Zachary let the flexible metal measuring tape reel back into its housing, and placed his pad of paper on the mark he'd made on the dining room table. That mark was the exact middle of the table, just as his law professor had drummed into him. Then he sat down, aligning his chair with his pad, and hit his knee hard on the table leg as he tried to sit closer.
"Really, Zach," said his father as the string of curses died away. "That's what you went to law school to learn?"
"His name is Zachary!" His mother, sat at the other side of the table to his father, jabbed her finger at him as she spoke. "And you should be able to get it right, since your mother chose it!"
"You said you liked it, and she'd chosen it for the budgie, anyway!"
"I was on drugs! I didn't know what was going on, I'd been in labour for thirty-four hours! And what kind of a woman calls her budgie Zachary anyway?"
"My mother is not some kind of a woman!"
"No, she's not human enough to be a woman!"
Zachary put two fingers in his mouth and whistled; an ear-splitting screech he made good use of when coaching inner-city school netball teams. His parents subsided, both sitting back in their chairs, but neither losing the defensive posture.
"Look, guys," he said, remembering not to sigh. "Wouldn't a divorce be easier?"
"Hah! I'm not giving her the satisfaction!" Zachary's father smirked meanly across the table. "She'd go out and tramp it around with some kid your age if I let her."
"No divorce," said his mother firmly. "I'm not risking being lumbered with you in the settlement."
"Mum!" Zachary was shocked.
"Sorry kiddo, but you've only just moved out and I like the additional space."
"Hell yeah," said his father. "We've just turned your bedroom into a second lounge, and we're going to turn the garage into a spa. Your mum's been picking colours."
"And your dad's doing all the plumbing; it's good for him to get back into that kind of thing again, you know. He's going to the gym twice a week."
"Uh, hang on a second." Zachary looked from one to the other in confusion. "I thought I was here to help you sort out your differences."
"Oh no," they said in unison, and his mother laughed and let his father continue. "You're just here to let us negotiate a truce without anyone thinking it's our fault."