In my newsletter today I set a competition to answer two questions:
1 What were the two promises made by the narrator?
Because even though I wrote the story I actually do not know the answer – which I thinkl makes it an even better story. To get a chance to enter the competion just go to the ‘Get Closer’ pager and subscribe.
Regardless, please read the story.
Keeping a pronise
I’m not sure when it all started. Started? No changed, that makes more sense. I’m not sure when it all changed.
Was it my first line? No. My first cigarette? Maybe just before then. Yes definitely a few weeks before then. The night that Mrs Morgan stormed through our front door.
“Your Gavin’s been nicking stuff from my shop.” She screamed, whilst standing in the middle of our hallway -and my Mum’s up on her high horse straight away.
“Our Gavin? Don’t talk so daft, you old bat.”
“Old bat am I. Well I’ve just been watching our security tape – just ten minutes ago. He’s nicked forty fags off the shelf while my back’s been turned. He’s on film.” Shit I think. I’m eight years old and that’s my reaction. Shit!
Five minutes later and Mum’s crying and is a tenner worse off in her purse. Then Dad comes home and gives me a good strapping and that night I’m lying in bed unable to move, after a while I start looking over my body, my arms, my legs; and their all blue and yellow from the other beatings. And it hits me hard, and I remember the moment clearly. Thinking – I deserved this one beating, I nicked something and got caught, but all the other times, what was all that about? In truth that was the first time I’d done anything really bad, and yet there’s not a part of my body which wasn’t black, blue or yellow.
And that was when I changed when, even at that age, If I was going to get a belting for doing nothing, then I might as well do something anyway. So I gets serious about thieving, first for myself, then for others. For a dare, for money, fags, whatever.
When I’m eleven I’m whisked off by the courts to a special unit. It’s meant to break me – it crushes me. By the time I’ve done my first stretch in the remand centre I’m a loner, I’ve no friends, I don’t want or need anyone. My life revolves around begging, borrowing or stealing solvents. My head in a paper bag sniffing glue is the only respite I get. Mum and Dad don’t want to know me and I certainly don’t want to know them.
By the time I’m in my middle teens I’ve already spent a third of my life in care or detention, I’m a wreck and still sliding downward. That’s when I have my first meeting with Mrs Jacobs, the probation officer. And just like the day my Dad belted the eight year old I remember every second of that first meeting, crystal clear, like it was yesterday.
I’ve gone into the interview room with an attitude, and she’s a bit of a looker so I’m cocky with it as well. So I smirk, and wink, and chew gum, and don’t answer any of her questions. Then she does this thing. She isn’t meant to do it, and it takes my breath away.
She leans across the desk and holds my hand. She doesn’t say anything, just holds my hand, and I don’t know why but I starts crying, and the crying erupts inside me and my body shakes and thunders with pain and hurt. I cry until there’s nothing left inside, and she says nothing. After a while there is a knock at her door and she waves the person away with the fiercest of looks.
Then we talk, we really talk and the hand on the clock goes around and around and I can feel the world changing. I’m more confused than ever yet, at the same time, everything is crystal clear. Eventually I get up and start to walk out the room, but just as I open the door I look back at her and her eyes meet mine and she smiles at me and whispers, like it’s our secret.
“Do you promise me Gavin?” I’d never made a promise to anyone in my entire life, it was a serious moment, but I felt no need to hesitate.
“I promise you Mrs. Jacobs.”
Mrs Jacobs died last week, and twenty three years have rushed by since that first meeting and I have never come close to breaking the promise I made on that day.
There’s enough daylight left for me to push my grandson around the park one more time, he’s sound asleep now, but I’m certain that he knows the promise I made him earlier this afternoon lasts forever.