I’ll write a story for you, but it’s in the present if you don’t mind, and I don’t know where it leads. I’m just sort of sat here, typing away trying to make the most of the time I have left until class starts. I’m feeling hungry too but I quite like this spot and I know I’ll lose it if I get up to eat, or give in to my caffeine cravings. But, everyone else has one and the library is swarming with the scent of fresh coffee and I’m drowning in the smell. I could probably run and grab one, leave my stuff here but I always get into an argument with the card scanner on the way in because my card never works.
Then I hold up an entire queue of people, and why? Because I wanted that coffee. They’ll all snarl at me when I sit back down at my desk and sip away, and I’ll finish it, and probably want something else. So, again, I’ll get up to buy one, probably get frisked at the entrance of the library because I ‘bleeped’ – kind of like you do in an airport if you’re carrying metal, except they’re looking for stolen books not a bomb or a weapon of some kind. With that happening, I’ll be gone ages and realise I have to leave for class anyway, only to be mouthed at by my Professor for wasting the hour and showing up without any work. But I’m frozen. I don’t even know why I’m here, studying crime. I know I’m going to fail the year. Don’t get me wrong, I did want to be a cop. My grandpa was a cop – it’s all I know, and I guess I’m alright with the thought of being one but I question their job sometimes. Bad things happen regardless of them being around, or not. It’s just bad people and no matter how hard you work, study, whatever – there are still going to be bad people about.
It’s like, last year, Melissa Harding – the brainbox in my class, nice to everyone, had her whole life planned ahead of her and then whoosh. She was run down by a bad guy in the street who had been drinking and driving. I heard she died by internal bleeding. And then there’s this guy Russell, some guy who used to pick on my brother ended up getting his big break in a real movie – just because his old man was pals with the director, I figure. But, still, bad things happen to good people and vice versa.
My grandma used to talk about this thing called Karma, but I always thought that was complete horseshit if I’m honest. What kind of spiritual force likes to linger itself around waiting for some asshole to make a dick move to then screw them over? That just doesn’t make sense to me, but I suppose it’s nice to think about. Maybe Karma’s a person, some kind of god or superhero. I don’t know. But, thinking about it – they’d make bad things happen to people as payback, as revenge. That’s not heroic, god-like maybe but not heroic. I don’t know.
Anyhow, I’ll start at the beginning, when I was born. I think my folks regretted everything once I was born. My dad was an alcoholic – he’s gone now. I never really knew who he was. I don’t know where my mom is. She sort of just took off when I was four, and then my brother Todd and I stayed with our grandpa. He took care of us. I remember the early days like it was yesterday; every day was like that first sip of coffee in the morning. I used to play in the garden whilst Todd was at school. I was sick a lot back then; I didn’t go to school much. I’d stay home and play ball in the garden or grab one of my grandpa’s old bed sheets, hurl it over the washing line and weigh it down on the grass to build a den. We had a strange neighbour too, who I would always pretend was a villain of some kind – the burglar or whatever you want to see her as and I was the secret agent, superhero, cop and I’d spy on her from my den. She was small, old and mean and she had a cat named Jonas – a scruffy little thing with grey fur, sort of like the sky on winter Sunday mornings and a piercing amber stare. He would come through the fence and sit on my grandpa’s porch and sometimes, on his lap. He’d put out a small bowl of milk for him, and feed him bacon that he saved from breakfast. I do miss having breakfast at my Grandpa’s. When he had finished with his milk and bacon, he would run and jump and hurdle the fence as if he had never gone anywhere, and Mrs Badonsky would say to Grandpa Lou:
“He just won’t eat, not a single bite. Tried him on all different kinds of cat food – it’s costing me a fortune. Vet says he’s healthy, though. I just don’t know, Lou.” and “What do you think, Lou?”
“Sorry, Liz I haven’t the slightest.”
“Oh, never mind. How’s Pauline?” she goes on. “She never is in the garden, not like she used to be. How is she, Lou? She’s doing alright ain’t she?”
“Aye, love. She’s swell.”
“Give ‘er my love, will you?”
“I will Liz. Take care now.” My Grandpa would say. He’d sit back on his chair, pull out his old floppy wallet, take his glasses from the pocket in his shirt and put them on. Looking at an old picture of Grandma, he’d say. “Those were the days, ‘ay kiddo?” I’d ask him why Mrs Badonsky would always ask about Grandma Pauline, but Grandpa Lou always told me,
“She’s forgetful. Don’t you worry about it the slightest.”
“Why don’t you tell her she’s in Heaven, like you told me?”
“No point in upsetting her all over again now, is there?” he said. That’s what I loved about my Grandpa – he made the world make sense. That’s what I needed in my life rather than the previous disasters I had seen. It wasn’t just my parents going away either, even my best friend, Ella who lived next door to us.
Our favourite place to play was at the old Goldman’s place – an abandoned house at the end of our street. We’d play there all the time – Ella and I. We never told anyone where we were going either. It was our place. A ‘no grown-ups allowed’ kind of place. We’d say that’s because it’s too cool for grown-ups and that they would ruin all the fun. But actually, in truth, we knew we’d be in huge trouble. It had been empty for years, had work started and never finished. There were holes in the ceiling and in all the floors. In sense, it was a death trap for two seven year olds. I remember we used to sit on the top floor – ‘the bedroom’ and dangle our legs over the edge of the hole, Ella swinging hers back and forth, even wiggling her toes. The blue dress she loved to wear would also hang with her legs, but she was careful not to rip it on the shattered floorboards. The ones that would always give me splinters in my palms. Grandpa always used to ask about that, and I’d just tell him I’d been climbing trees or something, and then he’d pluck them out with a needle. Sometimes it made me bleed but sometimes it didn’t hurt at all.
Other than that, though, it was okay. Except for the day Ella cut her leg on an old rusty nail. It was sticking out one of the floorboards. She just tied her scarf around it to stop the bleeding and acted like nothing happened. But, it was dinnertime and we knew we had to hurry home. She wandered across the plank of wood we found and placed across the hole in the floor.
What the scarf wrapped around, I don’t know.
It pulled Ella down and she fell. She fell through the floor. It all happened so fast. She hit her head bad. That was it, then. I’ve never managed to get the image out of my mind. I still see the scarf with the blood on it as if that was some kind of warning.
That’s sort of around the time I stopped going to school as much. I couldn’t handle going back to all those kids asking again and again what had happened to Ella. I couldn’t handle that. That was way worse than the splinters.
The worst was seeing Ella’s mom and dad. The emptiness in their eyes, locking onto me. Part of me wished it was me that fell that day; I remember going to her funeral and thinking about all the people that were so sad and then imagining what it was like if I was being put into the ground. I could only see Todd and grandpa there to say goodbye, and Ella – because she would have been alive. It should have been me.
We didn’t stick around too long after Ella’s death. Grandpa retired when I turned ten, and Todd was starting middle school so we moved closer to it. I liked that neighbourhood both more and less than our home town. It was strange. Todd liked it there though. He liked school, not the learning part but seeing his friends and having a laugh; smoking behind the bus stop outside of school.
I started not long after, doing the same things: smoking and laughing. I guess I got off easy with school. I didn’t have a rough time if you know what I mean, and I saw other kids getting one hell of a rough time back then.
I remember Alan Fisher: the awkward boy, Alan Fisher with locker ‘243’, Alan that smelt like bug spray; Alan who disappeared. It was strange really, how it happened. For years, every lunchtime he was shoved into locker 243, over and over again. Some days he might have missed his afternoon class, or shown up half way through because a dinner lady heard him banging, or a janitor or someone like that. I suppose they got him out because he yelled his combination to them. That’s probably how his locker got broken into every other morning.
He had learned not to keep his books there, or his worn out sneakers he liked to walk home in, or his winter coat. He carried around a big bag instead – small Alan with the big bag pack. I had never really realised just how small he was actually, but now I think about it, those lockers were tiny and he and his big bag fit in there with more room to spare. Poor Alan. I never really noticed who did all the bullying. A lot of bigger guys hung around the 6th corridor in the mornings, by locker 243 but I always had to get to class before anything could happen and I never thought about it much, it was always just Alan showing up late, getting yelled at by our teacher, other kids laughing at him trying to walk with his heavy bag and his laces undone, then sitting at the back of the class quietly – avoiding eye contact with every living breathing thing.
This happened all the time. I remember this one day, the class sat ready with their books in front of them, Mr Koonz pacing back and forth repeating in his deep voice: “Where is that boy?!” and “I swear, I’m ringing his mother today!”. But, by the time Alan was due to arrive, knocking on the classroom door anxiously, the bell rang. Locker 243 was wide open, empty and the same big guys that hung around his locker in the mornings, lingered. The fire bell began to deafen us all, as we were forced out the main fire exit and into the school’s main parking lot. Every name was accounted for, except for Alan Fisher, who apparently, because of his absence and unknown whereabouts, was killed in the fire.
There’s a part of me who doesn’t believe that though; I like to think he managed to get some money together somehow, that he took off on a train somewhere and made a life for himself. Somewhere by the sea, even if it’s just selling burgers and fries – he’d like that.
In my head, that’s where Alan is now. He’ll have a wife and kids – a big old family. His wife might not be the prettiest doll but she’s one of those heart-warming, caring types that bake on a Sunday afternoon, buys flowers for herself, just to stick them in a vase in front of the fireplace or somewhere like that.
Women – they do that don’t they? They’re always putting flowers places – in a vase, in their gardens, their hair, even on paper when they’re sat scribbling. Look inside a girl’s journal; I guarantee there will be a flower of some sort. In fact, a girl I used to date – she had a journal full of them. I met her the first year of college, and she’d be scribbling away in class. I’d look over and say, “What’re you sketching?” I’d only asked to be nosy.
“Oh, I’m just doodling.” She’d say softly in her chirpy little voice she had and I was more than drawn in.
Now, I’m going to cut this story short and say: it didn’t work out with Elise. Though, it was nothing serious. It was making-out between classes really which was alright, but she was bad with her tongue and her breath was always too fruity for me because of that gum she used to gnaw on constantly. We did screw a few times, but that was when I was sharing a place with some other college kids. A lot of the time they were out getting smashed so I had the place to myself. I live alone now.
I found a job in the city – doing some editing for a tabloid, a few book reviews here and there; some are so crappy, they make me want to cut my hands off when it comes to writing a review. But, it’s better. I like to be alone. If I do bring a girl back with me, I make sure they’re not the kind to doodle flowers. I got bored of them a long time ago. I guess you could say I like a bit of adventure.