Young Jamie: Portrait of the Artist as a Wee Bastard – Part 1: Merlin

Have a read at this story I wrote when I was eight-years-old, and then wallow in the pointlessness of it all as my 35-year-old self tries to provide some context.

MERLIN

It all starts off very innocently, like Enid Blyton meets Tolkein with a homeopathic splash of Clive Barker. A bunch of lads on a quest for treasure, facing adversary, fighting foes and helping each other out along the way. Aaarrgghhh, a wolf! Never fear: you can always bet on karate Callum and his sharp sword of lupine vengeance! Yay! Aaaarrrgghh, a canyon! Never fear: we’ve got bridge helmets! Ya… wait a minute, we’ve got what? You know, bridge helmets; it’s not phallic or a horrible medical condition or anything, it’s literally a helmet that shoots out a bridge to aid safe passage in times of trouble! Oh well, in that case… YAY! ‘Mon the bridge helmets!

Aaaarrrgghh, a pit of snakes…It’s at this point where everything becomes a little bit Tarantino-y. A new cast of characters from my class is introduced, who are all summarily dispatched in a series of increasingly brutal ways. Oh, Hi Brian…KABOOM! Brian? BRIAN? Hey, Kenny, how’s it goi… AAARRRGGHH! Into the pit with you, Kenny, and you’d better not even think about inexplicably finding a sword in that pit of snakes! Oh, you’ve inexplicably found a sword in that pit of snakes, have you? Well, I haven’t got time to ponder the ridiculousness of that plot contrivance, for I am about to ENGAGE THE BRIDGE HELMET, AN INSTRUMENT OF MERCY THAT I DOTH REPURPOSE AS A WEAPON OF WAR! SAY TOODLE PIP TO YOUR NECK, YOU SWORD-FINDING MOTHERFUCKER! Any more baddies want to try their luck? Oh, hi James Dick… I Hope you’re a fan of… face-punching! Biff! Boof! Badam! As if it wasn’t bad enough already for the poor boy having to suffer through primary school with a surname like Dick (subtlety and compassion are rare bed-fellows indeed among the male under 20s), he gets put into my story and further brutalised by enduring a murky, open-ended fate at the hands of a gorilla.

‘A gorilla found him.’ It says so much without really saying anything at all, leaving you, the reader, to imagine for yourself the specifics of poor James’ treatment at the hands of this savage bipedal beast. I’m leaning towards a biblical interpretation of ‘found’. I always imagine a gentle ‘tap tap’ of the shoulder followed by a blood-curdling scream, and an angry, whispered warning from the gorilla that ‘what happens in the dark, dark forest, STAYS in the dark, dark forest, son.’

At least Craig gets the kind of quick death that can only come from being ‘found’ by a comet (it’s too weird to consider a biblical interpretation of ‘found’ in this instance, although feel free to imagine a frightened boy being fucked by a comet). Thankfully for my band of merry goodies, and the wider planet, the comet only seems to scorch a one-human-sized area of ground, leaving me to doubt that what we’re dealing with here is actually a comet. They’re not renowned for their precision. By my young self’s comet-related reckoning, the dinosaurs should’ve been able to harmlessly header their comet back into space and get on with lumbering about and eating things.

The ending’s a bit rushed, in the sense that there’s a fire, the all-too-convenient discovery of WATER HELMETS and a whopping one-hundred-grand pot of prize money. I dunno, death, murder, cold-heartedness, greed. It’s clear I was a child growing up in Thatcher’s Britain. All that was missing from the narrative was a magical poll-tax riot.

A lot of elements in this tale that are ripe for Freudian analysis: extending helmets, helmets that spray liquid, a pit of snakes, a boy called Dick. This story was clearly about my own penis.

I love my teacher’s red-pen critique at the end, which boils down to: ‘Loved the story, Jamie, really loved it, right up until the bit where you murdered all of your friends, you fucking sociopath.’

