Chapter 8: First and Foremost
I My father had simply disappeared off the scene and I had no idea where he was living. He did pay his grandson and myself the occasional visit but he still kept himself out of reach, which was something he had always done. Laurence had no real interest in children. He would not object to watching Shayne for a few minutes while I went to the local shop, in the event of a visit. Generally speaking, Laurence found children to be mostly an irritation, which many would agree, they can be at times.
Beverley, by this time, had three young daughters of her own. As she was really the only member of my family with any real interest in children with the ability to care for them, I did occasionally leave Shayne with her if I needed a break.
After living in Sheldon for a few months, I decided the dog would have to go. I suddenly realized that my son was being restricted to certain areas of the house. The dog was restricted to the hall and kitchen, which in turn gave access to any point within the house. My son needed more freedom to move about in his home and his interests and needs took priority.
Once the dog had gone, I decided to try to get myself a lodger. I simply needed some extra cash as I was finding things quite difficult, financially, on single parent benefit. I planned to get a lodger for some extra money and maybe a little company, as I did feel very lonely at times. After trying for several weeks to find a lodger I decided in this case honesty was not the best policy. I had advertised in the local newspaper and had registered with a few accommodation agencies and wanted a female lodger, a male lodger was simply out of the question. A few young ladies came to view the room on offer but as soon as I explained that I was a single parent, living alone in the house with my son, they all left as fast as possible with no thought of moving in.
I had one young lady call to see the room and with the help of her mother jumped to the conclusion that I was married. I decided to play along with the belief. On the day she was due to move in, I had one of the ladies from gingerbread come to my house to act as my wife for the day. Debbie played the part of the loving wife very well and the lodger moved in without any suspicion that I wasn't married. I wondered what sort of wife Debbie would really make. I thanked her for her superb acting and thought nothing more about it. She left just half an hour after Julie moved in.
I lay in bed that night and somehow knew that she would not be able to sleep, knowing I was in the next room on my own. I knew how she must have felt, in new surroundings, knowing there was a strange man lying in bed just a few feet away. I didn't get any sleep either knowing there was a stranger in the house and a stunningly beautiful, shapely, female at that. I had estimated that she was no more than about seventeen years old. I wondered what thoughts were running through her mind, I knew what was running through my own, she was beautiful. I knew I couldn't and wouldn't try to take advantage and thought she was too young for me anyway.
Over the next few days, Julie would ask me where my wife was. To start, I told her that my wife worked funny hours and would not be back until the next day and said that she often worked nights. After about a week, I decided to tell Julie the truth on her return from work. I often made her a drink as soon as she came in from work and often offered her a meal, which she would usually take to her room. In reality I wasn't making any money out of this young lodger but I liked to see her walking round the house. She seemed to brighten the place up and put a womans atmosphere into the place with her pleasing fragrance drifting through the whole house.
"Can I have a word, when you're ready, Julie? Nothing to worry about," I stated softly, "I just need to talk to you about something." Julie suddenly looked worried. She dropped her bag in her room and returned downstairs to the kitchen.
"Sit down a minute," I said. "There's pie, peas and mash for tea, if you want some." I was hesitating, struggling to find the nerve to tell her the truth.
"I have something to say to you, but first I want to ask you a question. How do you feel about living here, are you content, do you like living here?" I asked hopefully.
Julie sat, crossed legged, at the kitchen table. "Yes, I think it's really nice. I like it here, I'm not planning on moving for a while anyway. Why?" she replied.
I sat down at the table. "To be honest I don't quite know where to begin," I said. "Prepare yourself for a shock. Remember the day you moved in and that woman was here? She wasn't my wife and never has been. I'm not married and never have been. That woman you saw was just a friend. She has never been in this house before and has not been since, there is nobody living in this house except you, me and my son."
Julie looked as if she had seen a ghost, she was in total shock. She sat with her mouth half open, not quite knowing what to say.
"I had been trying to get a lodger for some time and every time they came I would tell them I was a single parent and they would just leave. When you and your mom jumped to the conclusion that I was married because of Shayne I just decided to play along with your belief. I'm hoping you are content here. I'm also hoping you decide to stay. You said you like it here. Well, to be honest, I like having you around," I explained.
"I meant what I said, I'm not planning on moving, I like it here. I would have moved in even if you had told me you were single parent," she said but I doubted that very much.
"I don't think your mom would have allowed you to. So, do you want some food?" I asked, feeling the relief from the load off my mind.
