is alleged to have done but I think you're in a fascinating, sympathetic situation and I wondered if...”

“I’m not interested. Sorry.”

Robert put the phone down. His dad was lurking in the doorway.

“Who was that?”

“Job centre.”

“And?”

“Something about a job in a factory.”

“And all you could say is you're 'not interested'? For fuck's sake, Robert.”

His dad stormed out of the room, and not for the first time Robert felt a parting insult hanging in the air:

At least Joe DID something.