The Tell-Tale Fridge

 By Jamie M Andrew

I’m trying to watch the television and I can’t concentrate because of the racket coming from the kitchen; the guy just won’t shut up. It’s too cold, it’s too dark, it’s this, it’s that, blah blah blah. And it’s really annoying me, because it’s a good programme. It’s really interesting, but I’m not taking it in because this inconsiderate bastard is giving it all that. I put up with it for so long – because patience is a virtue as my dad used to say – but you have to draw the line somewhere, don’t you? It’s all good and well being patient with people, but if they lack the common courtesy to respect your right for a little bit of peace and quiet now and again then what use does your patience serve? That’s why you don’t let people take a loan of you, as my dad also used to say. He’s right – on both counts. Right now, this chattering swine in the kitchen is taking a loan of me, and I don’t like it.

I get up from my comfortable armchair and storm through to the kitchen. He’s still at it. I open the fridge door and give him my most reproachful look, and he seems to shut up for a moment, because he can see that I mean business.

It’s cold,’ he says, looking rather sorrowful.

I’m trying to concentrate,’ I tell him. We’ve been here before, as well he knows.

But it’s cold. And dark. And I can’t feel my legs.’

Is that supposed to be funny?’ I ask him, pulling my mouth into a snarl.

Can’t I come out? Just for a little while?’

I’m watching television.’

I could watch it, too. Honest, I’ll be quiet.’

There’s no reasoning with him when he’s like this, so I slam the fridge door shut and march back to my armchair. Not three seconds pass before he’s at it again.

Wanker!’ he shouts. ‘Fucking wanker!’

And that’s it. I can’t take him anymore. A man has the right to expect respect in his own house, doesn’t he? Well, I give him what for this time. I don’t miss him and hit the wall, as my dad used to say. I hit him against the wall; I open the fridge, grab a clump of his freezing brown hair in my hand, yank him out and throw him with all of my might. He acts as if it’s my fault.

What did you do that for?’ he whines, and I can tell he’s choking back tears.

You know fine well,’ I tell him. I’ve no sympathy. He brings it all on himself.

How many times have I had to tell you and still you act up?’

He doesn’t know what to say to that one, because he knows I’m right.

Can I stay out here now?’ he pleads.

Maybe he forgets his little outburst, but I certainly haven’t. I take some masking tape out of the drawer under the sink and stretch a tough length of it across his blue lips. He doesn’t like that one bit. I carry him back over to the open fridge like a hairy lettuce and slide him back in next to the margarine. You’d think he’d have learned his lesson, but, no, he’s still at it. I can’t understand what he’s mumbling about, but his muffled rantings are irritating nonetheless.

Still, there’s no harm in giving somebody a second chance, as my dad said the once. But that’s it. I know if I hear him one more time I’m going to kick him out of the window like a football. I tell him that’s what I’ll do, and he seems to believe that I’m serious, because he shuts up for a few minutes.

I’m just watching this bit where a lion’s sinking its teeth into the rump of an antelope when, surprise, surprise, what do I hear? Somehow he’s managed to chew through the tape, and his mouth is motoring away again, spouting out the filthiest language yet, well… I did warn him, didn’t I? I did tell him that I was going to punt him out the window, and you can’t make promises you don’t follow through on, as my dear old dad would often say. How will people learn that you’re serious if you go back on your word all the time? No, you’ve got to be consistent. Firm, fair and consistent. And definitely firm. That’s the most important.

So, that’s it. The gloves are off, but you know… I don’t feel like a baddie, far from it, no, because I’ve given him every chance to repent – more chances than he deserves – and it’s still vulgarity and ingratitude I’m getting.

Come on, can’t we talk about this?” he snivels as I’m walking over to the window with him clasped in my hand. I’m deaf to him, you see, because it’s too late for words. The time for talk has passed, so now its action that’s got to speak. He’s really crying now, but who’s he got to blame? I unlatch the window, push it open wide, position myself, toss him into the air, and take a strong, steady aim at his skull with my swinging foot. He makes a kind of a cracking thlump sound as he begins his trajectory upwards then earthwards. It’s three storeys down.

FUUUUCCKKK YOOOOOoooooooooooooooooo,’ he says.

All I want is to watch the rest of my programme, is that too much to ask? I think it must be, because I hear a quick chorus of cracks, a little yelp, a thud, and then that little bastard is shouting – shouting! – from outside, causing a scene and embarrassing me in-front of the neighbours. I really think that I’m going to trap him in a vice and squeeze him until his glassy little eyes pop out from their sockets, because I saw it in a movie once and it looked like it really hurt, and I think that’s kind of what he kind of deserves now that he’s making me the laughing stock of the whole street.

