Imprisoned within a shutdown body, limbs but rigid stumps, only mother knew the things that went on inside his head.
“Do you think bears are all mad what with dad bear so prone to scoffing babies of his own kind…you know like that fatal prion malady cannibals get…like mad cows disease?”
Paralysis had not affected his hearing. He neither knew nor cared save for a passing thought that bears may well be the fruit of jumbled loins as he himself might have been, perhaps was, yet he double blinked an affirmative regardless just to keep the old boot happy.
There were times when had he been able to communicate pointedly he would impart the chancy incantation that had come to visit years back and never moved on, ‘God has ways of torture only I know’ – even had a melodic loop to go with it within. Yet that was a mere spin off from the days he had been priest groomed to believe said God moved in ‘mysterious ways’. Since the village church had been abandoned for lack of believers and redeveloped into luxury flats for the Surreyite summertime tourists the pastoral pontificator had long since left his post; gone to God knows where!
After the recent death of his father he didn’t get out and about all that much. Big lump, nearly 18 years old that he was, mother wasn’t much use on the wheeling him around front. He didn’t miss the going out save for the pretty girl who worked the till at the Spa shop up the road. He liked her. For her part she was all heart, made him inward beam and laugh. He wished she knew she did that to him. Hoped she did anyhow. He dreamed of her regularly, sometimes X-rated guesswork, mostly just holding hands and playing tennis in the rain.
The day the carpet fitter arrived changed everything. Mum’s new bedroom carpet was to be laid and her bed, wardrobes and cabinets needed to be moved to get the carpet down.
“Oh you can put all my bits and pieces in my son’s room. He’s got the biggest bedroom anyway what with….” she paused evaluating as how to put it… “what with his ‘disabilities’ and that.” The plural struck the fitter as an odd choice.
“Like a cup of tea would you?”
“Yes luv…three sugars please.”
The carpet man dismantled the bed first taking its frame to the boy’s room. In an instant saw with his own eyes what she meant when she had said, ‘disabilities’. It fairly took him back. He rested the frame against the wall, cast his eyes about the place. Gave the lad wearing headphones a nod and smile.
“You like Metallica then…you’ve got their posters for wallpaper! Me and my boys are great fans…my favourite number is ‘Nothing Else Matters’. What an intro…my youngest can play that on his guitar.”
“He can’t hear you with his phones on…he likes me to turn the volume up loud…the doctor said too loud is bad for his ears but he doesn’t have much to cheer about so I let him listen how he wants. Here’s your tea by the way.”
The widow and the fitter enjoyed their cuppas out in the courtyard garden under a circumspect sun.
“What’s the boy’s name?”
“Harry. He’ll be 18 in a couple of months…my how time flies. He’s named after his dad…dad fell off his perch a couple of months back…tragic in more ways than one.”
“How so? If you don’t mind me asking that is.”
She explained that dad was going to organise a special treat for young Harry’s eighteenth yet in a moment of absent mindlessness had walked out into the road in the path of a number 37 bus and was no more. The treat was to be Metallica at Wembley Stadium. Metallica was Harry’s all-consuming passion. Yet what with her husband having snuffed it the treat was now off the menu.
“Me and my boys are going to that concert…truly sorry your lad won’t be able to make it.”
Job done, a satisfied customer the carpet fitter was weighed and paid and off about other business.
Harry’s birthday was on a Monday. An excited mum woke him early to show him his birthday card and present. Stuck for gift ideas for the boy without agility she had plumped for another James Hetfield T-shirt knowing these always went down well.
A knock at the door. Rarely having visitors she made haste to see who it might be. That it was the carpet fitter threw her at first. He was holding a large envelope with Harry’s name on it.
“Here luv give this to Harry…it’s a little something from me and my boys.”
“Come in…please come in…you can take it up to him yourself.”
“Cheers luv…there’s a little note inside…should I read it out or will you?”
“You do it…it’s from you, I think he’ll like it that way.”
And thus it was that the carpet fitter read aloud the hand scrawled missive within the birthday card. It told of a father and three sons, their respective sponsored shaved head days, long distance bicycle rides, red hot chilli scoffing events…all manner of things. It told of how they raised a sufficiency of funds to not only pay for the Metallica tickets but also for a mini bus to take them all to the event, a nurse to accompany Harry (just in case) and that there was two grand left over that for the lad to spend as he wished.
Harry had the best day of his buggered up life. Better still that the nurse was not a real nurse at all…it was the girl for the Spar shop dressed up. After the concert she had plonked a great smacker of a kiss on his forehead and thanked him for the most wonderful time. As she left she whispered in his ear, “I’ll pop round on Wednesday if you like. It’s my day off and we can listen to the band together. Would you like that?” prompting his swiftest double blink ever.
Utopia had found Harry who shed a tear of joy for a germinal love he, ‘no if’s, no buts’ acknowledged would not pan out like on the telly. In later years he would often wonder how the carpet fitter knew about the girl from Spa Shop.