This happened. Most of it did, anyway. To them, and to me.
But I don’t think I’ve got a name any more. I just can’t be sure of anything, now. No fixed abode.
Anyway. Will this do?
Before, I could have written Jim Briggs, 23 Canal Street, Ormesby, Norfolk, England, Europe, the World, the Solar System-and then what? When I used to write that in the odd book I had as a kid, at the end I put ‘if this book should ever roam, box its ears and send it home’. If only.
So it went like this.
I tried, really tried, to get them not to do it.
I yelled, threw things that came nowhere near hitting them, (I’d only recently had all my broken pieces sorted out and put back together from the explosion. Throwing was kind of hard but it felt good at the time, like I was getting back some of my old get up and give’em hell). Which was where I may have been. Bear with me here. I didn’t always get it either, then.
Well they didn’t listen, did they, Edwin and his girl Pearl, and they just carried on downing the pills, swigging back the vodka and hugging one another. Odd how I used to tease that bugger, bloody old Edwin, he looked all of a piece just then, quite the bloke, even though he was moaning his heart out. He’ll be much more up for making the switch to Afterwards than me, I’m thinking. I didn’t think that at the time, though, just wanted to make some sort of amends, even though the one who’ll suffer out of all of this will be Sean. My smashing little lad. Only six years old and marked for life. And she was a bit of a dreamboat, to be honest, Edwin’s squeeze, his Pearl, at least as far as I could see. Black hair, bonny lass, a tear drop tattooed at the side of one eye, I could see that under a few real ones on her face, so it seemed that she knew a thing or two about tough stuff. Bursting out of her tee-shirt, she was, healthy, should have been up for babies herself, not oblivion. Some hope eh. Said she couldn’t live without him, amazing. You could say he was the lucky one in the end. I just left, because I wasn’t going to be able to do a thing about what was going on, then.
It’s what people always say, isn’t it, I’m doing this to make sure other people don’t suffer like my child did. I’m writing this way too late, lifetimes too late. Well I made him suffer all right, that Edwin, I can remember, when we were kids, back at school. He was a bit of a stunted sort of kid, looked a bit dim even, though he was bright enough. Brighter than me. You kind of get into a habit, bullying I guess you’d call it, it’s a way of making yourself feel bigger, better, a bit more confident than you actually feel, makes people look up to you too, take your example. Being a role model I think they call it. OK I didn’t have one myself, I’m just beginning to see that now, no dad to tell me off, cuff me round the head and then watch telly with or kick a ball about the yard. Poor me, eh. But anyway I liked doing stuff to Edwin at the time, and he hated it. No wonder. Little runt that he was. Or I thought he was, wanted to see him like that, and then I made everyone else see him the same way. Always taking things apart to see how to fit them back together, he was. Funny, that.
He had great big sticking out ears, and I told other kids he smelt. Maybe be did, maybe he didn’t. I’d walk into a room where he was, flick one of his massive ears with a big old elastic band, thwack, walk out again. He got more knuckle-dusters than one boy deserved, really, and I thwacked him right dead centre on his head each day, just to keep him good and scared. When there were no teachers around, of course. I’d go into class, say ‘Hey Edwin!’ in a friendly sort of way, and he’d look up, pleased just for a moment, till he could see what was coming to him, every time. He never seemed to learn. My mates were my sidemen, doing stuff to him too, to get my nod. Edwin never shouted though, never cried. I made his life a right misery and got my mates to join in the fun too, but he never, ever complained, just looked sort of withered and old, like a smelly old man with paper bags for shoes. I got more and more popular, star of the classroom, of the school even, and he got weaker. I just roughed him up each day for sport. Me and my mates used to stab each other a bit with compasses, but only for a laugh, not to hurt. But we used to stab old Edwin hard, leaving marks. And he never dobbed on us, never even did more than just shake a bit, and put his mouth in a sort of stiff line. Well, that was then.
