In this short story read by Rachel Cochrane, a mother tried her
best to cope with her son Ralph, who clearly preferred being with his absent father. The two of them were holed
up alone in a seedy guest-house: Ralph was behaving just like most young children do - pressing his nose to the steamed-up
windows, bouncing up and down on the bed in his pyjamas, and asking his mother for the umpteenth time
where his father had gone. His mother spun a yarn about her partner having embarked on a sea-voyage, but the little
boy was having none of it. He wanted to know why his mother perpetually concealed the truth from him. In an aside, the
mother wondered - not for the first time - why the father had such an influence over the boy (he preferred to call him Rafe
rather than Ralph).
The mood suddenly changed half-way through the story, as Ralph looked out of the
window and saw a variety of animals outside; in a direct echo of the Noah's Ark story, it seemed as if they were proceeding
in serried ranks to a specific place. Disbelieving her son's claims, the mother looked of the window and saw ... a circus.
Ralph immediately wanted to get involved; against her better judgment, the mother agreed, and the little boy became involved
in an adventure that culminated in the mother speculating to us whether she should actually tell her son the truth about his
Told as a first-person narrative, It's the Way You Tell 'Em looked at the
difficulties facing any single parent who has to either conceal or reveal the truth about her partner to her offspring. Sometimes
it's wiser to let children give full rein to their imaginations; but the day of reckoning has to come sooner or later. Exactly
how the mother dealt with that situation was left cleverly unexplained.
Cochrane's narration vividly captured the mother's agonies, as she struggled to look
after her little boy.