Day 154 – Bright Lights, the Sky and the City Streets

Written on the train to NEWCASTLE!!!!

Word count: 1530

“My uncle died, right about that corner o’er there. Nineteen nin’ey two, summer of. It rained so much the next day you’d ‘ave thought God ‘imself was crying. My mamma never did get o’er it, but I don’t suppose most folks do.”
Henry was skulking on steps of an old bank on what, back in the day, used to be one of the busiest streets in town. It was night. Some stars were out, but not many. There was an air of mist around as well, as if the dark itself had secrets to hide. A few cars cruised by but no one stopped; some kids in down the alley were playing basket ball. Apart from that, Henry was alone, talking to himself like he always did.
“Oh I don’t know why I bother,” he sighed, pronouncing each word with a short breath in between. He wasn’t angry, just tired. “People die, people go… people always do. Why we cry, why we moan? We just dead and gone soon, dead and gone.”
Henry shuffled his feet on the step in a small dance, “Heyheyhey that’s fun. Isn’t it fun? I wish my bro’her were here. I wonder where he be, I haven’t see him years, years! I guess he was the last one that saw me… well, last one I know. I don’t know no one no more. I don’t know nuthin’ and a don’t know no one. That’s me.”
He curled his lips around his teeth into a big grin, “That’s me!”
“What’s you?” a boy’s voice called out from behind in.
“Oh, oh, oh! Don’t know you! Don’t know you!” he panicked, pointing at the boy as he came towards him.
The boy was young looking, sporting a yellow tshirt and long shorts. He wore brand new sneakers.
“Why are you talking to yourself?” the little boy asked, standing on the second step from the bottom.
From all the way up on the fifth, Henry shooed the boy away with his arms, “No, no, bad, strangers not good, strangers not good!”
“You’re weird.”
“You double,” he spat and stuck his tongue out at him, “Double trouble, oooo, oo and and toil and trouble!”
“Why are you out here?”
“Why are you?”
“I asked first,” the boy stamped his foot down and folded his arms.
“I don’t like strangers. I’m not allowed to talk to them.”
“How old are you, fifty?”
“No, no, maybe? I forget,” Henry started counting on his fingers, mouthing the numbers.
“You’re such a dumbass!”
“No!” Who you – why I – you little!”
“Whatcha gonna do, old man?”
Henry was making animal noises, stressfully wriggling where he was sat. He wanted to get up and teach the kid a lesson, but he couldn’t… he couldn’t.
“Meanie! He roared back! You’re just mean little twerp, yeah. No friends. Probably no mum. Yeah. You got it. Loner. No one loves you.”
The boy starting welling up, “You, you leave my mum outta this! She’s just… away.”
Henry felt bad, “Aww, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean, I didn’t mean… Sit down. Please? Don’t cry – I don’t like crying. It hurts my eyes.”
The boy sat down, “What’s your name?”
“Henry, Henry…”
“Henry Henry?”
“No, I… I just forgot my last name! Silly me. I always told I forget my own head if it wasn’t attached, hehehehehehe. Imagine that, kid, imagine that!”
The boy wiped away his tears with his sleeve, “Why are you out here?”
“Because I’m sad.”
“Why are you sad?”
“I forget…” Henry hung his head low and stared at a bug that was crawling on the concrete he was sitting on. “I like bugs.”
“Me too. I have … I had a pet stick insect.”
“What happened to it?”
“I lost it.”
“It probably don’t love you, then.”
“Hey! You’re being mean again.”
“Sorry.”
The boys playing basketball had moved out in the main road now and were bouncing their ball off any available surface, making a racket.
“How old are you, boy?”
“Nine.”
“Why you on your own?”
“Why you on yours?”
Henry felt a horrible feeling inside him. It was as if he had walked off the naughty step too soon or had stolen a cookie from the jar or had come home later than he should. He knew he’d done a bad thing, but he didn’t know why. Why was it not ok to steal a cookie jar or come home late, why was it bad? Why did mum shout so bad?
“I did a bad thing, I think,” Henry gulped.
