Tuesday, 30 April 2013
With great force they wrestled the helmet from Mr. Malpasso's sandpaper hands. It was the last piece of the costume that he'd made, the outfit that he'd been wearing almost every day for the last fifteen years.
When they finally prised it away from him, he, a sixty-two year old man, bawled like a spoilt toddler, dribbling and elongating with a cartoon like stutter, until it sounded ridiculous, one word: pleee-he-he-he-heease.
They took it out front, with the rest of his hand crafted uniform, and set it on fire. It's for your own good, they said. His daughter, Melody, reminsced to nobody about how embarrassed she was to see her father walking around town dressed like a space pirate or something. Captain Malpasso, her youngest, Stevi, corrected her, but her mother wasn't interested.
Mr. Malpasso didn't want the ceremony, they all thought - his children all thought - that it would be symbolic for him, a liberation both literal and figurative, that it would release him from the trappings of his fantasy. You can live your life again, Dad, his son Ryan had smiled, warmly clapping his old man on the shoulder.
He just sat there, in his favourite chair, letting them bumble around him, tidying things away that didn't need to be tidied. They put this week's tv guide into the magazine rack, meaning he'd only have to fish it out again in a short while. They moved the coasters back into the little coaster holder and straightened the framed photographs on the mantlepiece, thus rendering their careful angling nul and void. Now she didn't look over his shoulder anymore.
Doesn't mum look pretty here, Melody asked rhetorically holding a frame. How old was she?
Melody's husband, Phil, took the picture, turned it over, searching for a clue to the year. Graham, he called, his voice slow and simplified for Mr. Malpasso's presumed benefit, how old is your wife in the picture?
My wife is dead, Mr. Malpasso said flatly.
It had been a month after the funeral when he had first worn the outfit. He had walked into the office to various hushed and muffled responses, a few uncensored laughs, and sat himself at his desk and got on with the tasks at hand. He made his calls, he wrote his reports, all was as normal, except he was dressed in a gaudy, shining diving outfit with a vibrant, mirrored helmet, various pipes and tubes hunched up and into the heavy fabric like the body of a sea monster, there were adornments such as the tassled shoulder pads and some random patches, medals and insignia.
He was called into his manager's office before 11am, and after patiently listening to the inevitable company spiel, Mr. Malpasso very reasonably stated his case and his manager agreed and let him continue to wear the uniform to work.
However when Melody saw her father in the uniform for the first time she burst into tears and batted him away, as if he were riddled with disease, when he tried to comfort her in his arms.
She asked him why he was wearing that stupid costume.
He said it made him feel like everything was ok.
She snuffled up the tears, tried to compose herself and accept it.
It was four years ago, when she overheard her father talking to Stevi that she cried about it again.
Dad's lost his mind, she told Ryan. He was telling Stevi about the planets he'd been to and the creatures he'd met, he was telling her about the greedy lizards who live in the clouds, he was talking about things made of eyes and a rocket ship in his shed. A rocket ship! I just thought he wore that thing like a blankie, a comforter, y'know, but I think he thinks he's actually a spaceman.
Ryan was flippant, said he could tell Dad wasn't nuts just by looking at him. Sure, he dresses like he's from a 1970s sci-fi show, but people wear all sorts of weird stuff, he's not doing any harm.
He was curious though, and later, at dinner, he casually mentioned outer space in conversation. Like, I don't think there's anything out there, he lied.
Out where? his father had asked, lifting his visor to take another bite of chicken.
In space, aliens and stuff.
There are aliens, his dad replied.
Plenty of them, all sorts, more than you can imagine, some like us, some you couldn't comprehend.
How do you know?
I've been there, I've been to space, I've seen the universe.
When did you go there?
I go there all the time.
So Ryan agreed with his sister and they began plotting an intervention, it had been eleven years and the time had long since past that he should be confronted on this. Though he kept the suit clean, patched it up when necessary, the suit was no longer the issue, and clearly, to them, the fantasy had begun to rot his brain.