"Yes please. Will you bring it up to my room?" Julie replied, as she left the table and took her drink to her room.
I continued going to the coffee mornings at Gingerbread, initially hoping to find that someone special with whom I could settle down. I soon realized all these people were not in the same boat, as I had been told. They were all in separate little boats, in their own separate little worlds. At least that's how I felt, in a separate boat, all on my own.
My whole attitude and outlook had changed dramatically during the late 80s, more-so since Shayne's birth. My own upbringing had left me with a few external scars and a lot of internal scars which never seemed to heal. Nobody could see these scars which remain deep within my mind and heart. Not only did I find difficulty in mixing with people, I had learned the hard way not to trust anyone. As a small child I had to steal to stay alive. Then I started stealing things I merely wanted, things I saw other children had that I never had, but I could never steal a normal childhood which was what I wanted most of all.
I met a lady at Gingerbread named Tina. She had a young son, Ryan, the same age as Shayne. We talked about how we had become single parents, which was always the starting point of every conversation at Gingerbread. We got together and decided to try to live as a family. Tina had recently suffered a stroke and was finding things very difficult with her son. She had been married for a few years, her husband disabled with an artificial leg. She divorced after he discovered that she had been having an affair with another man, Ryan the result of the affair.
I sensed that she blamed Ryan for the ending of her marriage. She insisted from the very start of this new relationship that Ryan call me dad and that I take full control of her son. I told her not to try to force her son to call me dad and explained that I would not object to the title, but it had to come voluntarily from her son. Tina had very severe problems in coping with Ryan and insisted that I provide the discipline. I was no softy. Shayne was reared with a strict hand, but with love and care and without cruelty of any description. Tina was highly volatile and would completely lose her temper at the slightest and most trivial things, which I thought were better left alone. She tried demanding that I punish her son for these trivial things and got most upset when I refused.
She also continually found fault with the lodger and Julie clearly tried to keep out of Tina's way. Julie and I had become close friends and had much respect for each other, but this was all dwindling away. Tina had taken over. She responded well towards Shayne, continually giving him hugs and praising him while pushing out her own son. This had a very damaging effect on everyone. Shayne didn't like being continually picked up and squeezed, Ryan didn't like being the unwanted child and I didn't like any of it. I did my best to treat both lads the same, fairly, kindly and with care for them both. Julie was also highly irritated by the interfering woman, who appeared from nowhere and took over the entire house. I liked my lodger very much and wanted her also to be happy in my house but she was becoming increasingly unhappy. My feelings for her had become very strong and I knew she also had similar feelings. Both knowing, both respecting the reality of nothing could happen between us, nothing was ever said, but we knew.
Julie was upset at the fact that Tina was removing things from her room and moaning about the state she left it in. Julie had told her it had nothing to do with her and she was right. I had given Julie permission to enter my bedroom to get the hairdryer, without the continual need to ask. Julie was clearly comfortable with the fairly easy going rules that I had. Now I had invited chaos and disruption to live in my house, with my son and the girl I had grown to love.
Tina clearly needed someone to help her and she was convinced that she loved me. I did have feelings for her, but desire and love are not the same thing. Generally speaking I just felt sorry for her, but mostly I felt sorry for Ryan. All I could see was someone in need of help who had turned to me. The pressure for Julie became too much. One evening she had returned from work to face Tina's ever moaning tongue. Tina always spoke to Julie as if she were dirt.
"You've been in our bloody bedroom again. I had to go and get the hairdryer from your room this morning. You better bloody keep out of our room!" Tina demanded nastily.
"You better bloody keep out of my room, you mental bitch. I don't need to ask your permission for anything," Julie yelled and went storming up the stairs, slamming the doors behind her.
"There was no bloody need for that," I told Tina as I left my seat to go upstairs to talk to Julie. I knocked on her door. Julie opened it very quickly and violently.
"Can I come in?" I asked.
"You better ask that psycho bitch down there! You need her permission," she shouted, at the top of her voice. Tina came running up the stairs and wanted to push her way passed me. I knew she wanted to fight with Julie.
"Go downstairs. You wouldn't have a chance," I suggested judgementally. I went into Julie's room and closed the door.
"I think you need to calm down," I stated. "I know she's trying to wind you up, I'm not daft. Just calm yourself down ok. I'll have a word with her, see if I can get some peace back in the house." Julie was still very upset.
