In search of adam, p.4
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       In Search of Adam, p.4

           Caroline Smailes
 
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  Malta…

  Tibet…

  Victoria…

  Boston…Greenland…Spain…France…Scotland

  …America…London…Libya…

  Malta…

  Tibet…

  Victoria…

  Boston…

  Greenland…

  Spain…

  France…

  Scotland…

  America…London…

  Libya…Malta…

  Tibet…

  Victoria…

  Boston…

  Greenland…

  What are ye doin in the dark ye silly bairn?

  My father broke my journey. I didn’t say that I wanted Eddie to think that I was out. I didn’t say what Eddie had done to me in the cave. My voice had not returned. I had been waiting to tell my father about Eddie. I needed my father to explain my throbbing. I was crying. Big girls don’t cry. Only whinnying bairns cry.

  My father saw my hair. He was staring at my hair. I had forgotten. I had forgotten about the nest of hair. On the linoleum floor. Rita laughed at me. Rita said it was sweet. My wanting to be a hairdresser like my dead mother. My father got angry. He said that my mother was an evil whore. He said that I was a whore’s brat and then he slapped my ear. Buzz fuzz. I was sitting on the bottom red stair. I turned and dashed up those stairs. As fast as I could caper. He caught my ankle and pulled me down. My chin counted each step. One two three four five six. He pulled down my pyjama pants and he slapped me five times. Rita was cackling. As she exhaled the room was filled with stale fumes. Invading. I could smell their swift halves. He pulled me up and twisted me over. He slapped my face. An erupting sting peaked and lingered. He yelled. Loud. In my face. In my ear. No brat o’ mine could be s’ fuckin strange. I looked down to the floor. I could still feel his palm on my cheek. Pain. More pain. I focused on a tiny swirl woven into the carpet. I had never noticed it before. Not until that moment. That precise moment. Snot and tears twirled together at the tip of my chin and gently dripped onto the ruby fitted carpet, just missing the peak of that perfect swirl. I counted six drips. Drip

  drip

  drip

  drip

  drip

  drip.

  The carpet absorbed them. My father went into the kitchen and Rita staggered after him.

  I stayed. Feet rooted to the hallway carpet. Alone. Rita wobbled back struggling with a glass basin. Rita would fix my hair. She put the empty fruit bowl on my head. She cut around it. Her fingers never touched my hair. The scissors scratched and slashed. When she had finished, she removed the bowl. She chuckled. She said that I looked like a boy. She wasn’t my mother. She had a funny smell. She pinched my arm. It hurt. More decoration. She whispered just loud enough for me to hear. Evil brat just like ye killer of a mam. I hated Rita. She was fat and ugly. She was not like my mother. She was a nasty nasty beast. I didn’t like the way she looked at me. Her eyes were angry. Little piggy stare, with lines and lines exploding from them. Lines buried in her skin. Lines that made her look angry and sad and mean and ugly. She was never happy. She was not my mother.

  My hair looked silly. I looked silly. My pain bubbled inside. I ached and I ached. I went to my room. I lay on my blue bed. Reached under my pillow. I took my mother’s blouse. I held it to my face. Her scent was gone. I held it to my chest. I slept.

  Hoping.

  Eddie went away. He had been a guest. How nice of him to visit. He came for a week. He ripped me. It’s oor little secret. You’re me special girlfriend. Here’s an extra fifty pence. Nobody noticed. On Monday. Three days later. I went to Aunty Maggie’s house. She was mad. She was all shouty. Eddie said I had run away on the beach. I was a rude little girl. She did not give me a fifty-pence piece. I was angry. I needed that fifty-pence piece. Saving to buy a globe that lit up with the flick of a switch. Eddie was such a nice man. A real gent and the perfect house guest. He would visit again soon. I was a naughty girl. It’s oor little secret. No one would believe a bairn like yee. Tell anyone and I’ll get yee. I didn’t say anything. Eddie had stolen my voice.

  I never bought the globe.

  Timothy Roberts (Number 21) was in my mother’s house. Rita was on the phone. Talking to Mrs Clark (Number 14). Rita was talking about Mrs Roberts (Number 21). Mrs Roberts had to go to the hospital. Had a woman thing wrong with her. She asked Rita to babysit Timothy. Just for a couple of hours. Timothy Roberts was two and a bit of a bugger at times. Timothy Roberts was emptying the kitchen cupboards. Banging pans onto the floor. I went to see him. Stood at the kitchen door. I listened while I watched him.

