Four stripes on the crossing, twenty-one slats on the fence in front of Mr Jenkins’ house, eighteen feet of adults waiting at the bus stop, sixty-three stitches on the hem of the lady’s dress in the opposite seat. Mike’s mother holds his hand firmly. They are on their way to the doctor’s again.
More tests. Mike knows he can’t press his face against the wall and count the fibres in the old wallpaper, because it makes his mother upset. He swivels on his chair, three pushes to a full turn. His mother and the doctor are talking: two tired voices. Mike counts the heartbeats in his chest. The number is always the same.
Back to the house past the school where he doesn’t go anymore. Thirteen children playing, five bounces of the ball before it rolls and stops against the fence. A child picks it up, looks at Mike. There are two small scars on his face where a pinecone landed that winter. Mike remembers the blood, the screams of the other kids, Mrs Bath charging towards him like an overweight dragon. Mike touches the fence; but he is pulled along.
Sitting alone at the kitchen table. The cheese sandwich is still warm, but his mother has already gone to work, in too many angry steps.
Past the kitchen door to the quiet garden, where the washing flutters. Mike looks at the countless blades of grass. His mother won’t be home for hours. Mike sits down, in his infinite kingdom.