by Matthew Rudman
He was probably born in some mawkish red state where there are armadillos and men with guns. His mother was called Betsy. He had an older brother who was called… Eustace. He had a younger sister, but, as his mother told him, she was lovingly taken by the Lord Jesus.
He learnt to walk, he learnt to talk, he went to school.
He was slow at first but his mother was informed that he promptly developed a great aptitude for poetry and mathematics. Complimentary fields, really. Eustace was arrested. Eustace liked to steal TVs.
So his brother was a thief. He found it difficult to believe. He missed his brother.
He got over it.
High school. Nature’s cruel metamorphosis dealt him a putrid hand. His eyes avoided the mirror. People’s hands hide their mouths but not their thoughts. He didn’t think he liked high school.
He got over it.
After a passage of time he liked the way he looked again. He made friends. He met a girl. She laughed at him.
Presumably he got over it.
He learnt to be funny. He found more friends. He liked high school now. He got a TV. Seventeen channels and a crumpled aerial. He stole some jokes. He got funnier.
Next a job as a waiter. In a diner. That served banana splits on Sundays. With his minimum wage – plus tips of course – he bought a car. Quietly subsidised by dear mother. The car was a pick-up truck. Powder blue. With a splash of rust. Like in the movies. Probably.
He liked to read poetry. He liked to watch the sun rise. He liked sitting by the river that ran round the back of his mother’s house. He liked smiling and frolicking and the smell of freshly mown grass. He liked all sorts of varied and interesting things.
He met a girl.
This one was different, not cruel or torpid. They talked a lot. Well… synchronised monologues; conveniently placed angst-sinks.
She gave him a book. Siddhartha. He enjoyed this book, and told his mother he was a Buddhist. She told him to get over it.
To an extent, anyway. For he still carried around that book’s seductively alien ideals in his mind, talismanic memories warding against the sound of the crickets and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
He smoked weed in the back of his truck. He gazed longingly at the stars. He read Marx. He had ideas. And he was unique.
He and the girl did all sorts of varied and wholesome activities during their time together, including, but not limited to: going to the movies, going to the mall, going for ice-cream, going to the arcade, going to the coffee-house, going to the library, going to church, going to the abortion clinic.
However these activities, some more than others (and there were many others), began to take their toll on him.
He developed a distinct liking for a particular branch of a particular tree overhanging the river. He would sit there – with one leg dangling over the side of course – and watch the flocks of birds play in the breeze and write poetry until the sun went down. It was all very nice. He could sit there and pretend the reality beyond the dusty-green vista simply did not exist, would be at peace, and become happy.
He was writing a poem about clouds, and something unexpected happened. He might have sat on an unusual place on the branch. He could have caught a strong breeze. Perhaps he was trying to catch a butterfly floating away over the river.
What did happen? The branch broke. The branch broke with the boy on it. He fell. He fell with his little black book into the fast-flowing river.
We have no way of knowing all this, of course, but as I stand over the sodden naked carcass of the boy-in-his-late-teens lying on the metal counter, I hope it was so.
There were no stones in his pockets. Accidental death. Probably.