At first they sat him down and talked to him, they kept repeating; You know it's not real Dad?
Mr. Malpasso would look sheepishly at the ground, a glimmer of recognition they suspected, but he'd smile and square up to them defiantly, It's real, he'd say.
So, after four years of quiet private discussions, unexpected trips to therapists, they finally decided to take the drastic step to destroy the uniform, burn down the source of all this trouble and release their father from his delusion.
When the flames had burned out, and the house had been put in order, they stood in the front room where Mr. Malpasso stared at his dim reflection in the television screen.
Ok Dad, Ryan said, we've put some dinner in the oven, it's heating up, should be done in half an hour. Do you want us to stay or would you rather be alone?
He sat, stoic, only his lip seemed to wobble as if with inaudible words.
Melody, not wanting to leave on a bad note, crouched next to her father, put a hand on his side and smiled up at him. I'll come round tomorrow, ok Dad? Help with some gardening?
Phil tried to listen to the radio, straining his ears to hear the football results under Stevi's sing-songing in the backseat whilst she butted the heads of two plastic ponies together. The car door opened and Melody got in, her eyes were red and she, in hurried, fluttering movements, wept away eager tears.
You ok? Phil asked, one ear still squinting to the tinny howls of the crowd.
He told me that this was a terrible reality.
Who did? Your old man?
Melody nodded, sniffed.
Some thanks, Phil scoffed whilst starting the car. Give him time love, he'll learn to appreciate what you've done for him.
And they drove home.
Mr. Malpasso tried to go to space again that night, but he couldn't do it without his uniform, he just found himself lying in bed, feeling the sheets too tight around his body, and the space where his wife used to sleep, unoccupied for fourteen years. He wished her goodnight, said her name out loud as he had done all that time ago, and had not done since her death.
Mr. Malpasso didn't go to space that night, but he was no longer part of our terrible reality the following day.
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
I was sitting in the reception, trying not to let my nerves show, but my left leg had decided to betray me by spontaneously pogo-ing up and down of its own accord. I clamped both my hands on top of it to minimal effect.
I don't think it helped that the plush red chairs in reception seemed disproportionatly low, meaning my pretty average limbs were thrust into all manner of awkward shapes, knees up to chest height and elbows unable to find a decent perch.
In the receptionist's glasses I could the see the reflection of his Facebook page, which he scrolled through idly, fielding the odd call.
Eventually a side door opened and an immaculate and confident man strolled towards me. The perfect lines of his suit instantly made me feel like I was dressed in clothes that I'd found in a bush on my way here, rather than my best outfit, which is what it was. He shook my hand firmly and introduced himself as Joshua, leading me past reception, through the door by which he'd entered and down a corridor towards a meeting room.
Here I was greeted by Anna and Patrice, both seated behind a small circular desk. Joshua joined them and I was positioned opposite.
We talked about my education to begin with, I'd recently graduated from University, I'd got a first in International Politics and this intern position would mean a great deal to my career. Work experience-wise I'd had some temp jobs in a couple of offices, but nothing substantial. I'd primarily spent my Summers working in shops to make some money, I wasn't keen on the idea of being too reliant on my student loan and had aimed, though rather unsuccessfully, to leave it as a back-up throughout my entire time at Uni.
I asked some questions about the day-to-day things I might have to do in the office, the kind of people I would be working with, what training there would be, little things though like the telephones, computers and such like. They smiled and assured me that it would be very intensive with plenty of room to stretch and grow.
Then they turned to a screen on the wall.
'We just want to run a few things by you, if that's ok?' Patrice asked.
I nodded, 'That's fine.'
'On October 4th you sent a tweet to @muckypup saying, "You love it you bender."'
'Um...' It was undeniable, they'd brought the thing up on a screen right there. 'Yes, I, er, I did... that was October 4th five years ago, I was seventeen.'
'Nevertheless, we don't think this kind of language or attitude is suitable for the workplace.'
'Well, no, neither do I...'
