"And what the bloody hell d'you call this?"
Luke Brownlow shut the front door behind him as he entered the house. He could feel his start-of-the-summer-holidays happiness seeping away as he turned to see what his father was shouting about this time. He was waving some sheets of paper around which Luke recognised as his end-of-year school report. His happiness was replaced by a rising feeling of gloom as he prepared himself for yet another argument.
In the living room, the shouted greeting had triggered frightened wails from Luke's toddler sisters. He watched his mother rush out from the kitchen to soothe the girls. There was a stressed and reproachful expression on her face; she often seemed to look like that, lately. Luke decided that avoidance was the best response to his father's question and headed towards the stairs. But his dad could move remarkably quickly for a big man and he caught up with Luke at the foot of the staircase and grabbed his arm.
"Oh no, you don't. In there." He pointed at the kitchen and towed Luke inside. Luke shook off his father's grip with an irritable jerk of his arm.
"Well?" Dad asked, holding up the papers to Luke's face.
Luke rolled his eyes and sighed, as though he was dealing with a simpleton. "It's my school report," he said, choosing to answer the original question literally. His father wasn't impressed.
"It's appalling," he snarled. "I don't believe you've done a single day's work at the high school in the two years you've been there."
As this was almost true, Luke did not bother to reply. His mother, having calmed down the twins, came back into the room, still looking worried and upset.
"Hi, Mum," Luke ventured, trying to introduce a bit of friendliness into the conversation.