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378-published by The Common Breath-October 2020

               

 

He bangs his fist on the door and whispers 378, don’t forget…378.

A teenage boy finally answers. He rolls his eyes and tuts. ‘Sake Da, rattlin’ on the door at this time. Wit is it?’

He bodychecks the boy as he breenges into the living room. Av worked it oot.

‘Worked oot wit?’

Thirs 378 flats in the three blocks. 378 verandas tae choose fae…and they pick mine. Here’s yir early mornin’ alarm call. Forget aboot a snooze button. Can a interest thim in a wee saucer of Vortex? Naw…they urnae faw’in fir it. Coo coo fuckin coo. How’d they no bugger off and scrounge in sumdys garden instead.  I’ll tell yae how…cos they prefer peckin’ away at ma fuckin’ brain. Peck peck peck.

The boy momentarily covers his face with both hands. ‘Naw. Jeeso. No this again, Da. A wish you’d gies peace about the doos.’

Peace? That’s wit am after. Paradin’ up n doon ma bedroom fir hours every day tryin’ to block the bastards oot. The carpet is threadbare. Doos are related tae Doves, did yae know that? Peace Dove? That’ll be fuckin right. Here…how yae no ready for school?

‘You asked me that last week Da…it’s July, the summer holidays?’

Aw aye, a forgot. Anyhow, mon gie yir Da a cuddle.

The boy looks like he’s been told to do the Gay Gordons with the girl with the warty hands in front of the whole school. ‘That’ll be right, yir reekin’ a whisky.’

He cocks his head back. I beg yir pudding. I’d a couple afore bed tae help me sleep…but naw…coo coo fuckin coo. Am demented. They won’t swally the disinfectant.

‘Am goin back tae bed Da.’

Wait son. A had a brainwave. Mibbe wannae yir pals could lend me a slug gun. That’d get the job done. Know wit a mean?

‘Sake Da, ma mates don’t have sluggies. And you gony take oot every doo in Glesga wi a slug gun? Yir bein silly.’

Am desperate son. Am no sleepin.

‘Me neither. Yae did this last week anaw. Showed up at seven rattlin’ on about doos.’

Less ae yir cheek smart-arse. You tell me how to sort it then.

‘Simple. Attach a mesh net across the veranda.’

He jiggles the coins in his pockets. Aye…yir right son. Yir a wee genius. A chip off the auld block. Yae get yir brains fae yir auld man. It cannae be yir Ma, cos she married me.

The boy’s eyes dart from his Da to the door and back.

Right. Am gony get meshed up in Crocket’s the Ironmonger. Time’s it, son?

‘Half seven.’

Magic. A don’t need tae head yet. Get dressed n al take yae fir a Fryin Scotsman.

‘Da…I’ve told you this three times… am…gon…back…tae…bed.’

He frowns at the boy. Fair enough. Project Mesh eh. We’ll sort the bastards oot. Me n you…the Gillespie boys. We can sort anythin’ out wen wi put oor mind tae it, kint wi son? We’re do’ers you n me.

At the door, he stretches to rub the boy’s hair. The boy recoils.

Well. Hiv a good kip son.

The boy’s hands rest on the lock and handle as he watches him heading down the path pointing an imaginary gun skywards while shouting, ‘pum…pum…pum.’

‘Aaww Da,’ he whispers.

,

A man on the brink.

You’ve been banging your head against a brick wall and finally…at fuckin last…a person gets you. Doesn’t judge. Listens. Shows some empathy. Or is it sympathy? Sympathy is a big heartfelt hug and, ‘I’m so sorry ma man, ma deepest sympathy.’ Empathy is a titled head, fake, intense concentration, a gentle nodding of the aforementioned head, a wee patronising rub on the shoulder and ‘Yeah, I totally empathise, it’s been sooooo tough for you. You’re strong and courageous, you’ll get through this. I promise.’

Empathy can fuck right off. And don’t get me started on pity.

Tell you what though…the fact I’ve found understanding here of all places, is a sham of a mockery of a debacle of a fiasco of the farcical nature.

You spill yir guts to the General Pricktitioner…tell them how yir feeling. And you’re made to feel like yir sitting bollock naked. And for what? A telephone assessment to determine whether yir fucked-up enough to merit help? A bastardin’ wet behind the ears student with a second name for a first name…a series of questions from a script. “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, here is our final verdict. Mr Boyd, I can confirm you’re most definitely of the fucked-up category, think child actor now dysfunctional adult, awfully bitter about a lost childhood. However, I’m afraid you simply aren’t at the level where we’d offer help. Take the tablets the Good Doctor offered. You may go in peace now the charade has ended. Go in peace to love and serve the lawrd/laird.”

A was fucked-up…but no as fucked-up as the system. Apologies. Am trying to curb the industrial language. Trying to stop speaking like a ned. Baby steps, know what a mean?

Things are a changing now though. They’ve told me to talk about it, tell ma story. Get it off your chest, Connor. They rattled on a bit about the healing process. About forgiving yourself. Explained the meaning of cathartic. Av time on my hands…so fuck it. Here goes.

Her words were the toxic seeds that polluted ma mind. If that makes me pathetic…so be it. It’s the truth. End of. Before you ridicule or tell me to get a grip, ask yourself this…What were you like as a 13-year-old? Me? A was fragile and confused.

Her spoken words weren’t meant for me. Various traits of my personality can be called into question. I understand that. You’ll feel the need to pass judgement. It’s wit we do. Labelling things or people. So many fuckin labels nowadays and I’m clueless about most of them. But this is simple. Good or bad. Mother or son. That’s it.

In ma defence, I offer one thing. I defy anyone to accuse me of dishonesty. You can trust ma version of events. Promise.

Apparently, there’s nothing stronger than a mother’s love. I wouldn’t know about that. What I do know is this – those words set a destructive chain of events in motion. The Damaged manifested as Damn Rage. I couldn’t shake free from it. I charged towards the inevitable conclusion.

My name is Connor Boyd. Her truth transformed me into a wandering preta with a rabid, insatiable appetite for self-destruction.