Joshua held up his finger, it had the effect of somehow immediately silencing me, 'You wrote a poem in school, not -' he turned to his colleagues and they shared a little laugh '-as part of the class, but in break time. It was called Mr. Marks Sucks Animal Cocks.'
The poem appeared on screen, the very thing, in my scrawled fourteen year old handwriting.
'He'd given me a detention and...'
'Do you really think slander was a justified reaction?'
'It wasn't slander, it was...'
Anna placed her notepad down with authority, again this distraction cut my sentence short.
'I understand you might think these aren't recent events, but we were alarmed to see these, and we have a reputation to preserve at this bank. So, we looked into it, and at 10.30pm last Friday we witnessed this.'
On the screen footage appeared of me, a little drunk, in my kitchen opening a bottle of coke to pour into my Jack Daniels and the bubbles erupted, spluttering all over me, to which I exclaimed; 'Oh, gay!'
'Mr. Thomas,' Anna removed her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose with exaggerated anguish, 'someone with your homophobic attitudes should not, could not, work for this company.'
'Your homophobic attitudes. Joshua did some more research, and at least fifteen of your social network friends have made similar remarks, some have commited racial slurs, sexist comments, both misogynistic and misandrist exclamations. Clearly you're unfit for the business world.'
'But, I... My... My brother's gay, I'm not... My best friend Harriet, she's gay... I mean...' I was exasperated, bamboozled and exclaimed irrationally; 'She's gay and black!'
'And you think any of that makes it allright? That it covers you?' Joshua tutted to himself, scribbled something on his notepad. 'You know the way out Mr. Thomas, but thankyou for coming in today, it was useful.'
I got up, walked to the door, the handle gave me an electric shock, I swore and left.
Monday, 8 April 2013
My mother rang me online last night, it was hard to recognise her amongst the stuttering images and clipped sound, I don't know if the connection was bad at my end or hers.
My Dad was texting me at the time, so maybe the signals clashed or something? I'm not sure. He was asking me if I saw the email from my sister about her birthday. I hadn't had a chance to check my emails. My phone gets the internet, but it's slow, especially when I'm on my commute, besides it's easier to look at photo sharing sites, this girl I like uploads pictures quite regularly and I heart the best ones, but not too often, else it might seem stalkerish I guess.
I wrote some good updates today though, someone I don't know liked them, it was a girl, her profile seemed nice so I followed her, hopefully she'll post something good and I can like it in return.
Not many people have read my last blog, but that's ok, I don't really link to it much, and it's more for me than anyone else. I've started posting some poems as well, but not sure whether I'm tagging them well enough to get any interest.
I emailed a writing group that I thought I could go to, and they added me to their next event's invites, so I might go along if I can get out of work early enough.
Got an I.M. from my manager, she wants me to go out for some milk and tea bags. I message back asking if I'm supposed to take this out of petty cash or charge it to my expenses? She hasn't replied yet, though I can hear her moving in her office upstairs.
The phone rings as I'm putting my coat on, it's an automated recording about insurance or something, I don't really listen, I just wait to see if I can be removed from the mailing list. I can, I press nine.
I know the supermarket well, I deftly weave amongst the shoppers aiming their barcode scanners at the tins they rattle into their trollies. I nimbly grab two pints of milk and get some mid-range tea bags and head straight for the self checkout.
Accidentally the machine scans the tea bags twice, the red light starts blinking above the monitor, but I can't see an assistant anywhere to help. Cautiously I step away from the self checkout to try and find them, but I can't see anybody.
I leave the tea bags and milk and walk the length of the store, but each aisle seems as fruitless as the last, even, ironically, the fruit aisle. I head back to the checkout and pick up my items, looking around, contemplating my actions, and then I walk out of the store without paying for my purchases.
There are no alarms, and nobody comes running out after me.
Outside the streets are quiet, the sun is out at last, but nobody is around. A shop-online delivery truck almost clips me as I wait to cross the road, finally the green man tells me it's okay and I walk back to the office.
I feel my phone vibrating in my pocket, I answer, it's my mother, but the distorted line makes her voice sound cold and robotic.