This is a story submitted to a writing group – who disliked it because they said they couldn’t empathise with the narrator. Admittedly, it isn’t women’s magazine/romcom format. Anyhow, here it is:
The Old House / When I was Ten
Two in front of me, one next to me. None of them on my side.
They think they know. They don’t. And they won’t get nothing out of me. But we got to go through this game. Even though we all know what’s going to happen. Whatever.
Need a loop in here. What do they think I am, bleeding mind reader? Said to start with I was a bit Mutt ’n’ Jeff but don’t need a bloody signer, just speak up. Now my bloke’s telling her. Oh, here we go. Bloody foghorns, now. Speaking to me like I’m stupid. Or a foreigner.
You don’t have to whack it up like it’s a real interrogation. Like they was Nazis.
That’s what they are. Nazis. ‘Specially her. Even got a moustache, poor cow. No wonder she does this for a living. Frightens people before she even opens her gob. Ceiling lights don’t help her, either. Fluorescent. Very harsh. They should have LED by now. Public building. More energy efficient. That’s what they can’t grasp. You put the money up front now, you save in the long run. Could’ve washed her hair, though, coming to work. Bet she lives alone, bet she – … bloody Nora, she’s wearing a wedding ring. Well, I wouldn’t. Even with the lights off.
“Nothing. Weren’t laughing.”
Hang on, now the other one’s off on one. Sounds like…wotchercallit? White noise? That’s good. White noise! And him with a third degree suntan? That’s what Ed used to say. Third degree suntan! Yeah, not white noise, black noise – ’cept that’d be reggae or rap or whatever. What’s that new thing? Beat boxing? Yeah – we could have a beat boxing session, him and me. If I could hear him properly. He’d win, no doubt.
Never used to get many blacks on the force. ’Spose they do more, now. Come to think of it, he looks a bit like Ed. Edwin. Clapton Park Secondary. Good laugh, Ed. And his kid brother – what’s his name? Winston. Went back to his a few times, met his family. But Mum wouldn’t have him round ours ’cos of the neighbours. We were at Woodberry Down Estate by then. Said she wasn’t prejudiced herself, but she had to live with them. If she’d let – if she’d – I wouldn’t’ve got beaten up so much, ’cos he used to stop –
“No, I can hear you.”
Why they got the Queen up in here? Why they got a picture up at all? What’s the point? But the Queen? Think it’ll make us tell the truth? Mum had one up in the living room, the Queen just after she was crowned. Said the queen’d feel at home on our wall ’cos we lived in Sandringham Road. Very royalist, Mum. Her laughing, She put it up at Woodberry Down and said Her Majesty was in her other Hackney residence.
They going to have the Queen up, they should give the room a lick of paint. Out of respect. No – no – out of a tin! Lick of paint out of a tin. Good one. Out of a tin.
They got damp up in that corner. Black mould in the crack. Need to strip it back, see what the problem is, fix that then some matt white anti-mould. Ronseal. Or Dulux Trade Mouldshield. It’s ground floor here, no outside wall so they probably got a leak in –
Could’ve done with that before we moved. Special paint. Bloody mouldy shithole it was. All us kids had coughs and colds all the time. That’s how I got the ear infection. It’s not just damp, it’s the mould spores. Never got it sorted. So. Didn’t complain to the landlord those days, else you’d be out. ’Specially if you owed rent, like Mum always did. And ’specially if he – … She knew, of course, must’ve done. Just too afraid we’d get chucked out.
Here we go. Back to Godzilla. She don’t half bang on, her. Must’ve been on some course.
I could tell them enough to make a cat laugh. But would they feel any different? Sometimes they say it’s an excuse – no, a reason. Ex–tending circumstances? Or something. That’s why I got a cup of tea. That don’t usually happen, I bet. Soften me up. But you can see they’re only going through the motions. So they can say they, like, explored every avenue.
Nothing new about it. Old as time. Well, old as life. Except David Attenborough never done a documentary about it. That other bloke, long time ago. Bald head. Went on about apes but it was really about people. Think he probably wrote about it. And a lot of shrinks, of course.
It happened. It did happen. Not what I did… that happened. Before. In Sandringham Road. But I just sort of shut it out. I get pictures back, sometimes. But I couldn’t really describe it right. I couldn’t, like, put it how I see it. How I remember it.
I was her little boy and she never done nothing. Then, she stopped me and Edwin being friends. He wouldn’t talk to me – after she wouldn’t let him come round. They could get me then. And they did.
Supposing I was them sitting there and they was me? What would I think? What would I believe? I’d think I was scum. Like they do. I am scum. And I know what happens to scum like me. Once they’re in.
End of work, I s’pose. My old place won’t have me back. Not with all the schools and hospitals they do up, they can’t have someone like me working with kids and vulnerable adults around. That’s what it said on the CBS thingy – no – CRB. Or D something. Enhanced one, it was. Didn’t have nothing to hide then. Well, I did but…
No one wants a paedo.
He was a little toe-rag. I shouldn’t’ve done it but he was… He was asking for it. Hanging around, always hanging around. Devious little sod, stalking me. Then coming round mine. Told me he was sixteen but he never was. He was a rent boy. That’s all he was. Said he loved… and then wanting money, presents, more money – and when I didn’t have any more – My brief don’t look much older –
And I always – I never – never – give in to it before. Never let on even though they called me poofter and nancy boy and all them names. Just ’cos I couldn’t hear right. Me leaning in to listen and them yelling “Woofter wants a kiss”. I never done nothing. And I never knew if I was like it inside or– if it was him – Mr Robinson – what started it off in me. All different now. All ‘out’.
She should’ve stopped him. Robinson. She was my mother… SHE KNEW and she didn’t stop him. He was always careful to come when she was at work and he’d make me send the others round the rec.. But she knew ’cos she came home with a migraine once and caught him coming out and he didn’t ask her for the rent. And she found me there. And the state I was in. And all she ever said, all she ever said was – “We can’t upset Mr Robinson else we’ll have nowhere to live”. Then told me off for sending the little’uns out on their own. And I know – I heard – he was in with the Thompson Gang. Least that’s what people round us said. I dunno, he could’ve been in with Rachman. Whoever. People round us was frightened of him. I was …
… his hands on me. He hurt me. He hurt me and she didn’t stop him.
But she went up the council and she wouldn’t leave until they put her on the list. Went off sick from work and lost three days money. But she got on the list. She did that. And when we moved, it stopped –
“I’m not – “
“ – crying.”
They’ll all know, now. Work. Family. All of them. And when I go inside – ’cos I will go inside – I’ll be a section 43. But they’ll get me. They’ll get me like they did at school. Only worse.
“No – no –“
And if I ever get out I’ll go on the register. And then my life’s over. I’ll have to do myself in.
So what does it matter if I say… or not?
“All right – it happened to me – in the old house. When I was ten. Satisfied?”