Five - or is it six? - hours later, the enormous pile of Lego bricks is only slightly less enormous, and the contraption beginning to take shape at one end of the table does not yet look altogether like a rocket.
“Are you still going?” Carolyn asks from the doorway. “It’s nearly eight. I think we might need to revisit the definition of the term ‘afternoon project’.”
Arthur doesn’t glance up from his instruction book, completely absorbed. Herc has a little more presence of mind, and grins round at her. “Well, you know what they say, Carolyn. Not even Rome was built in a day, and they had bigger bricks.”
“Is that what they say, though?” she asks, but huffs more out of habit than annoyance. “I half expected to find you asleep in the chair.”
Herc looks injured. “Are you saying I’m old?”
“Well, the box said eight and up.”
Arthur comes to the end of his page just in time. “We are eight and up,” he points out. “It doesn’t say how far up.” He sighs. “I can’t find the last white four by two.”
“Pull up a chair, my darling,” says Herc, as he joins the search. “It’s oddly relaxing, actually. Productivity for productivity’s sake, not part of a wider process…”
“You won’t jargon me into playing with colourful plastic bricks,” says Carolyn. “I just came to say that if you’re planning to dispose of that vegetarian risotto, you’d better do it before it goes in the bin.”
Arthur looks at his bare wrist. “Oh, I took my watch off. Is it dinner time?”
“More like supper time now,” Carolyn amends. “You’ve been at this for hours. How detailed does it need to be?”
“It’s an exact scale model, Mum,” he says, very seriously. He’s sorting through the pile methodically, looking for the white piece.
“Yes, and the instruction booklet makes War and Peace seem like a postcard,” Herc adds. “They’re thorough.”
He stands up. “Well, I’ll go and warm up that risotto, I suppose. Arthur, want anything?”
“I’ll come,” he says, springing up from the table with surprising verve considering how long it’s been since they last moved properly. “My eyes have gone funny from looking. I bet I’ll see it straight away when I get back.”
They breeze past Carolyn, and she eyes their creation critically. It’s definitely thorough. She rummages casually in the pile of bricks, and to her disgust, finds the sought-after piece almost immediately. She can’t set it aside, or Herc will know her crime. She should probably put it back, and let Arthur find it himself…
On a whim, she grabs a few other white pieces and some small black ones, leaving a crudely-shaped Lego sheep in Herc’s place for him to discover later.