"You think she's it. You're wrong. She's mad, coming in here like she owns the place, she thinks she's the boss. You're nothing with her here. She's turned this house upside down. Shayne's always crying, Ryan's always screaming and she's always shouting her big mouth off and you're standing for it. You pratt."
Julie had certainly got a way of making her point and most of what she was saying was accurate and correct. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Tina had to stick her nose in. Julie opened the door and sighed.
"Wait downstairs, Tina, please," I said. I was getting fed up of asking.
"I'm leaving," Julie snapped.
"Well, pissing go then," I chanted as I walked out of the room. I was sorry I had said those words, deeply sorry. I later spoke to Julie again and asked her to stay.
"I can't," she said. "Things have got out of hand now. You told me to pissoff and I'm going. I can't live in the same house as her. I mean what I say, she's mad. You'll see, you'll be sorry."
"I already am!" I said meaningfully. Within a few days Julie started taking her belongings out of my house, moving onto a new beginning.
"You know you can come back, don't you? I think you know how I feel, don't you?" I told her.
"I know, but I never turn back. Maybe, one day, you'll see what I've never said. I have to go," Julie said, trying to hide the tears.
I left her room alone for a few days in the hope that she might return. When I did clear the room, rearranging the furniture, so the lads could have the bigger bedroom, I discovered the Christmas card that I had sent to Julie.
She had written all over it, "I really hate Andrew, I love you." Andrew was Julie's ex-boyfriend.
I was left feeling very angry with Tina for a while, eventually living with the reality of what was and trying to forget what could never be. Tina was proving to be a serious problem with her reactions to her own son. I would never tolerate anyone being cruel to any child and Tina was being mentally damaging to the child. She would continually tell him that he was not wanted and that he had ruined her life, she would continually push him away, refusing him the parental love he so desperately wanted from her. I could see the heartache in his face and did what I could to ease the pain, but I was fighting a losing battle. Ryan started responding to the way he was being treated by attention seeking acts like piddling on the floor, only feet away from the toilet, wiping shit on the walls and ripping wallpaper and other similar acts. These things did get me cross and Ryan would sometimes get smacked. Tina would bombard Ryan with threats of being put into a home. She told him repeatedly that she did not love him or want him and that he was a little bastard. I continually tried to stop Tina from being so damaging and hateful towards the child. I often sat with my arm round both lads, trying to let Ryan see I cared for him. This in itself often lead to even more problems. Tina felt left out and neglected and blamed Ryan.
Tina told everyone she met that Ryan was a very naughty child and that she couldn't cope with him. I could and did cope with both lads and didn't really think Ryan any worse than any other child of the same age. Eventually people started listening to Tina's cries for help, but all looking in the wrong direction. They all considered Ryan needed help, when it was really Tina who needed the help. Ryan was admitted to a special day care centre, which he attended from home five days a week.
Tina didn't get any better, in fact she steadily got worse. One day, Ryan was sat in the living room crying, heartbroken by his mothers continual rejection of him. Tina was cutting up potatoes for the evening meal, while shouting hurtful remarks through the wall at her son.
Suddenly, she charged into the living room, grabbed Ryan and waved the knife in front of him, screaming in his face, "Shut up, Shut up, Shut up," shaking him in temper.
I shot across the room like a bolt of lightening, "Leave him alone," I ordered.
I grabbed her wrist, putting severe pressure against the joint, "Drop the knife... Now, before I break your arm!" I demanded angrily. The horror of my own childhood had been suddenly woken up.
"Don't you ever let me see or hear you pull a knife on any kid. I'd ram it up your arse, and don't think I'm bluffing 'cause I'm telling you, I mean it! You're just like my mother you are and I won't stand by and ignore it. You asked me to take him on, well just leave him alone. He's only crying because you're always screaming at him and because he knows you don't bloody want him. He's done nothing wrong, just leave him alone, " I said.
It got to a stage that I was becoming afraid to leave the house without taking both lads with me. Tina had never said a single word out of place to Shayne but he was clearly affected by the continuous shouting and crying. Eventually the day care centre called for me to attend a meeting at the centre due to Tina had been repeatedly complaining about Ryan's behaviour. I went to the meeting and put the picture straight. I explained that Ryan was not really a problem child and that the real problem was Tina. It was suggested that Shayne also spend a little time at the centre so they could assess how the two lads reacted to each other. They pointed out that Tina was in need of a break. I reluctantly, eventually, agreed to Shayne's attendance but soon discovered that this day centre was run by social services and was for children `at risk'. I removed Shayne immediately.