  Apparently. Mrs Roberts (Number 21) had had a bit of Mr Johnson (Number 19). They lived next door to each other. Their garages joined onto each other. During the day, lazy arse Mr Johnson would nip round for a bit of how’s ya father. I didn’t understand. Apparently. Mrs Johnson was blind as a fuckin bat to what was going on right under her nose. I didn’t understand. Apparently. Mr Johnson and Mrs Roberts were taking the piss. Rita said that she’d been staring at the brat for the last twenty minutes and couldn’t figure out who the bugger was like. She reckoned that he was either Mr Dewstep the butcher’s, Mr Johnson’s or possibly Mr Scott’s (Number 25). I didn’t understand. Rita was laughing. Cackling. She thought it funny that Mr Johnson was pulling a fast one expecting to get away with fiddling on his own doorstep. She was telling Mrs Clark (Number 14) that Mr Johnson would be caught with his pants doon. I didn’t understand.

  I stood in the kitchen doorway. Watching Timothy Roberts bang bang banging. I was staring and staring at him. Waiting for Mr Dewstep. Waiting for Mr Johnson. Waiting for Mr Scott. Waiting for the three men to step out of Timothy Roberts. I really didn’t understand.

  Rita had changed her yackety yack yack yarning. She was talking about Karen Johnson now. A reet pretty bairn. She was telling Mrs Clark (Number 14) all about Karen’s accident. I’d seen it happen. I knew what had happened. I’d watched it from my bedroom window. Karen Johnson had been roller skating. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down the street. She had new skates. They were red and had huge rubber stoppers at the toe. I liked them. I really liked them. Anyway. Karen Johnson had fallen over. Apparently she had slipped on some crap or other that the lazy arse bin man had dropped. I didn’t know. I had seen her fall. I had watched her land on her hand.

  Snappety.

  Snap.

  Snap.

  Apparently. You could have heard her screams in Wallsend. I heard them through my bedroom window. I saw them escape from her mouth. All the neighbours came rushing and pushing to help. Emergency. Emergency. Help. Help. Help. I saw Mr Johnson. He came flying over the other neighbours. He was faster than a speeding bullet. He was faster than an aeroplane. He was faster than the wibble wobblers. Rita was telling Mrs Clark (Number 14) the story. Apparently. Mr Johnson flew in the air like fucking Superman. Mr Johnson was Superman. He had scooped Karen in his arms and ran all the way back to his house. From just outside Number 4 to Number 19. Rita was laughing again. Cackle cackle cackle. I wouldn’t mind suckin on his super power. Cackle cackle cackle. I didn’t understand.

  Karen Johnson was taken to hospital. Mrs Roberts (Number 21) had given Mr Johnson and Karen a lift. Dirty buggers. Cackle cackle cackle. Apparently. Karen Johnson had been a reet bravebairn. Her wrist had snapped in two places. Snappety snap snap. Poor bairn. She had a white plaster cast on her arm. I saw her from my bedroom window. I had seen her every day for the last four. She sat on her front wall. Clutching her white plaster. Clutching it as it changed colour. One two three four days. All the neighbours stopped to talk to her. All the neighbours wrote their names. Some drew pictures. I saw the colours. I saw the squiggles. But. But I never wrote my name. Mrs Roberts (Number 21) took her sweets. Mrs Shephard (Number 15) bought her a little teddy bear. Karen Johnson kept them all with her. All her new things. Along her front dwarf wall. A reet pretty bairn. A reet brave bairn.

  Timothy Roberts started screaming. Piercing. Shrilling to the ceiling.
He had hurt his eye. Hit it with a wooden spoon. Rita was angry. Rita had had to end her natter. Her yackety yacking cut short. She stormed past me. Slapped my head. Sharp. Sting sting sting. Fucking useless ye are. Can’t be fucking trusted te look after a little bairn. Timothy Roberts stopped crying. He stared at me. He was sad. He was angry. I had let him be hurt.

  Inside me

  Thousands of your waste

  Swim.

  Penetrating, burrowing,

  Tails wiggling,

  Worming into my essence.

  You forced them into me

  And now I exist with part of you.

  I long to turn my insides out,

  To scrub,

  Till blood-filled scabs replace the dirt.

  I have become you.

  We remain one,

  Till death us do part,

  Till your dirty thousands die with me.