I head-butted somebody!’ he’s shouting. ‘They’re unconscious on the grass! Look what you made me do! Look what you did! Look what you did! You’ve killed her! YOU’VE KILLED HER!’

This really is the last straw. The very last straw, the last straw in the box, you know, the one that broke the camel’s back, as my dad used to say? How dare he shout things like that in broad daylight, outside, with so many people around? Who does he think he is?

I go over to the window and look out, and he’s right, because there’s a woman lying next to him on the grass, out cold, the contents of her shopping bags spilled out like guts. I can’t believe he’s done this to me. Can’t believe he would aim himself directly at that woman and knock her out like that. It’s so typical of him to get me into trouble like this and, as usual, it’s me that’s going to have to sort this mess out. Well, it’s like dad used to say, isn’t it: that you can’t count on anybody but yourself in this world.

He used to say that movies and TV made us think that the world’s a good place, but in real life the Lone Ranger would have shot Tonto just for being a dirty Indian, or Tonto would have scalped him and cut him into bits and ate him just for the sake of it. That’s why Dad kicked the TV now and again, or threw it out of the window.

Still, maybe some company won’t be too bad – just for a little while. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a whole friend to talk to, to share things with, to watch my television with. Just for a little while. We could have cups of tea together, and a cake, and maybe talk about the weather, and football, and what our favourite programmes on the television are. It’d be nice to have a friend for a while.

I grab a black bin-liner for him, and my rag and chloroform for my new friend. I know you’re thinking that I sound bad for doing that, but I’m not bad, because I’m only trying to make sure that she feels better, see? She might be scared when I get to her, so I’ve got to make sure she sees I’m trying to help, you see? I don’t want her crying out and making a scene, because that’s not what friends do, is it? Get friends into trouble – especially when they’re only trying to help. Ungrateful bitch.

So I run down the stairs and I scoop him up first, dropping him into the black bag like a shit down the toilet, making sure I hold it at ground level so he hurts himself as he hits the bottom.

Ow,’ he says, amongst other things, but I’m really not listening to him anymore; he may as well be speaking Dutch or German for all I know or care, because his existence is no longer of any concern to me – as if it ever was.

No, so I lift the woman up and take her weight across my shoulders and I sort of drag her into the block and clump her up the stairs, and she only scrapes her legs a few times in the process. Never matter, she’ll be fine. I put her straight into my special chair for visitors and sit her up straight, but her head keeps sagging down towards her chest, and her arms keep flopping. I don’t want her falling on the floor while my programme’s still on, and disturbing my peace, so I fetch the masking tape from the kitchen and stick her arms to the rests, actually lifting up the chair to roll the tape underneath it, so it sticks all the way over her arms, and all the way under the chair in a tight, secure loop. I do the same across her clavicle and run the tape around the back of the chair, nice and tight and safe. I see a bit of blood matting the left side of her head, so I draw a bit of tape over that too so she doesn’t stain my furniture and I have to scrub it.

Now I can sit down and really enjoy my programme, see? I mean, I’ve only been looking forward to it all day, because it’s circled in the TV guide with a black marker and everything, just so I wouldn’t miss it, and I must only have seen about five minutes of it between him giving it chat, chat, chat and now this stupid bitch spoiling my plans by getting herself hurt like this, I mean, is it too much to expect, has the world gone mad? You know, I don’t ask much, not much at all, and a man’s home is his castle as dad used to say, and he’s right again, because if I ever made a sound while he was watching his news programmes then it’d be fifty lashes of the belt and a night in the cellar, so I don’t know what that bastard was complaining about earlier, because it’s not as if I did that to him, and it’s not as if I didn’t want to at the end of the day. It’s just that I cut him a break, see, and tried to be nice to him?

