Unplanned Excursion (Part 2)
In this fetid box of discarded excess I spared a thought for Felix. Perhaps his timely death could help give my life new perspective. Put stuff into place. I needed to ask some questions:
What’s important to me?
What do I know?
What difference do I make?
Ponderings were kept to a minimum however as incessant banging brought me crashing back to reality like a poorly maintained Focker.
“Cam on ye basta! Fugkin’ herry up! I need a slash! I‘m gon’ne fugkin pish meself.”
I finished off as quickly as I could, splashing the seat, draining the last of the soap and stuffing my pockets with the only roll of toilet paper.
As I traded places and vacuous smiles with the freshly poached convivial berk, resplendent in shorts and sombrero, I emerged to a wall of noise. We had started our final descent and a chorus of infants woke from dreams of living in Tubbyland to scream the entire score of the as yet unwritten, “Small Child Trapped On Hot Smelly Plane”. Those same little angels who had been on their best behaviour in the ticket line, consumed by excitement in the departure lounge at the prospect of floating in the big shiny metal bird, and had the good sense to sleep through the silage stream of “Only Fools and Horses“ episodes (the ones before Uncle Albert moved in) suddenly came to life. As I folded myself back into my seat, the little chocolate spattered child in front of me had now collapsed into uncontrollable hysteria. His head and arms jerked violently like an electrocuted octopus as he blubbered all the Sunny Delight from his puny little body. I knew exactly how he must have felt mind you, wee fucker. We’ve all been there. Sore ears. Strange noises. Cramped – I was sure he stopped crying for just long enough to grin and wink at me…
You see, this is the most powerful you will ever be. Way I figure, we all get two years – two and a half tops – to be a complete and utter bastard and nobody really minds. It works something like this:
0 – 12 Months: Free Pass. Do collect anything and everything and put it in your mouth: Dog’s tail. Screws. Coins. Keys. Mud. Insects. You know no better and
until you can hold your head up under your own volition, and not have it flopping about like a snared salmon, you are boundless. The day you create turbid waste in your nappy instead of liquid lime sludge will be regarded as a momentous achievement.
You are the King.
You are in charge.
You are a fucking hero.
He might be sick, call the doctor.
Would you wike a wollipop?
Are we good parents?
Maybe he’s teething?
Maybe he’s hungry?
Maybe he doesn’t like those nappies?
Should I play him some Mozart?
Should I stay awake all night to watch him sleep? What if he dies? He could die!
Maybe he’s figured out that every time he cries I come running to attend to every whimsical need because I can’t stand to have that tiny face I created, I created, looking sad.
Shit. Guess that means you’re losing. Better teach baby lots of words so baby can answer back. Once baby understands the difference between right and wrong, the two-year countdown can begin. And as baby, you’ve got to seize every moment as the first year’s up before you know it. All of a sudden you’re crawling around because you’ve discovered you can fit into all sorts of fun places. Plus, when you go hide, mummy screams your name. You know that when you go away, mummy cries and wants you back. Your name is Liam.
You begin to walk and learn how to fall gracefully into the corner of tables so mummy comes running to hug and kiss us.
Bad table! Bad, bad table! Does mummy’s special boy want a biscuit?
You learnt to draw with brightly coloured crayons on the huge sheet of paper on the walls because this makes mummy cry and daddy stomp his feet and point at her and mutter things about being at work all day while she just sits at home. Life’s so much easier when she‘s sobbing in her room, head in her hands, mumbling about mistakes, instead of fussing about cleaning. Hasn’t she learnt by now that the harder she tries to hold onto any semblance of her life, the harder I’ll mush jam into the carpets and stab stab stab the stupid cat with a fork?
We now control mummy. Wake her up at four in the morning so that by the time she goes shopping she’ll be too tired and emotional to deny incessant pleas and a theatrical tantrum in return for sweets at the checkout.
Do you want complete strangers to think you’re a bad mother, incapable of raising her child properly?
We try all these things and more in an attempt to stay one step ahead but that day you utter your first word, be it “Mamma”, ”Dada”, or “Fuck” if Uncle has anything to do with it, the balance in power drifts away faster than a fat man asleep on a lilo. Learn to speak and understand and you relinquish all innocence. You now know better but don’t worry because knowledge is power and the pen is mightier than the sword. But then again, actions speak louder than words. Never mind. You told, great aunt Martha to “fuck herself” and she went to sleep in a big wooden box, which was put in the ground for safekeeping.
