There was something rather strange about the cripple that sat on the corner of West and Hope Road. He just sat there. Sometimes people would give him money and sometimes he would take it. But mostly he just sat there, watching. Sam had been watching him for almost a month from his private classroom window, and everyday he was there. Well, every weekday for sure and every time he managed to convince his father to take him to town on the weekend. He sat in exactly the same place in exactly the same way.
At first Sam thought he might be a spy but no one spoke to him. And besides, even if some did come to speak to him in the dark hours, what was there to spy on at the corner of West and Hope. There was his school, a bakery, a green grocer and a bunch of businesses. And the businesses were hardly exciting – lawyers and accounts. Boring, and it was getting boring watching the cripple that did nothing.
His thoughts began to wander to a rumour he had heard about magic. Nonsense really, but it was better than a cripple that didn’t move around. But he couldn’t really remember what the rumour had been about. He hadn’t been listening. But he thought he remembered something about making a corpse stand up. He couldn’t remember, he had been distracted by the cripple.
The yellow cab was gliding over the street, wheels screeching, locked in a moment that extended between the before (when everything was in its place and understood) and the after (which is unwanted, painful; a time when everything is misplaced).
Sophia was still running towards her children. She couldn’t run fast enough — there was not enough time left to her. The words she shouted were trapped on her tongue and her lips, in her mouth and her throat: “Stand up! Stand up!” They could not be spoken fast enough, loud enough; her feet were clumsy, felt entombed in rubber; they managed a few steps (too slow, too slow) but then the moment was past.
Becky was pulling at Gabriel to help him to his feet, but a twelve year old is only so strong and a fourteen year old that much heavier. The car was almost on them. Even if she’d had her adult strength, what could she have done? Gabriel will ask her this again and again, and mean it as a reassurance.
Becky won’t always understand it that way.
In the distance, beneath the screeching and hooting, someone was shouting, “Stand—” And in that moment (which was between the before and the after) Becky knew that she was neither strong nor quick enough.
But she was holding her brother. And the car was gliding, beautiful, a gull on the breeze.
Just open your eyes and sit up. That’s all you have to do for now. Don’t think about what comes next. Just summon enough effort to raise those eyelids, lever your back off this bed and sit up. That’s the first step done, and the rest will follow. You’ll see; it will be easy after that. Don’t think about it too much. That’s the way of failure, the way to sink back down into the safe place.
But is it really safe? If it were really safe, then you wouldn’t have to get up at all, would you?
Shut up! That is exactly what I’m talking about – I don’t have the time or energy to start in on negative philosophising. The inescapable point is that you have to get up, so FUCKING SIT UP!
Okay, you’re sitting. That’s an achievement. It’s the first step.
Just make sure you don’t lie back down again or all that effort will be wasted.
Oh shit…why did you even let that thought enter your mind. Do you know why? Because you’re a negative, self-pitying idiot who’s desperate to make herself fail at even the most ridiculously simple thing that millions of people do every single day. Now don’t compound it, don’t even think about it. You’re half way there. All you have to do is stand up.
As you sit there in your armchair, in your living room –
As you reach for another Cheese Whizz –
As you breathe deeply the wet-dog-smell of your carpet –
You hear my voice, telling you about the LORD!
Telling you about the LORD and the sacrifices –
The great sacrifices, the powerful sacrifices HE made for you –
The LORD didn’t have any Cheese Whizzes –
He had no Dorritos or Double Butter Popcorn –
The LORD had no armchair, no! His suffering was great!
And as you realise that you are hearing the TRUTH –
As you hear my voice the KNOWLEDGE descends unto you –
Oh yeah, it descends from the Heavens above, it enters you, it is upon you!
Like the Apple upon Adam, like the Scriptures upon Luke and Matthew,
You are filled with HIS WILL!
And as you are filled with HIM, embraced by HIM, completed by HIM,
Yeah and verily, as you feel the carpet under you bare feet
As you place your palms, your blessed palms, on your TV screen –
Right there on the screen, right HERE,
The voice of the LORD enters you and it HEALS you!
As you touch the screen you FEEL HIS power!
And if you were lame, you WALK! And if you were blind, you SEE!
You are MADE WHOLE by HIM!
You are CHOSEN by HIM!
Oh, yes! You are CLAY in the hands of the LORD!