So I’m just getting comfortable again when I hear the bitch on the chair mumbling, and then I feel bad for thinking she’s a bitch when I haven’t really given her a chance so I try to think nice thoughts about being in fast cars or eating ice cream or feeding the ducks. I look round at her and catch her opening her eyes, and then I realise that I’ve forgotten to put the tape around them; but then it’s not really very nice to have a friend round to your house to watch telly with you if they can’t actually see the telly, is it? Ha ha! I’m giving her a little smile, but nothing too over the top, because I don’t want to excite her and miss even more of the documentary, do I? I want her to know that I’m happy having her here, so long as she respects the rules of the house and doesn’t take liberties with our friendship. I’ve already had enough of that today, by the barrel load, and I don’t think I could take anymore.

She’s pissing the chair, isn’t she? I can smell it, and not only that but she’s wriggling and rocking from side to side and making the chair clang off the floor, scuffing up the wood flooring and making a right old racket, what with my neighbours downstairs and everything. You’d think she’d respect that if nothing else, but no, clearly she doesn’t. What a noise she’s making! She’s screaming now, too.

Don’t you want to see this?’ I ask over her shrieks, pointing at the television, trying to keep calm, but she’s really irritating me the more of a scene she makes, and I know I’m not going to be able to hold onto my temper for much longer.

The first time it happens, it’s their fault; the second time it happens, it’s your fault. That’s what my Dad always told me about people and how they take advantage of you, and something just seems to click in me because I can see this whole situation turning out just like it did with that snivelling, ungrateful ratbag in the fridge. Now, I’m clever, see, so I’ve got to put a stop to this now before I end up looking like a fool. It’s not like she’s going to calm down, and if she manages to tear up any of that masking tape she’ll rip the fabric off of my good chair and I’ll have to upholster it – that’s if she doesn’t get me an ASBO with all the disturbance that’s going on under my roof. My neighbours aren’t the most understanding and I wish they would get gassed to death in their sleep sometimes because I can’t see what good they do to anyone but themselves.

I walk past the bitch into the kitchen and on the way give her a slap across the back of the head to teach her a lesson, but the chair’s rattling like a penny that’s stopped spinning and is about to fall flat onto the floor, and she’s still screaming herself hoarse. Maybe I should have taped her mouth, too, but stupid me I thought I’d give her a chance? Forget that, in future.

I pick up my favourite knife from next to the microwave, clean some steak juice from it with the dishcloth, and then just as I’m walking back into the living room to quieten her down so I can watch the…

TELEVISION MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU THAN KEEPING OUT OF JAIL, YOU SICK, DUMB FUCK, IS IT? YOU ALWAYS WERE A FUCKING DISGRACE SINCE THE DAY YOU WERE BORN!’

I’ve left him down there, haven’t I? I’ve left him there because this stupid, ungrateful bitch in the chair distracted me and all I was trying to do was help her, and, yet again, all I’ve got is disrespect and ingratitude and…well, let me tell you, dad wouldn’t have stood for something like that, no way, because he would have thrown her down the stairs like mum and really taught her a lesson she’d never…

FORGET ABOUT ME, WOULD YOU, YOU CUNT? I’M DOWN HERE ON MY OWN AND YOU FORGOT TO PICK ME BACK UP, YOU STUPID FUCKING IDIOT, CAN’T YOU DO ANYTHING RIGHT?!’

I can’t believe he’s saying this to me after everything I’ve done for him, so I run over to the window and prepare myself to give him what for, but he just won’t be quiet, he just won’t shut his mouth for one second and I can’t believe that I’ve been so…

STUPID! YOU DRAG YOUR KNUCKLES DOWN HERE AND GET ME, OR SO HELP ME GOD YOU’LL FEEL THE BACK OF MY HEAD, I’M FUCKING WARNING YOU, YOU USELESS LITTLE PRICK!’

I’m crying now, because everything’s just been building and building and building up, and I can’t believe that all I was going to do was watch some telly and maybe read my comic book later on, and everybody’s being nasty to me and calling me names and shouting at me and telling me that I can’t do anything right, and making me look like an idiot in my own street, in my own house, in my own living room, and I just can’t take it any more, can I?