  I hurt inside. I felt sick. I had a strange feeling that was with me all the time. It made me breathe faster. It made me feel as if something bad was about to happen. In the days and then weeks following my walk with Eddie, I began to hear noises. I heard voices. I jumped with fear. I shook. I was cold. Everything was inside of me and it needed to come out. It needed to escape from me.

  The neighbours weren’t always there after school. Eleven months and one day since my mother’s death and I was known to be a reet strange bairn. They said it was alright for me to be alone. They liked me to be on my own. They found me odd. She’s strange, that Jude. It was a Tuesday evening and I didn’t go to Mr Johnson’s (Number 19). I used my key instead.

  Rita came to my mother’s house before my father got home from work. She cooked his tea and ironed his shirts. She wanted to marry him. She wanted to live in my mother’s house. She always came at the same time. Number 28 bus from Wallsend to Marsden. Arrived at 4.45pm or 5.15pm depending on which one she caught. I had sixty minutes. She had a key.

  I went into my father’s garage. It was attached to the house, through a wooden door from the kitchen. The stone floor was cold. I felt the cold through my white ankle socks. I looked around. The walls of the garage were my father’s. Shelves of goodies and racks of tools. Half empty cans of paint. Brushes. Turpentine. Buckets. Jars of screws. Tins of nuts and bolts. Rakes. Brooms. Hammers. Screwdrivers. Saws. Spades. Never just one of a sort. I saw a tin. A pretty tin. A navy blue cylinder. It had a gold trim and EIIR in gold lettering. It was dusty. It was neglected. It was too special to be on a shelf. In my father’s cold garage. My father liked his garage. His special things were kept there.

  The bricks of the garage were damp. It stank of the oil which had leaked from the bottom of my father’s yellow Mini. A pool of oil was in the centre of the stone floor. A rusting lawn mower slumped against the wall waiting to be cleaned. I was looking for something to help me. I was standing in the doorway, scanning the room for something. Something to help me.

  A paintbrush. Too soft.

  A spade. Too heavy.

  A hammer. Just right.

  I took down a hammer from my father’s tool rack. It looked very old. A thick dull metal head, with a wooden handle covered in scratches and dents. It spoke of experience. It was heavy and cold. I went back into the kitchen.

  The kitchen. A rectangle that was divided into two separate areas. One where you ate. One where you cooked. When the house was empty I sat in that area where we used to eat. Special occasions. Christmas Day. Ripped-open Selection boxes. Chocolate for breakfast. A Curly Wurly poking out, waiting to be sneaked before lunch. Turkey dinner. Snapping crackers. Paper hats and funny jokes. Toon Moor night. Fish and Chips from the chippie on the seafront. Eaten straight from the newspaper parcel. Placed onto a plate. A bag of candy floss saved from the fair. Fluffy, pink and promising to be delicious. Easter Sunday. A leg of lamb, roast potatoes and lashings of mint sauce. Easter eggs lined up on the kitchen worktop. In sight and waiting.

  Timber panels were nailed to two of the three walls giving a Scandinavian woodland feel while we ate. It was a simple setting. A matching stained wooden picnic table, resting against the panelled wall. A themed location. Hardly used anymore.

  I sat at the table clutching the hammer. Hovering its cold head over my wrist. Plucking the courage. Finding the courage. Deep within me. Somewhere. Just a little tap at first.

  Tap

  tap

  tap.

  It felt nice. It wriggled and jiggled and tickled. I liked it. I tapped a little harder.

  Tap

  tap

  tap.

  Pain. Physical pain. Actual pain. Throbbing, pounding, thumping pain. I could breathe again.

  I hit a little harder.

  Hit hit hit.

  Pain. Again. Again. Again. The pain released me. The pain cleaned inside my head.

  My wrist was red. The white bone was shining through the stretched skin. I saw my bone. It shone. Tears gushed from my eyes. My legs were shaking. Shock. Cold feet. Pain. Again. Again.

  Enough. The hammer was too heavy to continue.

  My wrist was swelling. I stood. Shaking. Colour jumped from my cheeks and plummeted to my toes. I wobbled. I went back into the garage, clutching the heavy hammer. The stone floor was cold. I wiped the handle of the hammer. I don’t know why. I replaced the hammer, back on my father’s tool rack. It swayed. I went back into the house. Slowly slowly.

  A plan. A simple plan.