Well I was the one that got it in the end, didn’t I. Twenty years, it took, but he got me big time. I’ve got to take you back a bit here, from Edwin and Pearl and the pills. It was a Saturday morning, and I’d just picked little Sean up from Susie’s place. OK we’d split up, yes, when he was two, but then we managed after a while to stop biting and spitting at each other and think a bit about him. Plus she had a new fancy man and was grateful for the time off to do her thing. Which I didn’t like to think about much, in a way. OK I didn’t want her any more, but it narked me that someone else did. We got back to my little place in Canal Street, me and Sean, just after the postman had been. Good mate of mine, he was, funny, that. He was one of the gang that used to mess with old Edwin too. Sean picked up the letters from the mat by the door, he liked doing that, and put them on the kitchen table, all sorted in a line, nice and tidy. I got him some chocolate rice Krispies in a bowl, no milk, he liked that too. He sat down with that great smile all over his face and his little hands were going in and out of that bowl like he was starving. Which I knew he wasn’t, she’d given him a good breakfast before I got there to pick him up. ‘Thanks Dad!’ he said, as he scoffed his heart out, grabbing the stuff in the bowl without a spoon. Then I opened the letter from the TV license people, Ok that time again, comes round so quick, then the letter about some free offer of something or other, always someone trying to sell you something but you never know, then this fat one. It didn’t look like a bill or another sales pitch. Stuck up with selotape it was and I had to tear at it a bit. Well that was it. How was I to know what it was? And that it was from Edwin? Blew up in my face, didn’t it. Blew my face off, half my head, bits of my arm. No pain though. Funny that. He certainly knew how to put things together, did Edwin, in the end. I could hear Sean screaming and I could do bugger all.
Well the next bit I don’t like to think about, but I will, to get it all out. Sean ran out the door, wild, screaming, arms and legs all over the place, screeching to the neighbours, Peggy and Dave, good mates of mine. I knew I wasn’t going to make it. Not something you can pass on to anyone how you know, but you know. You kind of feel yourself leaking away, and that’s not just the blood, at least that’s what I think now. By the time the ambulance came it was all over. At least for then. What I just hadn’t reckoned on, never thought about it really, is that things sort of carry on and you sort of know about it. Hard to explain and you can call me a lying bastard but here I am, just telling you the way it is. At first, you just feel all over the place, blasted, and believe me I was that. Thinking comes later, seeing comes later, being able to watch from some place. It’s weird but it happens. I’m telling you.
Next day or what I used to call a day maybe, Before, I could see me old mum reading the newspaper but I couldn’t see what it said, and she just cried and moaned, and her old neighbour Wendy (widow Twanky I used to call her) was there holding her hand and making cups of tea that strong like she always did. You could stand the spoon up in her tea, as they say; she put so much sugar in. It usually helps, but my mum seemed a bit beyond help then. Her only son, blasted into bits. First she knew of it. I didn’t get round to seeing her much, then. Shame that. I’m sorry now. Anyway, she perked up a bit later, though, after my pathetic rescue attempt had been a total failure, and she read about that in the same paper. But that was later. Then she was sniveling into Widow Twanky’s tea, snot and tears all mixed up, she didn’t care.
Well it was a real mystery at first, who had blasted me, why did this happen, who was the guilty bugger that had sent me off to kingdom come? All sorts of mates came forward and said what a regular guy I’d been, not an enemy in the world. Oh yes, once you’re dead you definitely are a saint for a while. There were even a few bunches of flowers outside the house, with those little messages people write, stuff they probably would never have said while you were still alive. But in a small place, and fellows you were at school with being in the Police, things start getting said, all sorts of ideas start sort of just floating around, like they do. Edwin must have known that. But anyway, he was the good guy, because he felt really terrible at what he’d done. Not because of me, no way, he was glad about that, but about little Sean being there, having to go through seeing his daddy in a lot of bleeding pieces on the kitchen floor. How do you ever get over that? I saw one of Dad’s shoes on the cooker, he told his mum. And half his hand, bleeding all over the floor.