"My son is not at risk and never will be," I told them, demanding they return my son without any delay.
"Is Ryan at risk?" they asked. I looked at the care worker. It was hard to admit I was failing.
"Yes, he is," was my reply.
An emergency meeting was held at my house. Bruises had been found on Ryan which had in fact been caused at the day centre, by another child. I had discovered the bruises while the lads were in the bath and I asked Ryan about them. Ryan was too young to make up stories and I would get to the real cause regardless. The centre was quizzed over the bruises who placed the blame at my house, denying any responsibility. The meeting was held with social workers, day care assistants, a doctor and health visitor. I would not cover up what was going on. With so many official people asking very delicate questions, the suspicion of child cruelty lay thick in the air. I decided it would be better to cover my back. I was heavily outnumbered and it could have been my word against all of theirs, including Tina's. I set the tape recorder machine and turned it on to record the meeting. I stated the meeting was being recorded in a quick and quiet manner, not really wanting them all to know. Few heard the statement, many later surprised at how crafty and devious I had been. I listened to the meeting without saying a word. I was saving it all for the final chapter.
Tina started going on about how bad Ryan was and said that there was something wrong with him. She told of all the dirty tricks he got up to and of how he would force himself to be sick across the table. She told of how he would piddle on the floor just outside the toilet door. She just went on and on...
The doctor explained how Tina had suffered the stroke and how that may have affected her. The care workers talked about the bruising and the social worker said a few words. I had spoken to the social worker previously and had told her about my previous experience with social workers. She said that she respected my honesty, but I wouldn't be fooled by her but I did believe she was for real and had the real interests at heart, Ryan's. She had been told about Tina's manner towards her son and was aware of what I was trying to do and the problems I was having. The meeting went on and on. Tracey, the social worker, kept looking over towards me as if trying to read my thoughts as various things were said. It remained to be seen which one of us was going to drop the bombshell on the whole meeting. The tape recorder banged as it clicked off. I said nothing and turned the tape over, while the authorities argued among themselves about my statement about the recording of the meeting. Most had not heard the statement that I had made. The room suddenly fell into silence with everyone looking around the room, wondering who was going to speak next.
I looked around the room at all the vacant faces. Tracey looked directly at me, "Are you going to do it or do I have to?" she asked. "I think it may be better coming straight from you, as you know the full story."
"Thanks a bunch," I said.
"You'll have to excuse his manner," Tracey announced to the crowd, "he doesn't like social workers and trusts no-one. That's why the tape recorder is on. Just listen to him, very closely, to what he says and leaves unsaid."
I removed my backside from the wooden fire surround that I had been leaning against and stretched as I returned to a more comfortable position.
"You've all sat here for over an hour and got absolutely bloody nowhere. You haven't even touched on the real problem yet. You're all looking in the wrong direction," I said.
"Can you explain about the bruises on Ryan's backside? That's the matter we are here to discuss," the care worker interrupted.
"Hang on a minute. You're not dropping the blame for that in my bloody house. Take it back where it belongs, in your bloody centre, and that's not the matter to be discussed anyway. If that's what you believe, you shouldn't be here," I stated. I turned my attention back to the rest of the officials.
"Now where was I, before I was so rudely interrupted." Tracey smiled at me putting the care worker in her place.
"Just start at the beginning, is Ryan at risk?" she said.
I came straight to the point. "Yes, he is. He has not been physically cruel treated, although there have been two very close calls. Far too close. I hope you're all listening very carefully and are all able to read between the lines."
"There are many ways of being cruel, not only physical, there is also mental cruelty and various other ways of being cruel. He is not being physically cruel treated. I hope you all understand what I'm trying not to say," I said.
Tina was sat in the corner of the room in a world of her own. She could clearly hear everything that was being said and yet seemed totally immune to what was going on.
"Ryan is not a problem child. He is a child with a problem and you're all too blind to see it. Tina considers Ryan to be a problem. To put it in a nut-shell, she is the problem, not him. He's not a nut case, like she says he is, she is!" I said.
"What did you mean when you said there had been two close calls?" Tracey asked.
"I knew it would be you who asked that."
"Twice I have found it necessary to jump to his rescue. The first time was a few months ago when Ryan was sat in here crying. There was nothing physically wrong with him. Just read between the lines here," I said, but thought I had better spell it all out for them.