  Fourteen minutes later. Rita came. I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs. I was crying and clutching my wrist. I could cry. My red swollen wrist made it alright to cry. I told her that I had fallen down the stairs. Fallen onto my wrist. It was a simple plan. She was worried. My father would be in trouble. No one was looking after me. She told me she would buy me sweets. She told me that I was not to tell anyone that I had been left alone in the house. It’s our little secret, bairn. Whirling. Swirling. Round and round. Hush hush.

  She would say that she saw me fall. I didn’t have to lie. She would help me. She phoned my father at work. He came home and he hugged me. He hadn’t hugged me before. He smelled of cigarettes and his breath puffed out stale beer. I didn’t want him to let go of me. I wanted to stay. At the bottom of the stairs. Standing on the red carpet with my father’s arms wrapped around me. He said that it would be alright. My father promised to make everything alright. Rita would look after me too.

  We all went to hospital. They told my story. I had an X-ray. My scaphoid bone was cracked. A clear crack in the small boat-shaped bone in Jude’s right wrist. This type of crack is consistent with a fall downstairs. The doctor didn’t know about my father’s hammer. He didn’t know about my tap tap tapping. I would have to have a plaster cast on for up to six weeks.

  A nurse was waiting for me. She had blonde spiralling ringlets, coiling to just above her shoulders. Her silver eyes twinkled and sparkled. They had been speckled with enchanted fairy dust. She wrapped the soft white cotton wool around and around and around. My wrist felt safe. Snug. Warm. Then the bandages wrapped around and around and around the cotton wool. Securing. Cuddling. Then. Water was dripped onto the bandages. Magic. A white plaster oozed between the nurse’s fingers. I watched the enchanted nurse manipulate the white lumpy mess into a perfectly smooth shell. She created a faultless capsule. It shrouded my tiny wrist. I admired how she could manipulate the gluey substance between her slender fingers. I watched as the plaster began to dry and white patches decorated her bitten finger nails. I thought she was magical. So magical. When she finished, she gave me a real smile and then offered me a shiny sticker. It was a brown teddy bear with a golden star on his round tummy. I had won a prize.

  As we left the hospital Rita and my father promised to look after me. I cried through the pain. I cried out my pain. It was fine to cry.

  Crying made the pain real. I rested my heavy arm within a powder-smelling sling. I liked the pain.

  I could have some time off school. I could eat sweets and watch the television. A ten-pence mix up. Pink Shrimps. Gum r
ings. Foam teeth. Black Jack. Fruit Salad. Candy watch. Strawberry lace. Flying Saucers. All neatly placed in a crisp white paper bag. Aunty Maggie brought me a magazine. The Beano. Edition 2015, February 28 1981. Sellotaped to the front was a shiny fifty-pence piece. I liked the pain. The pain made them notice me.

  I was here again. I was visible.

  The pain was lovely. The cold hammer was miraculous. The smell of the damp plaster made me happy. My father tucked me in bed. I was a clever girl for not telling the doctor. Some secrets were good. Hush hush. Pain was nice. My father was proud of me. I was not alone. That night I slept and wanted to wake up.

  Exhibit number two—sticker from nice nurse.

  My plaster cast had magical powers. Really really magical. I was magical when I wore it. My plaster cast made my father notice me more. It even made Rita nicer. Sometimes. The magic lasted for the whole six weeks. Forty-two happy days.

  Rita and my father bought me sweets. Every day. They talked to me. Asked me how I was. Sometimes I was allowed to watch television with them. Coronation Street. I had to go to bed when it finished and I didn’t understand it. But. But I tried to be interested. Annie. The Rovers. Mike. Deirdre. Ken. Emily. I liked sitting in my mother’s front room. With them. Watching Coronation Street. The theme tune started and Rita waddled in with a plastic tray overcrowded with goodies. Always. A bottle of Cola. Three glasses. Four tin cans of beer. A large packet of Cheese and Onion crisps. Salted peanuts. A big bar of Cadbury’s Whole Nut chocolate. Rita kept it in the fridge. It was solid and stiff. I would sit on the floor, Rita and my father on the sofa. Rita would give me three chunks. Thick chocolate. Her special chocolate. I sucked. I savoured. I tried to work out what was going on between Mike, Deirdre and Ken. Rita said that she loved Mike Baldwin. She wanted him to do things to her. I didn’t understand. I stared into the screen. Tried to use my magic. Tried to magic Mike into whisking Rita away to Manchester. That was far far away. Practically the other side of the world. I liked watching television with my father and Rita. I liked the tray of goodies. I liked that the tray was not removed until everything was guzz guzz guzzled.

 
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