Monday, February 14, 2011 |
I recollect my childhood in shades of grey, the factory filth befouling buildings, vegetation and human spirit alike. The colours I recall invoke the violence of the times: the spurt of blood in a schoolyard fight, the sick rainbow of an old bruise; and, to my eternal shame, the pink hollow of Tony Seddon's howling mouth.
Of all the ragged-arsed kids at St.Luke's Junior School, Tony Seddon was the undisputed runt. But on that day he'd conjured up a miracle. A beachball; a thing extraordinary and unnatural: huge segments of glistening colour, shiny plastic -the new wonder material -light as air, floating between us with barely a touch as we headed, kicked, punted and held it effortlessly aloft, Tony Seddon, bent with rickets but king for the day, bringing together the warring factions in a game played on sands we'd never seen.
Why I did it I can't explain. An irrational response to an intrusion of joy? A xenophobic reaction to encroaching civility? Was it with malice a fore-thought, or a conditioned reflex?
I rose to meet the ball as it descended towards me, at the same time sweeping from my pocket the pen I'd stolen that morning from the post-office, stabbing it into the ball as if into Tony Seddon's heart.
The game ended with shrugs as the tribes regrouped and dispersed, the excited clamour shrinking to a silence broken only by the keening wail which, if there's any justice in the world, should haunt me forever.