‘I’ll walk with you,’ said the dad.
‘You don’t need to,’ said youngest.
‘I know. I just fancy the walk.’
‘Dad?’ youngest asked. They walked, not hand-in-hand, around the first corner, leaving their quiet street and stepping into the noise of the four-lane rush-hour.
‘Yes?’ the dad answered.
‘Is it possible for one person to spend a billion pounds?’
‘I suppose so. If they buy big things.’
‘If I had a billion pounds,’ said youngest, ‘I’d get the biggest house in the world.’
‘What about me and your mum? And your brothers?’
‘I’d get you the second biggest house and they can have one hundred million pounds each.’
‘You’d get lonely in the biggest house all on your own.’
‘No, cos I’d have all the consoles and all the VR in every room! And a TV as big as the wall!’ Youngest points to imaginary coving and skirting boards. ‘From that corner to that corner and from that corner to that corner!’
The dad watched his finger trace out a giant X and saw the rooms in the biggest house in the world were not much bigger than the rooms of a three-bed semi in Grimsby.
‘And there’d be staff. They could keep you company,’ said the dad.
‘Cleaners, cooks, gardeners. A butler and a housekeeper.’
Youngest looked up at the dad, confused. ‘Is it Tuesday?’
‘Why, would you only have a staff on a Tuesday?’
Youngest laughed. ‘No! is it Tuesday?’
‘I was just making sure. And I wouldn’t have servants. I’d feel bad. And I’d be bored.’
‘I haven’t noticed all this cleaning and gardening that keeps the boredom at bay in our house,’ the dad pointed out. ‘Besides, tidying the biggest house in the world would be too big a job for one 11 year-old. You’d need help. And you’d pay them well. They’d want to work for you.’
Youngest thought about this as they left the din of rush-hour behind and they headed down the cutting between garden bushes, the world suddenly quiet and green.
‘I suppose I could have a personal chef,’ he said.
‘That’d be nice.’
‘So, I’d give one hundred million pounds each to the brothers and two hundred million pounds to you and Mum. One hundred million pounds on my house and yours. That’s five hundred million pounds left.’
‘I don’t know if one hundred million would be enough for the two biggest houses in the world,’ said the dad.
Youngest looked up, squinting his eyes, screwing up his face, sympathy for his dad’s simplicity clear.
‘I’d give two hundred and fifty million pounds to the foreign countries to help with the hungry and the homeless,’ youngest continued.
‘That’s nice of you.’
Youngest nodded. ‘And then I’d have two hundred and fifty million pounds left.’
Some mums smiled. The dad smiled back. Smaller children buzz, on scooters and chasing and holding hands and thinking of sweets and friends and playgrounds.
‘I’d get you loads of books to read.’
‘Thank you. What about your mum?’
‘I’d get Mum loads of birdies and decorations.’
‘I’m sure she’ll be chuffed with that.’
‘I’d get her a parrot!’
‘Because she loves birdies and parrots are so colourful!’
‘Wait, why are you saying ‘birdies’?’
‘And then I’d buy a cage and then get a panda to put in it.’
‘You’d get the cage first? Nice!’
‘No, I don’t mean that.’ Youngest laughed as he spoke. ‘I mean I’d get a baby panda and raise it. They’re so cute!’
The dad remembered the video youngest had shown him; he’d been doe-eyed over the cuteness. ‘And I suppose you’d get the panda a slide?’ he asked.
Mums look over, comment on youngest’s excitement. ‘He wants his own panda,’ said the dad.
Smiles and ‘Aw…’ from every mum. They all loved youngest, his smiles, his cuteness to rival pandas on slides.
‘I don’t know how much of the two hundred and fifty million you’d have left,’ said the dad.
‘I’d need kitchen equipment and living room equipment.’
‘What about every console and VR?’
‘Sofas and stuff.’
‘And a lifetime of chocolate pillows, not just in the holidays. And chippy teas whenever we want!’ youngest continued.
‘What about your personal chef?’
‘He can have a night off when we have chippy teas.’
‘We? I thought me and Mum were in the second biggest house?’
Youngest ignored the dad. ‘I’d spend one hundred million pounds more on an enormous basement and the brothers would have to live in it.’ His eyes clouded a this, a dark delight at his brothers’ underground incarceration.
‘I thought they had one hundred million each? And if a basement costs one hundred million how do you get the two biggest houses in the world for the same price?’
‘Yep. I’ll have it and I’ll just spend it!’
‘Sounds like you’ve just spent it a few times over.’
Youngest frowned, shook his head sympathetically, and trotted into the playground.
‘See you this afternoon,’ said the dad.
‘No need,’ youngest answered. ‘I’ll walk home on my own.'
'Okay.' The dad smiled, a little thinly, and turned away from his billionaire son.