Classic Max

Acting Like An Adult

“What the hell are you guys doing?” the man who was me yelled at the gang of kids.

Max Olijnyk

Image by Max Olijnyk

The near-fully formed baby inside Rosie was making her sunbathing experience pretty uncomfortable, even more than my existential crisis was making mine. So when she suggested walking over to the nearby cafe, that was something to do, and soon we were sitting on deckchairs with a couple of ice creams, as if we were in the Hamptons, not Lorne. I was halfway through my banana Paddle Pop when I looked over at the quiet spot where we had been lying on our towels only a few minutes earlier. It looked like some sort of Lord of the Flies reenactment was going on over there. Some kids were trashing our stuff.

“What the hell?”

I instantly remembered what it felt like to be one of them. To be on holiday for what seemed like forever, getting around with a strange crew of kids from the caravan park. I remembered the cubbies, the secret whistle, the pecking order, the older sisters, the pocket knives. I remembered that feeling when everyone tapped into the same imaginary situation and really went for it, until someone started crying or an angry adult stepped in. It was intoxicating stuff. I suppose that’s what actors feel like if they’re any good.

There were about a dozen kids in this gang and they had split into two teams, staking out spots on either side of the narrow river inlet that led to the sea. They were in a frenzy, darting back and forth from the river bed to scoop up handfuls of wet muddy sand, then running back out of range to shape them into workable missiles, then leaping forward again to launch them at each other. It was a simple game, one I could see was all involving and fantastic. But on the other hand, they were throwing mud all over our stuff.

 “Is that really our stuff?”

It was obviously our stuff, our stripy towels and our new books, our collection of snacks in our nice tote bag. And as well as pelting our stuff with mud, the kids were trampling back and forth all over it, because it happened to be right in front of their ammunition store – a rock.

“I guess I’m going over there.”

This was the second time in recent memory I’d had to act like an adult, and it felt really strange; like out-of-body strange. The first time was a few weeks earlier at Baby Buntings, when I told a seemingly demented staff member to back off and leave us alone, because she obviously knew far less about bassinet adaptors than Rosie did. This was like that; I didn’t want to yell at these kids, but I knew I was about to and I didn’t even know what I was going to yell. It was as if my actual brain was just tagging along to find out what happened next.

“What the hell are you guys doing?” the man who was me yelled at the gang of kids. They froze, twisting their heads towards me like a flock of startled sheep. Some of them were holding bombs aloft, mud dripping through their little fists.

“You’re throwing sand all over our stuff!”

“Is this yours?” said the blonde, spiky-haired ringleader, while standing on my towel. He was dressed in a black, skin-tight outfit designed to keep the sun off his skin. He looked a bit like a superhero.

“Yeah it’s mine. What the hell are you doing?” The man who was me was now looking around the gang of children in exaggerated bewilderment. His pregnant girlfriend and dog were slowly making their way over too, completing the picture of a wronged holidaying couple.

“Sorry man, we didn’t know it was yours,” said the spiky ringleader, waving his little arm to the group, “Come on guys, let’s go.” But the man who was me wasn’t finished.

“Well it’s obviously someone’s stuff, isn’t it? Are you guys all stupid or something? Are you all idiots?” The man who was me was now being a complete dick to a bunch of kids. The kids wandered off in pairs, giggling to each other quietly, because this was hilarious. “Oh, is it funny, is it? Well, fuck.”

Rosie walked up and surveyed the scene in disbelief, then laughed. I had actually turned into me again, and I felt stupid. We shook out our towels and sat down on them. The gang had started up their mud war again, about 20 metres downstream.

Rosie wisely suggested that we had lost the beach vibe and perhaps we should leave. We packed up our nautical towels into our nice tote bag and waddled towards the carpark. As we approached them, the ringleader called out, “Wait!” and the gang froze again, in a show of mock-respect. I gave the leader a nod, as if we were old adversaries who had reached an understanding. As we passed by out of range and the kids resumed gleeful warfare, I thought that if I got pegged right in the back of the head with a mud ball at that exact moment, I would actually feel a lot better.

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