“Did you steal something?”
“No.”
“Did you…. Cause a war?”
“No.”
“Did you break someone’s heart?”
“No.”
“Did you stamp on someone’s toy?”
“No.”
“Well what did you do?”
“I really didn’ mean to… I really didn’… but they all said yeah, yeah, yeah, Henry’s a damn liar, liar, liar, liar. That’s all they say, that’s all they ever say. They won’t go away, I try to go away from them, but they won’t go away from me. You hear them too? I try to tell ‘em, I try to, but sometime’s… people just don’t wanna hear, do they?”
“Yeah, my dad’s like that. Ever since mum left.”
“I never had a daddy. Just me, my mum and my bro’her. Three o’us.”
“Where are they now?”
“Gone. Like everybody else.”
“I don’t think my mum’s coming back.”
“I think you probably be right, kid. Say what’s your name? My name’s Henry, did I tell you that? Henry, after my mum’s granddaddy, yes. He used to always sit her on her lap and sing her songs til she would sleep. So she named me after him, because that’s all she ever did to me!”
The boy smiled, “My name is Jake. I don’t think I’m named after anyone though.”
“It’s ok, my brother wasn’t either. My brother… my brother preferred it that way. Said he had more… more.. individ… individu…”
“Individuality?”
“Dat’s the one! You smart Jakey, smart. Smarter than me. I bet you do good at school.”
“I don’t go. I skip it a lot. It gives me headaches.”
“Me too. I hated it. I hated so much I used to skip it too. I’d come here. I’d come here and there’d be ice cream shops – see that place –” he pointed at a derelict shop window, “That used to sell the finest ice creams in the world. Damn, I loved them. I wish I didn’t though….”
“Why?”
“Cos that made me do a bad thing. That made me do something I know I shouldn’t have.”
“What did you do?”
“I really, really wanted ice cream and he wouldn’t let me! I really, really wanted it – they had a new flavor and everything! They said it was the bestest ice cream in the entire world of worlds! And I really worked hard at school all day and I wanted it, I wanted it, I wanted it!”
“Did you get to have it?”
“No. I wanted it too much I think. My uncle me no. No, no, no, no, no. And he was being mean, because I did all my work, I did all my chores and he said it’d ruin my dinner but I knew it wouldn’t, I knew I would eat both!”
“What was the bad thing you did, then? Did you eat the ice cream anyway?”
“We was on that corner. That corner over there, see those bright lights?”
“The traffic lights?”
“Yeah, we was there, before them were traffic lights. And he kept pushing and pushing and pushing and I don’t think I meant it, but I did. He was being mean, he was being horrid. He just pushing me not to have it, kept scalding me, so I thought if he push me not to have it, then I push him right back cos I wanted it! So I did. And he fell, he fell further than what I wanted him to and, and, and it just happened.”
“What?”
“Car came, it was too fast – that’s why them traffic lights are there, my brother said.”
“Your uncle was hit by the car?”
“Mumma wasn’t pleased.”
Jake edged away from Henry slightly, though Henry didn’t notice.
“Mumma kept crying and crying and didn’t know how to stop it. I brought her ice cream and she didn’t eat it.”
Jake was standing up now, creeping slowly down the steps.
“Mumma, I’m sorry…” Henry started sobbing, “I come here to find him but he’s not here.”
Jake, a safe distance away now, turned and went to run right down the street, all the way home.
Henry saw and leapt to his feet, “Why you run away, Jake, why you run away! You do what all the others did, you not like me! You just run, you keep on running! I don’t want you be my best friend anyway!”
Jake disappeared around the corner and Henry fell back into his stance on the steps.
“I said I sorry, mumma… why won’t you let me come home?” Henry repeated over and over to himself as the darkness grew and grew around him and slowly engulfed him so that he was not alone anymore.

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~ by S.G. Mark on March 9, 2012.

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