Friday, 5 April 2013

Go On, My Son by Dan Micklethwaite

All the shitty ghosts come here. The miscreants, the losers, the ne’er-do-well-enoughs. The poor sods who were has-beens even before they passed away.

Over there, him – or it now, I guess – he used to be a gymnast. Nearly made the squad, but fell off some monkey bars, pissing around in a park three days before try-outs. Wound up performing as part of a street act, dipping right-angled down from his on-stilts position, handing round the cap for change at the close of each show. Had to a put a note in it himself, in a bid to convince the crowd to pay well.

That one who was a woman when she lived – it used to sing. Played all the local pubs. Had a mandolin, covered so densely in small white, yellow and pink flower stickers it looked like it had scales. Never performed a cover version in her life. Wrote her first song at the age of six. Didn’t write her first good song until she was fifteen, and had been through that all-important first romance and second heartbreak.

The first heartbreak is one all of these ghosts felt, perhaps around the time their life-clock ticked over into double figures. The small shattering inside which comes from realising that you won’t stay knee-high-to-a-gnat forever.

That guy – yeah, him with the rolled up canvases under his arm, and the see-through stain of paint tattooed all accidental on his see-through skin – it used to be an artist. Was marked out as a natural from the moment he went to nursery and vandalised a whitewashed wall with scrubby cubist portrait of that other kid, the little git who made off with his play-doh. – And then ate some of it. And massaged the rest into his hair, in mimicry of his mother, who would, she said, have been a punk, if her own mother would have let her. – This satirical attack was to indicate the direction his later work would take, a direction which, after a fashion, earned him acclaim. One piece of graffiti in particular was quite successful, and caught, like a slogan, on the public’s consciousness and tongue. But then somebody snapped a picture of it on their phone, and it went viral, and turned up on everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs to coasters to postcards – which people bought ironically, having no need to send them anywhere. He never saw a penny.

Even the rich ones here – well, the ones who made some kind of money, anyhow – contrived a way to lose that money in the end. Betting on this or that. Investing in safe and unsafe markets. Drinking it. Smoking it. Squandering it on extreme sports, and that Krav Maga training they’d always thought it would be cool to have but which, when they didn’t get that action movie role they’d jetsetted to Hollywood in search of, began to seem redundant. Finding ways to use it in daily life – terrorising pigeons in town centres, chasing postmen from their door whenever those blue-shirted bastards showed up bearing bills – culminated, more often than not, in further unnecessary expenditure. Their actorly vanity demanded they have new suits for each fresh day in court.

Eventually all of these – it, and it, those its, and them –  they stopped. Quit. Jacked it in. Slowed up to a trundle, and then came upon a wall they just could not pass through. The irony, eh? Nowadays, they slink through barriers with otherworldly grace. None of them have need for mirrors or make-up any longer, and yet here they are, at their most radiant and tender-looking. Passing through houses, making a tour of the rooms. Paying special attention to all of those who seem the most alive.

The young girl singing into that microphone fixed to her laptop computer, watching in real-time as her performance is recorded and then set free across the criss-cross tangled strands of world-wide-web.

That young lad belting a football again and again against the outside wall – they like to watch, wistful, from an upstairs window, then allow their eyes to drift, more wistful still, towards the sky. All their memories are up there now.

The two brothers who strum guitars and holler harmonies across the shin-high canyon in-between their beds.

The teenager who sits at a desk and writes and writes and writes and never, not once, pauses to draw a doubting breath.

The kid who gets up at six every morning, just so as he can go for a run before changing into his elephant-grey uniform and marching to school.

The juggling troupe – two girls, one boy – who convene on Mondays, Tuesdays, Friday evenings, and trust each other enough to trade apples and tennis balls and carving knives.

The shitty ghosts travel round this place, relentlessly, always watching out for things like this. They stand around in constant hope of resurrection. They come here to live again.

Say, Go on, my son.

Shout, You can do it.

Uncertain if they spread these sentiments because they’re what they heard themselves when they were younger. Or if they say them now because they’d always wanted to and never did.  

About the Author: Dan Micklethwaite lives and writes in West Yorkshire, UK. His work has featured in Ink Sweat & Tears, BULL: Men's Fiction, NFTU and 3:AM magazines, amongst others. Further examples of his short prose and poetry can be found on his blog at:

Image: (c) wolfgangfoto