As you are RE-made in his image, you pick up your GUN –
Oh yes, you are indeed the instrument of the LORD –
You pick up your GUN and you call me! Call me on 555-GOD-LOVES-YOU
As you feel the weight of the gun in your hand, as you hear my voice, as you smell that wet-dog-carpet,
You call me,
And your assignment will be given to you.
I wipe a bit of dried, hardened, drool from the corner of my mouth. The bristle of my stubble scratches my hand. There I am: staring back at myself from inside the shop. Standing between piles of books. But that me has flat, soulless eyes. Pale, featureless skin. Stop fucking staring at me! I bang my fist on the window and draw funny looks from passers-by. I take a last, deep, pull on my fag, flick the butt over my shoulder and walk inside. I wipe my hand on my trousers and give my hair a quick pull about so that I don’t get mistaken for a tramp like last time.
There I am again: by the bestsellers table, cradling my latest book like an adopted AIDS baby. Smug fucker. I said stop staring at me! I punch Smug Me in the face and he topples over backwards, sending the spiral of books behind him tumbling. The manager runs over to see what the commotion is.
Yes, it’s me. Yes, I’m late. Yes, I’ll sign the fucking books. Where’s the table? Get me a black coffee, for Christ’s sake, I can barely hold a pen. Wait, scratch that, make it a whisky. A big one.
I crash down into the seat and start scribbling in the trash that I’ve oozed out for these people to devour.
To a special friend.
To my biggest fan.
Whatever you want, just take it and go. I see one of the staff righting the cardboard stand-up that I just knocked over, giving me a dirty look over his shoulder. I fucking hate book signings.
I am going to see the mountain. My hands are calm on the wheel of the old car, my hair tied back in the wind from the open window, my face towards where I want to go. The mountain is warm on my cheek so I know when to turn.
The roads are mostly empty, stretching through the brown and rust of the scrubby, flat terrain. The hills are odd shapes, flat-topped, marked with ripples of rock. The sky fits precisely over them, beaten blue. I pass small towns, a few weathered houses, loose boards flapping in the wind with a sound like drums. If I see people, they turn away. I am going to the mountain. They know.
There’s no mistaking it. Against the afternoon sky the mountain looms, curved and placid, its back bent like a bow. Its feet are rooted tree-like in the harsh ground.
I stop the car. Beneath my feet I feel it, the slow, subterranean beat. I bend over and place my hands on the stony soil, where the pulse comes up through them with the rhythm of blood.
I wait. The sun sets. Slowly, in its own good time, the mountain uncurls its giant, sleep-pursed fists. Rocks slither, and a flight of crows startles, cawing, towards the distant trees. A palm levers against the ground. Massively slow, the back unbends and straightens against the stars, titanic blind head lifting to scent the air. The mountain stands up.
I wait. Now, we shall see.
So you tell me I’ve got one last chance to stand up and explain myself. Well the first thing, Judge: he said I was as drunk as…
Well okay, ‘Your Honour’. The prosecutor-guy said I was as drunk as a judge and I wasn’t.
Yes, I meant as drunk as a lord, mi’lord. But can I get on with it?
It was more ‘unsound judgement in the pursuit of a true calling’ than ‘indecent assault’ like prosecutor-guy says. You can tell he hires a buff Latino to clean the pool for his wife; meanwhile he’d rather be doing ‘litigation’ instead. Hey, nothing personal dude, all lawyers are soulless fucks.
Yeah, okay, sorry Judge-dude – occupational hazard you know – podium, microphone, bored audience – maybe sometimes you like to pass judgement when you’re sitting in the theatre.
Right. My story. It was no big deal if you understand the context – I was working, I needed new material and my muse was on maternity leave after last season. Suddenly, in the bar mirror behind the barman, I see this bald guy wearing white cargo pants and a bright apricot golf shirt – And I think to myself: What would cute guy do if someone tall gave into temptation and leapt on him and kissed him all over that soft, shiny dome with a vigour usually reserved for puppies.
The problem was I didn’t know how he would react – and I needed to know – for my career, for my art, to fill my role in this society!
Time up already? It goes so fast when my flow gets flowing; just got to say that if the court liked what it heard today it should swing by the Jet stream club and pay to see my new show: “Stand Up For Sentencing!”