Not my fault.
Sticks and stones will break your bones but words can make worms eat you.
If only I could have saved my ‘bastard period’ for a more useful phase of my life. It’s wasted on the young. Now was the time I wanted to cascade a fountain of piss on anyone nearby. Lie kicking and screaming to vent my disapproval at every little thing that didn’t go exactly my way. Projectile vomit my acidic distain on everyone who ever wronged me. I’ve had my chance though and if you’re still a bastard by the time you’re about three and a half, well, people start to talk. All of a sudden you’re not the cutest one around and mummy’s developed Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy and needs you to, “take a couple of spoonfuls of medicine to make you all better.” Daddy’s working later at the office than usual and has to go away on business most weekends. Now Mummy doesn’t care if you sit too close to the T.V. watching men dressed as bananas all day, just as long as you stay still, shut up and don‘t spill your juice.
“This is your Captain speaking. We are now on our final approach to Belfast International airport, where it’s a cool three degree Celsius with a strong westerly wind and heavy rain. Please fasten your seat belts as we may experience some light turbulence before landing.”
Bottom line is they would’ve preferred a girl. Look at the photos. Little angel with the long flowing locks tied up in bunches and wearing the pretty flowery dress? Ickle sweetheart holding an imaginary tea party for stuffed toys? The cutie pie pushing dolly around in a pink pram? You. You. It’s all you. Utterly fucking adorable you.
All sounds onboard evaporated as I tried desperately to yawn. Tried wiggling my little finger into the holes in my head to burst the pressure bubble being pumped up like a beach ball. Tried blowing my nose with my nostrils squeezed tight. Nothing.
Parietal Lobe and Temporal Lobe malfunctions. Prescribe hard-boiled sweets or gum.
I was as deaf as Beethoven and…it felt nice. No inspiration to write a symphony, however shared feelings of bad digestion, chronic abdominal pains, irritability and depression made us temporal kindred spirits. Dorothy was talking at me again and I couldn’t hear anything but faint whispers of children screaming. I panned around the silent film in which I’d landed a plum role and all I had were questions:
Would Trevor get to show Kim and Caron his King Billy boxer shorts?
Would Patricia ever run out of Fruit Pastilles from the bottomless bag on which she’d been gorging?
Would the kid in the seat in front spontaneously combust if his face got any redder?
Possible Cerebellum problem. Prescribe Dilantin, Tegratol, Depatoke or Phenobarbital.
My hearing fizzed and crackled like a packet of Space Dust. Tuning in the frequency in my head, I was receiving radio Dorothy loud and clear as her warbling became more strident to combat her perceived audible anomalies.
“I’ve had a weeker week. Got a nice bit of colour – probable second-degree burns and impending skin cancer from the melanoma pulsing angrily on her neck – and picked up some belter bargains on the Market stalls. Can you believe it? Real Lewwy Vootawn bag, like Posh’s. Eighteen Euros! Wait ‘til the girls at Mecca bingo see it! Have you seen it? Look…”
Gazing into her puffy swollen eyes I couldn’t face telling her Louis Vuitton didn’t sell bags for eighteen Euro on stalls with Union Jack underpants and playing cards with gynaecological detail of French women from the 70s, or that it wasn’t actually spelt Louie Vitton, or that I was pretty positive they didn’t use staples to attach straps. Then again, if a crappy little bag could make her happy, it was fine by me. Ignorance is bliss, and so is down right stupidity.
“Also got meself three bottles of Wodka for ten Euros. Apparently it’s made in the same factory as the Vodka stuff but it’s way stronger and comes in two litre plastic bottles. Dead handy for taking in the suitcase.”
If the Nodular Melanoma wasn’t going to care of her quickly enough, she could drink herself to death with a concoction of rotten potatoes and anti-freeze fermented in a bin, leaving a prying neighbour to discover her swollen, bloated corpse because no one else ever came by to see if she was alive in the first place.
“Noticed a real stink coming from Dorothy’s a few days ago but I figured it was just her cats ’cause the mangy bastards are always crapping in my Rosebush but then it really started to reek. Had a peek through her kitchen winda’ – which needed a good wash by the way – and saw her lying face down in a pool of chunder. First chance of a good meal for those scabby cats, mind you. Kept all the food to herself, that one. Always waddling to the door to pick up Chinese takeaway and pizzas. Fat cow. Sad though.”