"He was just sat here, as good as gold. Tina had been cutting up some potatoes in the kitchen and still had the knife in her hand when she came in to Ryan. She frightened the pissing life out of him and children don't rattle when they're shook, they cry," I said.
"I was forced to remove the knife from her and told her if she ever held a knife to him again I would break her sodding arm. The other occasion was just was just a few days ago when Ryan and Shayne had both got ready for a bath. Ryan started crying as soon as he was placed into the bath and I know a cry of being hurt when I hear one," I said.
"I ran upstairs, put my hand in the bath and pulled him out. The water wasn't hot enough to scold him but it was definitely too hot for a child of that age. I accepted it to be a genuine mistake but I have my doubts," I explained.
"Oh, I nearly forgot, she later dangled him over the top of the stairs by his ankle. Hanging him upside down, threatening to drop him if he didn't stop crying. I could do nothing but watch the fear in his face," I said.
"And what about Shayne?" The care worker asked.
"You can bloody leave him out of it. This has nothing to do with him," I stated.
"Is he also at risk?" she asked. I fully understood what she was up to. Tracey smiled, aware of what I was likely to say.
"The small fact that she is still alive and able to use all her limbs should answer that. No. He is not at risk! You can keep him out of this," I stated.
The other social worker, a male colleague of Tracey's spoke up for the first time, "I would suggest that if this woman is as bad as what you're indicating, with what you're saying, then both children are at risk for as long as she is living here."
I didn't need to hear any more. I understood exactly what the man was saying. "Pack your bags," I said to Tina, "You're leaving."
Tina started crying and blaming Ryan for all the trouble. The volatile cocktail was out of control again and going hysterical. I felt like going over and slapping her face to calm her down, but thought better of it. Tracey turned to her colleague and had a quick and quiet word.
"We don't really think it's a good idea that Tina leave here, just yet. You obviously try to give her a lot of support. We think it would be much better for Ryan if you let them stay here. You obviously care enough about them, Ryan in particular. We feel the need for some sort of supervision a must," Tracey said.
"We want Ryan to continue at the day centre so we can keep an eye on him. We understand why you don't want Shayne to continue there. We would really like both lads to attend as it would give Tina and you a break," Tracey suggested.
"Two things," I said, "Firstly, Shayne is not going to any `at risk' day care centre and second, he does not go on any register. He is not at risk!" Tracey looked at her colleague who nodded in agreement.
"I think we can live with that," Tracey suggested.
The doctor announced he would arrange for a psychiatric analysis and numerous other suggestions were put forward. Generally the room was left feeling very stunned by what had been uncovered. The meeting was clearly at an end. They all sat waiting for a second cup of coffee.
I looked at all the vacant faces. "Is that it then?" I asked. Tracey could see Tina was still very upset.
"I think there is one question yet to be answered. Where are Tina and Ryan staying?" Tracey asked.
"Will you keep Shayne's name off your register?" The answer to their question was dependent on the answer to mine!
"We will," she replied.
"Fair enough. She can stay... You lot can pissoff."
The relationship with Tina didn't last. In reality I felt I was putting Shayne at some risk by having Tina in the house. Shayne had to come First and Foremost. Tina did not improve to any great extent and I did not believe that the social services would leave my son out of all the mess. I knew that even in the unlikely event that they had told me the truth, it would be only a matter of time before they also added my son to the `at risk register'. Tina had to go, which proved easier said than done. She was like a bull terrier, she just wouldn't let go. Eventually she found some other fool and moved out of the area altogether. Social services were hot on her tail, Ryan was safe!
Shayne was sad to lose the woman he called mom, likewise Ryan was sad to lose the man he called dad. Tina was happy with the new man in her life and I was glad that I had been able to save Ryan from a life of suffering. I was glad the whole lot was over. I could settle back down to a normal life with my son, or could I?
The date for the final custody hearing had been set for mid December 1989. I woke up earlier than usual on the big day and woke Shayne up at 7.00am, later than usual for Shayne. Beverley had agreed to look after Shayne for the morning. I bathed and dressed my son. I couldn't bear to think this may be the last time I would be able to do this. I gave my son his breakfast and had a coffee myself. I wore my grey suit, ready for the fight of my life. I walked the few miles from Sheldon to my sisters house in Chelmsley Wood. Shayne was warm and dry in his pushchair while I walked in the pouring rain with only one purpose in mind.
The journey to Chelmsley Wood took me passed many of the places I used to hide as a child after running away from home. My whole childhood seemed to go through my mind. