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Authors: Michael Bailey

An Hour in the Darkness

BOOK: An Hour in the Darkness
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An Hour in the Darkness

Michael Bailey

Copyright © 2014 Michael Bailey

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study,

or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents

Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in

any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the

publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with

the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries

concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.

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ISBN 978 1784626 914

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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Matador
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For Heather,

without whose love

I would be completely shipwreck'd.

1

Listen, if you're going to read this, you'd better understand something right from the start: I always found it difficult talking to girls. I always thought it was more about the things you didn't say. You just about break your head open trying to think of something clever when all they want to hear is that you love them. I really don't understand it too well. It's like they're virtually tearing themselves up inside until you've said it. Listen, they don't care if you mean it or not as long as you keep saying it. Girls are real insecure about that kind of thing. I sure spend too much time worrying in case I haven't told girls I love them enough.

Anyway, this is about that time I hurt my head and my life slid away from me for a while. I went off on my own and tried to find myself or something. I don't know. Anyway, I met this girl called Ronnie and sort of fell in love with her. You know how it is? It was the real thing and everything. I was crazy, I admit it, but you can still fall in love when you're crazy, can't you?

I was born in Leicester. It's in the Midlands somewhere. There's a huge clock tower in the centre that shines like a column of chalk. It overlooks the market where I met Ronnie. I admit I tried to make Ronnie swoon and fall in love with me the first time I saw her. I think she was a little frightened of me, at first. Listen, she was terrified, okay? I know her crap awful boss hated me. Boy, he sure was the serious, insensitive type, if you ask me. At the end of the day I suppose some guys just aren't too romantic, and everything. I sure hate those fellers who put work before love, don't you?

Listen, before we go any further, you'd better understand that I really don't attach too much importance to work, okay? I can walk out of any job without looking back and I usually break all the young girls' hearts when I go. One day I'm the funniest person you've ever met and the next I'm a rude, arrogant son-of-a-bitch. The guy who made you laugh yesterday has gone, okay, and he's never coming back. Believe me, I know. Listen, as soon as things start to go well for me I have to smash it all down. I have to get away as quickly as possible. I have to go find some new place where I can start it all over again. If you can't join them, beat them. I think I try too hard to make people laugh and fall in love with me. Boy, it sure is exhausting living your life like that.

The fountain near the Town Hall is beautiful though, don't you think? The water glitters in the air for a second before it smashes on the ground next to your feet. When the sky over Leicester turns dark it reflects on the surface of the water with a wintry gleam or something. I don't know. I get confused sometimes. I'm not sure that last part is correct. I used to sit near the fountain for hours with my sister, Jenny, when we were both kids. Jenny used to hold my hand real tight in case the water went in her eyes. That fountain used to scare her half to death, but Jenny loved it anyway.

One afternoon, my girlfriend Karen came round to my parents' house and because I didn't know what to do with her I took her into the back room to play darts. While she was taking her coat off I had to tell her about a million times that I loved her; she sure was the sensitive, lacking in self-confidence type. Karen told me it had taken her about a million years to make herself look pretty for me. Boy, I sure felt depressed when she told me that. Please don't spend so long making yourself pretty for me, okay? You put a hell of a lot of responsibility on someone when you tell them it took you about a million years to get ready.

Anyway, I told Karen I loved her some more to make up for it. Of course, I didn't love her; I just told her that to make myself feel better. Karen sure was pretty though – you know – brassy hair and freckles all over the place. I didn't love Karen like I did Ronnie, who wasn't my type at all. Love is like that, I suppose. You go around the world looking for the kind of girl that is your type – brassy hair and freckles all over the place – and then you lose your heart to someone who isn't your sort at all. I swear I'll never understand old
Mr Love
as long as I live.

Anyway, Karen hit a treble twenty on the dartboard and when I jumped up to congratulate her I banged my head in the doorway. Everything went black for a second and then sparks began to dribble across my eyes. The sparks got brighter and brighter until my mind exploded into about a million bits of light. They were like powdered stars. After that there was just darkness again and a loud hammering in my brain.

The first thing I saw when I came round was Karen and when I saw how frightened she looked it scared the hell out of me too. Karen said she thought I was dead or something worse. Apparently, according to Karen, I passed out on the floor for a few minutes and my body was twitching horribly.
For Chrissake Karen,
I said. Karen then went on to say that my eyes went into my head, so that they looked all white, and I started saying crazy things. I jawed at her that I was always saying crazy things. I was as well. I was always saying crazy things to make Karen laugh. I have to make everybody I meet laugh. It's so that they'll like me, I know. Listen, if they're laughing, they like me; if they're not, they don't.

So, anyway, I told Karen that I was always saying crazy things, talking like Americans and saying things like
Chrissake
. I reminded her it was the reason she damn well liked me in the first place. Karen laughed at everything I said until I said I love you and then she cried. I swear I'll never understand girls. All they do all day long is try and make themselves look pretty so that men will fall in love with them. It's the only thing on their minds, I'm telling you. It's like they can't help themselves or something. I think they're probably conditioned to act that way from birth. It sure makes me feel good though. I think I love girls just about more than anything on earth.

Anyway, I put a hand in my hair and it felt wet, and when I looked there was blood on my fingers. Listen to this next bit:
I felt sick to my heart.
Listen, you'd better know that I'm not too good at finding blood on my fingers like that. My head started swimming real bad. Everything was going black again. I thought
I was dying for sure.

Then a few specks of wonderful light chipped holes in the blackness and it reminded me of the times we used to go to the Lawn Cinema in Birstall. Sometimes, while you were watching a film, the screen would suddenly burn up in front of your eyes. It was all very dramatic, of course. Boy, we saw some great old films there though, didn't we Jenny? Do you remember when Mum took us to see
Bambi
? Jenny sat through the whole film without saying a word and I was going crazy with happiness. I couldn't take my eyes off Jenny and she couldn't take her eyes off the screen. Bambi
was flicking his skinny legs all over the place and Thumper
was smacking the ice so hard you thought it must break. I think Jenny loved Bambi more than anything else in the world. It sure was a sad film though. I tell you, when Bambi's mother died up there on the screen, I think I just about died along with her.

Anyway, after I saw the blood on my fingers I staggered into the living room and fell down on the sofa. I showed Jenny my hand and she immediately got down on the carpet and put her feet on the sofa. She said that if you put your feet higher than your head then you were guaranteed not to faint. Jenny's terrified about fainting. I swear she's worse about blood than I am. I laughed like an elk and then cried some because it made my head hurt worse than before. I thought I was going to die for sure. I thought I would die and the last thing I would see would be Jenny's feet next to my head.

Anyway, I didn't die. I felt much better all of a sudden. I jumped up. I wanted to open the front door and run about a thousand miles. I could have done it too, if only somebody had opened the door for me. That's how I felt. I could have run a million miles, but I didn't have the strength to open the front door. Karen started screaming. Jenny got up off the floor and ran upstairs. Karen had her hands over her ears for Chrissake. I told Karen to shut the hell up because she was making my head hurt worse. Jenny shouted down at me from the top of the stairs. She said that although she loved me and would do anything for me, she definitely wasn't coming back down until I'd washed the blood off my fingers. I laughed like an elk again at that. I told Jenny that she was just a cry-baby when all was said and done. We sure were having some fun with it all.

Karen was becoming hysterical. She begged me to stop talking to Jenny when we both knew she wasn't even there, and everything. She threatened to run out of the house if I didn't promise I couldn't see Jenny. I could see Jenny though. She was peeping at me through the banisters at the top of the stairs. Old Jenny was always peeping down at you from between the banisters until it just about drove you crazy.

I suddenly ran up the stairs hollering. I was holding my hand out so Jenny could see the blood again. She ran into her bedroom and slammed the door shut. Jenny was always slamming doors all over the place until they were just about falling off their hinges. I couldn't stop laughing. I was laughing when I put my head under the cold-water tap in the bathroom and I was laughing when the blood ran down the sink.

Then the awful thing happened: I looked out of the bathroom window and I suddenly wanted to die. I was done. Listen, I'd had enough of it, okay? It was something about the colour of the light. It was so awful white and the blood on the towel was so awful red. I wanted to get right down on the bathroom floor and die. And I did sit down on the bathroom floor, only I didn't die, I just shivered a whole load because it was cold. There wasn't really pain anymore, just a heavy feeling of sadness that I couldn't shake off. The thoughts inside my head were grinding to a halt. I think it was because Jenny was there when she shouldn't have been. I sat there for about an hour because I was too scared to go out of the door. I didn't want to find that Jenny was still there and I didn't want to find that she wasn't. Karen shouted up the stairs that she was leaving. She also said she never wanted to see me again. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I cried. When I heard the front door slam I cried harder.

When I went downstairs Jenny was watching the television like nothing had happened. I sat down on the sofa next to her. I was still crying, for Chrissake. Jenny went into detail about why Karen had left. She never even turned her head to look at me. I felt real tired all of a sudden and knew that if I didn't lie down I would flake out. I closed my eyes and went to sleep for about a thousand years. I was a proper Rip Van Winkle, I admit it.

When I woke up it was dark in the room. I sat up. I felt cold and numb. My head was hurting like hell again. I called out to Karen and then remembered that she had gone. Jenny was still watching the television, but it was scary now because she hadn't turned the light on and the pictures were flickering like crazy on the walls. Jenny wasn't even on the sofa anymore. She was sitting directly in front of the television and I could only see the back of her head. She was so close to the television it must have been hurting her eyes. Jenny always sits too close to the television; she wears glasses, for Chrissake.

Anyway, I stretched my arm out from the sofa and let it sort of hang in the air behind Jenny's head. I started to cry again because it was all so terribly sad and everything. Listen, before we go any further, you'd better know that I'm always crying about something, okay? I can watch an advert on the television about house insurance and start crying. I think it was because Jenny's hair was so beautiful. I wanted to stroke it, but I didn't dare. I thought that, maybe, if I did, it would ruin everything. It was just about the most beautiful thing and when you see something like that you know you can't mess it up.

Jenny turned around, suddenly, and looked at me. She had a sweet smile on her face and it terrified me. The walls were dark, but the television flickered, like bright scratchy light, behind her head. Someone had turned the volume up real loud and my nerves were starting to get bad. The curtains were open and the streetlamp outside suddenly came on. I felt numb. I felt like I was slipping away.

“Hello funny face,” Jenny said.

“Hello yourself,” I said. “You shouldn't be here.”

“I'm going to bed in a minute.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Who put you in charge?” she said, and pinched my nose.

“I mean it this time. And turn the television down. I'm the oldest here, okay?”

“Oh stop fussing. You're trying to sound like Daddy again.”

Jenny pulled a face. Kids are like that. They can be smiling one minute, talking ten to the dozen, telling you what they did at school, and then the next minute they're telling you how much they hate you and never want to speak to you again.

“Does your head still hurt?” she said.

“Yes it does, little one.”

“I didn't like seeing the blood on your fingers. It was mean of you to show me. I'm not good with blood am I?”

“No you're not,” I said.

“Can I come and lie on the sofa next to you like I used to when I got really scared?”

“Yes. Why, are you scared now?”

“A little, what with all the excitement.”

I shuffled over so that Jenny could lie next to me. I put my arm around her. She was soft and warm – and yes – it made me want to cry again.

“It's been a long time since we've done this,” I said.

“Yes, I know.”

I held her more tightly. “We should do this more often.”

“I know, but things are different now.”

“I wish things were like they used to be,” I said.

“I know. We all do, of course we do, but they can't be. Not anymore. You've got to grow up now and start taking responsibility for your own life. Mummy and Daddy can't look after you for ever, you know.”

“I suppose not.”

BOOK: An Hour in the Darkness
8.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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