April 1st, all fool’s day and the start of the April A to Z blogging challenge.
Twenty-six days, twenty-six subjects. Sounds easy right? For those of us that sit and arrange words, and distil thoughts by day, it should be. However, I depend on my characters to show me what to write, to give direction to the plot. And so I’ve called on a few of them, and even a mutual friend or two to pitch in and make this next month easier for me, and hopefully more entertaining for you.
When listing possible subjects to explore, I realized that much of it related to my past, and so by default, also to the past lives of people such as Heather, Carol, Micky DeWitt, and Ray Peterson.
The first word I wrote was Australia. Hardly surprising, as it’s been a major influence on my life. As an adult, I lived there longer than in any other country, and can do no better than quote the famous Australian author Bryce Courtenay, to explain why.
“Everything about it was right; the sky was high, the land and people felt familiar. From day one I felt like an Australian…”
I did, and still do. Some of the best people I have ever met were Australians, and with some I formed my most meaningful friendships.
Another ‘A’ word from that makeshift list was Anger. There seems to be so much of it around, so much Angst and discontent. No matter what people have, they still want more, less, faster, smaller, bigger, brighter and louder, longer, stronger …
Ray Peterson has more than his share of anger. Ray’s an angry man. Those of you that have read Shadow House will know some of the reasons why.
For those who haven’t read it—YET, here’s a brief excerpt.
He’d known from a young age his father was no good, and was proven right
when one day he came home to find his mother beaten to death
with a cast-iron skillet. It was punishment for burning her husband’s dinner.
The judge sentenced his father to twenty-five years without probation. After
being in prison for two months, a guard found him face down in the exercise
yard with an HB pencil bashed into his right ear. It was payback from one of
his murdered wife’s relatives. Nobody was charged. The only people to attend
his funeral were the pastor and the obligatory prison staffer. Nobody mourned
him, least of all Ray and his sister Roberta.
Ray was just fifteen years old at the time but already
hard-nosed and more street-wise than most people twice his age. He and Roberta,
who was two years younger than him, were put into foster care before being
taken in by a reluctant aunt; the sister of his dead mother. Ray knew their Aunt
Connie was a slag. She had three children of her own, all with different
fathers and no prospects of a good life. She told them the only reason she had
taken them in was for the government hand-out. There was no love or nurturing, only
irritation or total indifference from cold, hard Connie.
Three months after moving into Connie’s house, Ray
found Roberta curled up in bed with a photograph of her mother and slit wrists.
Ray left Connie’s house the day after Roberta’s funeral and made his own way.
He had always been quick with his fists and had never given a rat’s arse about
consequences. At age fifteen, he was already a tough-guy living in squats or on
the street. He lied about his age and took whatever work he could get, wherever
he could earn a few dollars. He didn’t care what he did or whether it was legal
There’s another ‘A’ list word in there—Abuse—which goes fist in glove with anger. Ray wasn’t nurtured, wasn’t loved (more on that word on the 14th) and the results flew from his fists, and eventually from the muzzle of a gun. The only male role model he’d known was a cold, abusive father, and so, the model was perpetuated. Men handing anger to their sons is one of the saddest things, and such a difficult cycle to break.
Anger is an emotion which triggers part of the fight or flight brain response. For Ray, it was always fight; it was all he knew.
Ray reminds me of a kid from school. This boy—I’ll call him Dennis—was constantly Angry, Abusive, and was considered by everyone to be an Arsehole, another ‘A’ list word that might come up from time to time.
Throughout those school years, from ten until I left aged fifteen, I saw him as immune from pain, hurt and suffering. It was his job to dole those things out, and some days he was more than generous. With the benefit of age, I can now see that Dennis carried more than his share of pain, hurt and suffering, and deserved pity rather than isolation and hatred.
I met Dennis again later in life when he started work at Lotus Cars in Hethel. He’d learned a trade, but nothing about control.
He was a good spray painter, a really good one, yet within a couple of weeks security escorted him out of the factory. I guess he continues to swing his fists somewhere, if still he’s alive.