Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mrs. Bird mustn't have made it.

For a rather large portion of my life I was able to say I hated no one and nothing and it was perfectly true. Then, along came two that I was justified in hating and hate I did, even though I had no idea who it was I was entitled to hate.

Those first two hated will remain faceless, their faces only having been known by the woman they murdered. My Grandmother. She'd disturbed them whilst they were emptying the safe in my mother's pub and they'd attacked her before fleeing, never to be brought to justice. The last words anyone (that anyone being her daughter) heard my Grandmother say were "I don't feel well, Sheila", then she was gone.

I can't remember if the two I hate got away with any money, I genuinely couldn't have cared less and doubt that I bothered asking.

It was an alien emotion, hatred. I'd said I'd hated this and I'd hated that, hated her and hated him, many times but with as much sincerity as on those occasions when I'd told one of my sons I was going to kill him if I got my hands on him. Hatred is something that we imagine is easy to imagine until we've experienced it and I can understand how some are sent insane by it's constant throttling of one's stream of thoughts. It takes quite some burying and, no matter how deeply interred, still it will drag itself from it's grave and come to find you. What's more, every time it pays you a visit it's macabre appearance will have become ever more gruesome due to the effects of the increasingly advanced decomposition taking place and the gradual replacement of fingers and nails with bloodied, ragged stumps.

The two have remained the only two. There are many others that I feel anyone would be perfectly entitled to place on their own list of 'hatees' but they don't make the grade for mine, the initial incumbents having set such a high benchmark. 

In fact, my list doesn't actually hold a name at all since, as with their faces, I've never known their names. Nor do I know if they care about what they did or if they've led lives good or bad since the events of that afternoon. It's all so out of my control, I can in no way affect what has happened or any aspect of the killers' existences but I think I've gotten it under control. They've taken on a kind of Schrodinger's murderers' mantle somewhere in my head.

Maybe they both died of cancer?

My mum moved out of the pub, it having also been the very dwelling in which my father had recently died she now found it too painful to return. I'm not superstitious, but I can see why people believe in maledictions and why they'd not want to tempt providence too far. So, after a lifetime as a landlord's daughter then a landlord's wife, she became a receptionist. It was a shame, she'd been quite literally born into the licensed trade and it had suited her right down to the ground.

Even that which is right, it seems, won't last forever.

Eventually, she began to suit that which she became. She worked hard, had a full social life on the other side of the bar and kept a beautiful home, later retiring and moving to a patch of ground beneath sunnier skies. I'm sure that, in an instant, she'd swap everything she's achieved since my Grandmother's death just to have had more time with those by whose sides she'd flourished beside still beside her side, even if that meant being stuck running a pub in a rainy, northern town while her now-ancient mother complained about how steep the bloody stairs were and admonished her for leaving the bloody keys in the bloody safe again as she descended those aforementioned overly-steep stairs noisily (and sideways, so she could keep a good grip on the banister) before finally taking her place at the end of the bar and wondering where her bloody son-in-law was.

But all of that is out of anyone's control. My mother can't affect the outcome of the action's of others and to focus on such impotency would add the fuel of frustration to the already burning embers of loss.

Longing, not loss, can bring the greatest pain. Ultimately, the pain of loss fades, whereas longing can only be sated or suffered.

My father would often say "you can't miss what you've never had", explaining the kindness he was performing in not letting me have whichever new toy I felt I just had to have. One day, he'd tell me, whichever useless, lead-coated, 1970's gizmo it was I was mithering him for would be broken, in the bin, gone and, he further explained, that loss would make me sad.

My dad was a right twat at times.

So I'd be left with longing and an endless list of things to save up for. Top of the list for a while was a tiny, furry, Paddington Bear toy. I loved it, longed for it, would whisper to it through the shop window whenever I stood waiting outside the newsagent's I'd seen it in, reassuring the little bear that, one day, we'd be together.

Eventually, an opportunity to get my hands on the funds to purchase Paddington presented itself. Excitedly, I set off for Swinton shopping precinct to finally sate my longing with two inches of duffel coated, Peruvian perfection.

Who ever needed more?

The shopkeeper had placed him into a little, blue striped, paper bag which was now stuffed into the pocket of my duffel coat alongside my fruit Polos and my tissue. My hand remained in the pocket alongside the toy, fingers probing the bag. I toyed with it all the way home, my fingers stroking Paddington's short, coarse fur, shiny nose and felt hat.

The Peruvian bear came everywhere I went and would spend his nights standing on my bedside cabinet to watch over me. I built him a little house out of a crisp box, painting roses around the front door, and spent many a happy hour ignoring all of my other toys while our relationship blossomed.

One day, I realised that I'd never checked beneath Paddington's hat to see the marmalade sandwich that surely lay there. I tugged at the brim, gently peeling it from the scalp.

It was fucking horrific.

The manufacturers had saved themselves money by not extending the fur to cover the top of his head, that being covered by the hat anyway. The once hot glue that had held the red hat in place formed wrinkles on the exposed plastic scalp, tufts of felt remaining fastened there and giving my favourite toy the macabre appearance of a man scalped by savages in one of the Westerns my father and I regularly enjoyed.

And there was no marmalade sandwich.

I attempted repairs. The first method not to make matters better was Pritt Stick which, although in no way effective, did give the patient shiny patches where it matted the once fine fur. Plan B, Superglue, burnt the plastic beneath the fur and caused several patches of alopecia, further adding to his macabre appearance. Plan three, a staple, shattered much of his skull and destroyed an eye, the process completing my duffel coated friend's transition from Grizzly to grisly.

What was worse was that I'd bought the bear with my own bloody money, mostly. The final portion had been provided by Broken-Legged Bri, my chubbiest and clumsiest chum. He had purchased from me my sister's Cindy doll, laughing gleefully as he immediately stripped her naked and used a felt tip pen to adorn her with nipples and  a pubis before (thankfully) fucking off.

The mind boggles.

My dad had indeed been a 'right twat', that's to say he was a twat but a twat who was right. Losing my furry friend had hurt greatly, especially given the horrific circumstances. I'd have given anything to turn the clock back and allow the marmalade sandwich to await those murderers in the realm of all things Shrodinger.

We know what we know. We'd always like to know more, it's human nature, part of the condition. But maybe we shouldn't peel back the felt cap of curiosity for fear of what lies beneath? Curiosity, after all, killed the cat and killing small animals, well, that's indicative of a psychopath. Curiosity is a psychopath. It doesn't give two shits one way or the other about you, only about truth, but an unnecessary truth can be very painful. We're drawn to it like a cat to the other side of a busy main road at rush hour, it causes us to destroy our favourite toy or to walk into a room to see who those unfamiliar men's voices belong too and it will almost always hurt.

What lay beneath the hat or who those men were hadn't mattered until curiosity had decided to stick it's fat nose in. We know good things rarely come from curiosity and we know we never overhear anything nice about ourselves but we still eavesdrop whenever the chance arises, whether walking past a door that someone has left slightly ajar or when queuing up for a pint at the bar of a busy, northern pub.

Some stuff just doesn't matter. Most stuff, in fact, just doesn't matter. Not really. More importantly, though, if your daughter keeps leaving the keys in the safe, be more Paddington...

...keep it under your hat.


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