She liberated some crucial equipment: a roll of clingfilm, several plastic shopping bags and Liability’s bucket and spade, and spent a quiet Saturday morning digging up the garden. I thought she had been inspired by Alan Titchmarsh, and looked fondly on from the kitchen window.
Her real purpose was revealed on the local news that night, when it turned out the town had been hit by a bombardment of mud pies. Smart mud pies, mind you: they only targeted the American retail outlets. Mud-spattered McDonald’s workers and Starbucks coffee-makers told the cameras how a horde of junior anarchists came tearing into the shop, shouted ‘Down with American Aggression’, and unleashed hell. Apparently several mud pies landed in the deep fat frier and nearly got served up between sesame buns, but that’s another story.
Subjudice left a ring of mud like a tidemark around the bath, so we knew it was her. The Lawyer thought of making her wear a sign round her neck: “I am the mud pie bomber”, but felt it would expose her to terrible reprisals: they’re very hang ’em and flog ’em at her school. He went in to talk to her but realised she was up for debating the war until sunrise – goodness, the sooner she gets to university, where they do that sort of thing for a living, the better – and finally settled for a strict telling off and suspension of all pocket money until summer. “Fascist pig!” Subjudice shouted after him as he left, heading straight for the drinks cabinet and a stiff whisky.
And that would have been the end of it, but for CCTV.
“Isn’t it very dodgy to show pictures of minors committing alleged offences on television?” asked Deminimus the next night. (He’s a lawyer in the making, that boy. I’m so proud.) Aghast, we ran to the TV room, where Subjudice and her gang had made the national news. You could barely see them for the mud flying, though, so I was hopeful we’d got away with it. Later on, there was a knock at the door, and we were invaded by police officers and social workers. And then the journalists.
A couple of days later, the Lawyer’s senior partner asked to see him. “It’s not very supportive of our American colleagues, is it, this throwing mud everywhere?” he declared. “It might stick. Anyone would begin to think you’re against the war as well.”
“Good heavens no,” said the Lawyer, trying to look belligerent. “I’m all for regime change, lots of it. She’s very young, though. And it’s her first offence.”
“Our American colleagues are very upset. It’s the most popular clip on US TV news at the moment, under the heading “Shame of UK children”. They would be appalled to know the man who brought one of them up was working here.”
“Ah,” said the Lawyer, scanning the SP’s desk for his P45, and wondering whether he should shop Gordon from property, whose daughter Fiona was the one in the Barbie mask armed with the water canon. In the end, he forced the boss into reviewing the situation after hostilities were over. After all, he could lose his job, but the boss could lose his free fortnight in Martha’s Vineyard, staying at the American colleagues’ summer house, hobnobbing with the rich and famous.
“It sounds like gunboat diplomacy to me,” said Subjudice.
“Or simply the American way?” asked the Lawyer.