“But I wouldn’t drink that pish,” she said. “It’s a wee pressie for the ex and his new woman. Reckon I’ll send the other bottle to Paz. He enjoys a stiff drink.”
It‘s true: never judge a book by its cover. The whole time I’d been pondering the best way to discard this cracked, mistreated, broken and beaten bargain bin, red faux-leather hardback book with dog-eared pages. Turns out the story inside was much more interesting with a delectable, sinister little twist in the tale. I had to give Dorothy an invite.
“23 Holly Gardens. 18th of March 2004. Bring a bottle. Are you having a big party? Am I invited?” She yelped excitedly as an obese poodle, with bulging pink, Ping-Pong ball eyes lit in delight. This appeared to be her first invitation to an event since Primary School, when even the smelly kid got invited. I told Dorothy it was a special party by invitation only and to dress up nice.
Then, with all the grace and precision of a welder from Swindon landing the flight simulator on Krypton Factor, we were down.
The onslaught of passengers rampaging through the plane began, all trying to make sure they’d be the first down the steps so they could wait half an hour for battered suitcases, tied with red ribbon for easy identification and stuffed full of duty free fags and booze, to arrive.
“Holy shit Mickey! It’s bastarding freezing out here!” Came the cry from a thirty something mother of many as she flipped and flopped her way down the wet metal staircase. Middle of winter: white boob tube, white denim mini-skirt and a smile. Stupid bitch. Why’s she happier than me?
“Billy! Billy! Where the fack is our Kylie?” Screamed a podgy woman with alarming proximity to my ear, startling me from my daze. With a lighter shaped like a tiny gun, she ignited yet another cheap Spanish cigarette from the giant box of two hundred consuming her bag. Her mobile phone, patriotically clad in a Union flag, sang sharp monotones of The Sash.
“Hello? Kylie? Billy it’s our Kylie! Billy! Billy, where are you?” She shouted in a devastating east-Belfast brogue. Seemingly Billy had had enough of his wife/girlfriend/sister – or whatever she was – and wandered off.
“Where are you Kylie, you little shite?” She demanded, pointing down the phone. A pixie sized girl dressed as a Princess emerged on cue through the thick slices of polythene curtain onto the baggage carousel, waving a little pink bag proudly above her head to the crowd like the F.A. cup while clutching a Barbie mobile phone.
“Mammy! Mammy! I got me bag mammy!” Shouted Kylie triumphantly, before promptly being yanked from the slow moving track by her mother’s sovereign clad hand, which then proceeded to slap Kylie’s legs until they smouldered like embers. At least they would now match her pink bag, pink plastic shoes and those pink eyes weary from crying.
“You‘d better had not run off ever again, wee shite! What if sum ba’dy had grabbed ye and stole ye way somewhere? Huh? Imagine you weren’t wif’ fus! Wa’ wuld ya do then, huh? Away and find our Billy. Big bag a’ ballix’s pissed off and I can’t fugkin’ lift all these fugkin’ cases on me own!” A loving shove in the back sent a blubbering Kylie off on her travels again, her tiny mind filled with vitriolic vocabulary and hopefully an embryonic plan to go it alone.
Within minutes, the clink and clack of suitcases being snatched from the carousel by wet, angry holidaymakers had finished. I had been left standing. Waiting.
I knew the chuckers were watching me, holding back my battered black bag, a kilo too heavy for hand luggage. The joy of holidays. A bunch of people who dreamed of a better life are paid to watch happy hoards fly off to far flung places and coming back tanned and smelling of exotic scents. So what do they do to amuse themselves? They do lots and lots of little things to annoy everyone, and make this the part of your trip you’ll talk about when people ask how your holiday went. In the case of my case however, I didn’t mind being kept waiting. In fact, I could have stood there in silence for the next three days, just watching people come and go. Waiting to go. Always just waiting to go.
Turn on mobile.
12 missed calls.
6 new messages.
“Where the hell are you? I’ve been waiting for forty-five bloody minutes! They don’t let you stop outside anymore, so I was driving round and round in circles like a moron for half an hour, then I had to go park, and that’s £1.50 for twenty bloody minutes. What have you been…Just hurry up, Liam!”
And then it finally appears from behind the curtain looking more than a little the worse for wear.
I stand at the end of the carousel and watch its interminable procession for just a little bit longer.