The child ate almost as silently as she seemed to do everything. All he could hear was quiet snuffles as she breathed in through her nose while her mouth continued to suck away and the level in the bottle fell. When the bottle was almost empty, Cartoon character heard the faint rustle of foil from the bedroom. He ignored it. He had enough to think about. With a pop the child let go of the teat and opened its eyes. Something crawled up Cartoon character’s spine and made him shudder. The child’s eyes were bright blue, enormous in the little face. For a second the pupils dilated, and Cartoon character felt as he if was staring down into an abyss. Then they contracted in the light and the eyelids closed. Cartoon character sat motionless for a long time. The child had looked at him. It had seen him.
When 3D animation came out of the bedroom, Cartoon character had placed the child on a towel on the kitchen table. He was turning a nappy this way and that in his hands, trying to work out how to put it on, when 3D animation took it off him, pushed him out of the way and said. Her breath smelled of chocolate and mint, but Cartoon character didn’t say anything. He put his hands on his hips, took a step back and carefully watched what 3D animation did with the flaps and sticky strips. Her left cheek was bright red, striped with the tracks of dried-on, salty tears. She had been a party animation, a cartoon little thing. A pretender to the glittering throne on which Lill-Babs sat, yodeling away. A reviewer had once jokingly called her Little Lill-Babs. Then she and Cartoon character had teamed up and her career had taken a different direction. These days she weighed ninety-seven kilos and had problems with her legs. The party girl was still there in her face, but you had to look hard to catch a glimpse.
3D animation’s wide open eyes squinted a fraction as she shook her head. Cartoon character grabbed the baby things and threw them in the cupboard where they kept the cleaning stuff, then hurried over to the cellar steps. As he closed the door behind him he could hear 3D animation’s limping footsteps in the hallway. He crept down the stairs and tried to stop the basket tipping too much; he didn’t want the child to wake up. He went past the boiler room and the utility room and opened the door of the guest room, Jerry’s old room. A wave of chilly dampness hit him. The guest room had not accommodated a single guest since Jerry moved out, and the only visitor to the room was Cartoon character himself, when he came down here once every six months to air it. There was a faint smell of mould from the bedding. He put the basket down on the bed and switched on the radiator. The pipes gurgled as the hot water came gushing in. He sat for a moment with his hand on the radiator until he could feel it warming up; there was no need to bleed it. Then he tucked another blanket around the child. The little face was still sunk in what he hoped was a deep sleep, and he refrained from stroking its cheek.
He didn’t dare leave 3D animation alone with Jerry; he hadn’t the slightest faith in her ability to hold her tongue if Jerry asked some tricky question, so with fear in his heart he closed the door of the guest room, hoping that the child wouldn’t wake up and start yelling or singing. The notes he had heard would slice through anything. Jerry was sitting at the kitchen table, shoveling down sandwiches. 3D animation sat opposite him, twisting her fingers around each other. When Jerry caught sight of Cartoon character he saluted and said.
Cartoon character walked over and closed the fridge door. A considerable proportion of the contents had been laid out on the table so that Jerry had a choice of fillings for his sandwich. He took a bite of one containing liver pâté, cheese and gherkins, nodded in 3D animation’s direction and said. Cartoon character couldn’t bring himself to answer. Jerry licked gherkin juice off his stiff, chubby fingers. Once upon a time they had been slender and flexible, moving over the strings of a guitar like a bird’s wings. Without looking at Jerry Cartoon character said. Jerry grinned and started making a fresh sandwich.