It seems the past is best explored as fiction which is apt because memory is not a video recorder. It’s a reconstructive process in which we impose meaning on experience. And so, in some of these stories, the names have been changed. You can never know whether a thing really happened. It’s very useful that, especially when dealing with things that are criminal. I’ve always protested my innocence of such acts, at least when I’m in the interview room. When asked privately, I usually maintain a discrete silence. Did you see what I did there? I got you hooked. I’m good at this. I may even have a future.
So, sometimes you’ll see substitute names. The third person’s so useful. Look how well it worked for Vonnegut and Ballard. I admire them both, but I must confess I preferred Kurt drunk rather than sober. Mother Night’s a masterpiece; Deadeye Dick plummets into the abyss. Any novel that ends with the words “We’re living in a dark age” should come with a health warning. No, not those “trigger warnings” that pop up everywhere to send snowflakes scurrying into their “Safe Spaces”. It angers me that some who float on a sea of very special privilege, the kind we dare not name (consider this a test) see fit to smack down other, lesser beings with that very word. Behold the new thought-stopping cliché;
“Check your Privilege”.
Where was I? Oh yes; names. The character, who is not me, should have a name that’s neutral yet secretly simmers with layers of meaning. Adam; oh yes, I have uses for you. And what of another character, who is not my sister? Lorna, from the Billy plays by Graham Reid; the elder sibling who sheltered the little ones from our greatest cultural achievement; the substitution of violence for love. You think it’s that simple, do you? Oh no, I’ll take a beating any day. Compared to the rape of the soul, it’s merely trivial. I’ve met my share of Soul Surgeons. Poor Kurt. He should have stuck with the Breakfast of Champions. It was Ballard’s salvation. It helped him raise his children when his wife died. Through the haze he found his own moments of clarity and there were so many of them, and prose I could never hope to match.
I did it again. I got distracted. It’s the medication. And the thoughts. It’s a never ending bombardment. Like Peter Gabriel, I hear that voice again. There are so many of them, so many narratives of unworth. It’s enough to drive a a man to drink. But not me. Maybe I should consider it. We all need something. Poor Kurt.
Anyway, Adam’s big sister has taken him to see a movie in the picture house. That’s what we called it. I remember watching Convoy. I love that movie. It made a very small boy a Peckinpah fan. They’ve got the bus back up to Turf Lodge. All the street lights are dead. They were smashed long ago and nobody fixes them. There are men who crave the night. It’s when they do their best and worst work. He’s holding her hand. Mother Night is pitch black. Underfoot a piece of bottle crunches. He loves it when that happens, which is all the time. The debris of daily rioting scatters the ground like landmines, waiting to slice up children who are human enough to run barefoot in the summer heat. It’s quiet. The air is cold. Dark figures appear,
“Get inside, love.”
They hurry to the gate. She struggles with the latch, pushes it open. He hears the key slide into the lock,
Into the living room,
Bang!! Bang !! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!!
Footsteps shudder down the enclosed entry.
There’s a movie on the television. It’s Fu-Manchu.
The sun is shining. The sky is blue. That used to happen. The yard door is broken. The men ran through the back garden and away. It’s a big space. There’s a path that runs from top to bottom. His father has his tools out. With his hacksaw, he’s cut metal sheet. It has perforations. Through these he hammers self-tapping screws. No finesse, no cordless drill or any of that; this is the 1970’s. He rams them home the old fashioned way,
Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap! Thud!
He opens a tin of black gloss and thins some with white spirit then paints it on.
Job done. Adam, as usual, is awestruck.
His father must go to bed. He’s just back from the night shift.
Written August 28th 2016