It turned out that Edwin’s own old man hadn’t gone off and left them. That’s what he’d said at school, just to explain things, but really his dad had topped himself. Edwin had found the body, hanging from a rope tied to a hook on the bedroom ceiling. No wonder Edwin had looked so shot up at school. Of course then I didn’t read the newspapers and maybe then people didn’t talk about things like that, at least not in front of the children. I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t know, that’s for sure. Not that it would’ve made any difference to me at the time, probably. And now Edwin had done the same thing himself, robbed a little boy of his dad, just like his own dad had done to him. So all three of us ended up dad-less, Edwin, me and little Sean. They’d all gone, in their different ways, and a dad gone is a dad gone. Though mine just lighting out one day to buy a packet of fags and not coming back was the least of it, that’s for sure.
Once I started to feel a bit more all of a piece if you like, I started feeling terrible for everyone. You get a lot of thinking time, Afterwards. And I thought what can I do? I really wanted to do something right for a change, even if it was a bit late in the day. To put it mildly. Strange but once you start thinking about people you kind of get into their space, just take it from me if you don’t believe it, and I found myself in Edwin’s room, like I said at the beginning, off up in one corner, don’t think he could see me there but I was there all right. Pretty skanky the room was, loads of old newspapers and washing up just lying around all over the place. No photos, no pictures on the wall, bits of old junk half put together or half-taken apart just kicking about on the floor. In the corner opposite was his old saggy bed, a right mess of old sheets and blankets, and sitting on it were these two, Edwin and his Pearl. He was crying, moaning, falling on her shoulders, putting his head on those lovely tits of hers. She was the Pearl of great price, yes, she definitely was, he struck lucky there. She looked a bit like an angel, OK call me a bit crazy but that’s how she seemed. Unless she was the devil in disguise, with that tattoo tear at the corner of her eye. Maybe you could say a bit of both.
Because they were all ready to take the sign marked exit together. I could see the pill bottles and the vodka, and from the way he was going on he’d probably had a fair few already. She was what you’d call more peaceful about it, stroking his hair and taking swigs from the bottle herself. Seems like they’d probably taken the pills already, the lids were on the floor and a few pills too. There I was trying to make a terrible racket, get their attention, throwing things, shouting no don’t do this, you just make it worse for your mums and your dads (I thought at least Pearl might have one, a mum or a dad, maybe both) and then the crying just goes on and on and on. But did they listen? No. Could they hear me? Maybe not. So I wasn’t going to be let off the hook as a sort of sad old superman coming in from the hereafter to make things all better. That’s crap and anyone who tells you different, don’t believe them. Well it might be sometimes but not this time no sir, I was going to have to live with what I did, well not exactly live with it but it’s not going anywhere, that’s for sure, what I did that made him do what he did which who knows may make Sean do—No I can’t go there yet. Of course, I’ve got a fair amount of time to keep on stewing in all this shit. Eternity I guess. Maybe I’ll get to meet up with the two of them sometime, and we can talk it all over. I could even apologize. Because I’m sorry now, but of course it’s much too late. Poor little bloody Sean’s the one now who cops the lot. And if his mum’s new squeeze turns into a man that lives with them, that’s a whole other story. That sort of story doesn’t often end well, even without all that other stuff.
Well I’ve learned a fair few lessons, but the thing is with these lessons is that it’s not like at school with a timetable and homework and the slipper if you don’t show up with your sums done on Monday. I got the slipper a fair few times too. Well you did in my day. No it’s like the lessons don’t look like lessons at the time, choices you can make to do your sums or not. It only all adds up a lot later, way too much later.
Well you can take this or leave it. I could say I don’t give a damn either way but that wouldn’t be the truth. I’m waiting for Edwin and his Pearl to show up here sometime, if they do, so we can start a conversation I should have had with old Edwin a long long time ago. We were both dad-less in the end, after all. I hope he’ll want to talk to me. But I shan’t be surprised if he won’t.