Friday, June 12, 2015


mind control

On the third knock, I answered the door to my neighbour's eighteen year old grandson and knew before he opened his mouth that I would not say no. The word had gone on vacation. He wanted to borrow a screwdriver, the delinquent son of a bitch, and I had one close to hand. A flat head. Everybody owns at least one. It is not the kind of thing one thinks to borrow.
     Unless one is a spinster. Or widow. Frittering away afternoons grieving after a firm hold on geometry. The architecture behind a wall socket.
     He had not long since caved in his best friend's skull. With a brick. On the street below my kitchen window. Not that it bothered me. This was not the reason I could not refuse. But it did give me pause to wonder just why he might require a screwdriver.
     From the moment he was born, he suffered acutely from problems with his hearing. The small bones in his middle ear.
     Not my neighbour's grandson.
     I have no reason to suspect that he was ever plagued with aches. Infections.
     But this kid, he suffered miserably for the first several years of his life. His mother bound his head in a scarf. Tied it in bows like some drowsy rabbit in an attempt to pacify his mewling. From the age of twelve he began self medicating with whiskey. Rum. Anything he could lay his hands on. Just to dull the serrated edge of it.
     It was not until his forty-second year, half scuttled by psychosis, that he stumbled on epiphany. He was a telepath. That was the root of it. The reason his ears had for so long bothered him. He could not keep out the din of voices. The ringing of cutlery from several hundred yards away.
     At forty-four he decided to be done with it and stepped off a roof.
     His ears troubled him no more.
     I fetched the screwdriver from its box in the cupboard and handed it to my neighbour's boy. I knew I would never see it again. Or that if I did it would be missing its bit. For a second there, I thought of plunging it between his ribs.
     "Stick it through the letterbox when you're done," I gestured.
     "Sure thing," he said.
     The eyes prematurely blunted. His face a freshly harvested cabbage nodding off the stalk.
     His girlfriend had a little dog. I wondered how long it would take before he strangled it to to death on its leash. Or took to beating her with it.
     "Do you like reggae ?" he asked.
     I studied the faint blossom of acne creeping along the hairline where his forehead joined at the scalp.
     "Only, I heard it coming from your door. My nan says it's a lot of shite."
     The next day he still had not returned my screwdriver. I had that fucking thing without losing or misplacing it for close to twenty years. Bills in brown envelopes clung to the bristles of my letterbox, but that was all she wrote. Two days passed and still no sign of it. Children played on bicycles outside beneath the balcony. Fathers attacked glued parts with spoke key and pedal spanner.
     I thought of a hundred small tasks postponed I might perform. Had only I the right tool for the job.
     Quite by accident, I came upon the kid's uncle in the stairwell. I told him very precisely that I wanted my fucking screwdriver back.
     I had an engraved brass plate that needed fixing to my door. The batteries in my son's nightlight needed replacing.
     "Relax," he shrugged. "I'll have a word with him."
     "Do that," I said.
     A couple of days later, the cocksucker was back at my door. Even through the fug of deep bass I could identify the rattle. This time, I answered on the second knock.
     He looked down at his shoes and juggled my screwdriver as though it were a miniature baton. Hunched over the welcome mat like a sack of shit zipped up in a tracksuit. At first I did not recognise it as my own. The cap which ought to have been screwed down into the handle was missing. A crack ran through the red plastic barrel.
     "What the fuck ?" I said.
     "Here," he went. Slapping it into the palm of my hand.
     My former acquaintance, the telepath, would have had none of it of course. The hapless fucker knew too much.
     The river of genes which carried his gift may have been muddied from the first, but still.
     He never married. Never divorced. Never went sleepwalking through those vast wildnernesses of misplaced trust like the rest of us. Some people do not care for dub, the seismic shift, the tectonic rumblings. It fucks with their heads.
     "Have you a cigarette ?" so help me god, the motherfucker sang.

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