How am I going to get your brother on his bike?' said dad to middle child, an eight year old boy with over-long, scruffy hair. They walked slowly along the pavement to school.
'You could die,' said the boy.
'How's that going to get him on his bike?'
'You could die and then go to Jesus and ask him to make you a god and then come back down and tell him to get on his bike. He'd have to then.' The boy looked up at his dad and squinted a look so serious that the dad was a little taken aback.
'I'd prefer if it he just realised he needs to be more confident on his bike.'
'But if you were a god you could command him to do it and he'd have to do it.'
'I could command him now.'
The boy looked up through his scruffy fringe, his sceptical face showing what he thought of that as a statement.
Dad sighed. 'You're right. I don't think he'd listen even if I was a god.'
The boy nodded sincerely. 'He would. He'd have to.'
'Thunderbolts. That's what gods do when people don't do as they're told. You should definitely hit him with thunderbolts.'' He raised his arms in the air and brought them crashing down, his fingers splayed like the forks of lightning he was sending at the heathens below. The loud sound effects forced between tight lips set his little brother off copying him and they both rained death and terror and spit upon the pavement.
'You wouldn't want your brother struck by lightning would you?' said the dad.
'But you could and when you did you'd be like massive and then he'd have to do it and then he'd be really good because he practised and then he wouldn't die in an accident on his bike and then you'd know that you'd saved him but if he wouldn't do it then...' The boy leapt in the air, raised his arms and brought his whole body down in an explosion of nature's pyrotechnics, his lips pushed out to form a loud speaker as the sound effects reached an incredible crescendo. Dad glanced at the school-run mums and smiled an apology. Smirks and sympathetic nods were returned.
Little brother cackled with glee. 'Crash!' he shouted. 'Boom!' he called. 'No more George,' he said, and skipped in his funny little walking run, while reaching a hand back to his dad.
'And all you've got to do is die,' said the middle boy.
'And Jesus will make me a god?'
'That's right,' said the middle boy with a firm nod.
'What if he doesn't?'
'Seems a bit extreme just for a bike,' said the dad.
'Just die,' said middle boy and then, because he liked it, he said it again. 'Just die.'
'I think I'll keep trying gentle persuasion,' said the dad.
'Just die. Just die,' said the middle boy, his voice rising until he was shouting. 'Just die!'
'Alright, Joe, that's enough,' said the dad, smiling awkwardly at the funny looks from the school-run mums.
'Just die,' the middle boy whispered. 'Just die.' He stretched his whisper to that of a ghost in a Scooby Doo cartoon. 'Juuuusssst diiieee...'
They rounded the corner to the junior school. 'Have a good day, Joe,' said the dad, patting the middle boy on his scruffy head.
The boy smiled broadly, his toothy grin shining beneath his straggly hair. 'Remember, Dad, just die.' He set off for the school gates, passing through them and into the playground where he was surrounded by friends.