The door opens and she sighs at the sight of the boy rocking on the sofa. “He’s shot away,” she tells the audience she carries with her. And then she closes the door, heads upstairs, and the White Album goes on. Loud. Backwards, chewed, mental.
The telly gets closer, further, closer, further. With it, in a dizzying succession of Dutch angles, the glued together porcelain letters spelling out L-O-V-E on top of the video recorder dance side-to-side like the prelude to a migraine.
The movement is regular. The noise he makes is less so.
Vocalisations? Was that the word the doctor had used?
Of course, sometimes there would be actual words.
The door opens. There’s the pause. The sigh. “Enjoying yourself there, son?” he says, and then he goes into the kitchen to make himself a washing up bowl full of cereal. Or cook himself a whole steak. Practically raw because it’s too big for his patience. But never for his hunger.
The words sometimes alternate with the vocalisations.
There is no reason why he couldn’t fill in the blanks now. Admit what he wanted back then. It wouldn’t hurt now. Maybe there would be sympathy. It wasn’t like he’d been after luxuries.
The pair of them would conspire together. They’d come up with ideas for putting a stop to the “little sod” ruining their sofa and their wall and very possibly the foundations, too. She came in one time from B & Q with a load of what she’d called dildo rail. There was no-one to correct her. Which was very much how she liked it. Her husband, of course, had to fit it, and some of it was even parallel – to something, if not the floor or the ceiling.
It hadn’t worked. He’d not screwed it in right. The sofa back’s repeated contact with the dildo rail had caused it to crack, to fall off, to take the plaster behind with it.
“Shot away,” he’d said. Her term for it. Her explanation for what was wrong with him.
When the sofa had been replaced, there’d been an attempt at an edict. Various penalties to be exacted if he carried on, so he used the floor, his bed, and – of course – the sofa again when they were upstairs asleep or doing whatever they did of a Sunday afternoon when they’d not come down until half past two.
“You think you’re going to be doing that when you leave home? You going to be doing that when you’re married?”
“He’s never getting married.”
“You got married.”
He never got married.
The door opens. He has no awareness of time. Although the 36 panes above – a six by six array – have darkened again. They’d been dark when he’d arrived and they’re purpling to pitch again now. He can no longer make out the stencilled warning on the cell wall that had been crash zooming in and out of focus for however long he’s been in here.
It said something about not vandalising the cell. It said nothing about the pacing that had, the longer he’d been unattended, given way to his old way of coping.
“You alright there, son?”
But he doesn’t stop the movement.
“You need anything, you tell me, right?”
He hears the noise, susurrating, building, within.
“You think perhaps there’s a reason for it?” the social workers ask, all concerned in their cardigans. They lean forward on the sofa and play at smiles even though this is not a room for smiles.
“He’s an idiot.”
“He’s just stubborn, that’s what he is.”
“He knows what he’s doing.”
“He wants to ruin us.”
“Drive a wedge.”
“We could help.” The cardigans think they can, which is, the boy thinks, brave of them.
“You saying we can’t manage him ourselves?”
The door opens and they want to see him now. He’s taken down the corridor past the screaming and the shrieking and the clattering of the other cells. Not a one of them making a noise as humiliating as he has.
The windowless room is brightly lit and there’s a white-shirted authority in there, waiting. There might be another man in a cheap suit – they’d promised a solicitor at the desk. He’s made to sit down and they switch on the tape and they ask the first of what he knows will be many questions. All of them how and none of them why because they think there’s no hope of him knowing why.
But he knows why.
He has always coped. Maybe, after what he’s done, he needs to be shut away, but his parents were wrong. He has never, ever, been shot away.
Mike Hickman (@MikeHicWriter) is a writer from York, England. He has written for Off the Rock Productions (stage and audio), including 2018’s “Not So Funny Now” about Groucho Marx and Erin Fleming. He has recently been published in EllipsisZine, Dwelling Literary, Bandit Fiction, Nymphs, Flash Fiction Magazine, Brown Bag, and Safe and Sound Press. His co-written, completed six-part BBC radio sit com remains unproduced but available to interested producers!