And then there’s a groan and a scream from behind me, and a noise like a Velcro strap ripping up off a shoe, and I turn to see the woman with her hair all wet with sweat, and her eyes all wide and angry, and she’s running at me with bits of tape flowing from her body like black snakes, running towards me like she’s going to hurt me. I just manage to swing my knife round to defend myself, because Dad always said strike first and ask questions later if somebody’s trying to hurt you, and that’s all I’m doing, because this woman, this BITCH, is trying to hurt me, and I don’t know why, because I invited her into my house and everything and maybe I didn’t make her a cup of tea, but there’s no need to go all crazy and run at me, so I take the knife and stab it into her side and its slides into her like she’s a sack of ripe melons and she screams again and there’s dark red blood and a kind of thick, warm smell in the air, and she’s hitting my face with the palm of her hand and slapping some masking tape into my eye, and I get to the point where I think…

THAT’S IT,’ he’s shouting, and my head is spinning so much I don’t know what to think about anything, because all I can hear are her shrieks and moans and his shouting from outside, and my own breaths and yelps as she struggles and fights me till I’m almost deaf and blind from rage, but not quite because I can see the knife in my hand and her blood, and I can feel the knife slurping out of her plump flesh and the muscles like putty under her warm skin as I drive it back in, and she strikes and strikes and strikes and strikes at me, and I’m dizzy and ill and angry and hot and hurt and hurting and ready to kill, and…

GETTING BEATEN UP BY A WOMAN, YOU USELESS PIECE OF SHIT, THAT’S IT, STAB HER, HA HA! YOU’VE GOT A KNIFE AND SHE’S STILL KICKING THE LIVING FUCKING SHIT OUT OF YOU, BOY!’

There’s a metal taste in my mouth and my head feels like it’s got a bowling ball inside of it spinning and banging and crashing and cracking and she just won’t give up, or stop it, and I’m crying cause she’s hurting me, really hurting me, and the more she hits the more I stab and I’d stop if she’d stop but she won’t stop, because they never stop once they start hurting you Dad said, so that’s why I keep thrusting and stabbing and crying and screaming and trying to make her stop, but she won’t, she just won’t, she just keeps coming at me with bloody hands and those scary eyes and now she’s grabbing me and pushing me and I feel my legs starting to buckle and my shoulders touching the edge of the balcony and I can’t get a good enough swing to get her again and I’m scared and angry and blood is running from my nose, MY NOSE, and falling on my shirt, and she’s trying to stick her fingers into my eyes, and the railing’s cold and she’s pushing and all I can see as she pushes into me with her body and my legs swing out from under me is the satellite dish on the roof and the moss growing on the tiles and then an upside-down view of the cars in the street as my stomach does a jump and I’m…

FALLING? THEY ALWAYS SAID YOU WERE UNBALANCED, AND HERE’S THE FUCKING PROOF!’

I feel like I’m in a tumble dryer but there’s no sound, like somebody’s pressed mute on the television, and the seconds are stretching like minutes so it feels like I’m spinning in space like an astronaut, tumbling over and over again, so smooth like a ballet move; but not, because I know I’m going to hit the ground. I see blood, and then the woman screaming silently, then green, then blood, then green, then blood, then green, then blood, then…

Nothing. I feel nothing as I hit the ground. Nothing. I know that it’s happened because I’m not spinning anymore, but I can’t feel anything. Nothing, like it’s not really happening, but I know it is because I can’t move very much and I can’t breathe.

My circle of sight is shrinking like the fading standby light on my television when I go to bed, but I can see him there, right next to me, lying on the grass not far from where I left him, slipped out of the bag, and he’s staring, looking, laughing, the lines around his mouth alive in a final, wicked smile, because he wanted this, he wanted me dead, he wanted this all along and all I ever wanted was for him to love me like they do on television, like they do on those happy, funny shows from the fifties when a mummy and a daddy all sit together on the sofa and eat their dinner and don’t push each other down stairs or beat each other with lengths of belt, and he’s happy that I’m fading, that I’m groaning, and dying, because it’s all there in his evil, laughing, fucking eyes. So I look down and see the knife sticking into my heart and the blood seeping through my shirt and down onto the grass, and I grab the hilt but I haven’t the strength to yank it out – not that it matters now – but I’d like to kill him a hundred times more before I go.

A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING,’ my Dad says to me, ‘AND EVERYTHING IN ITS FUCKING PLACE.’ 

THE END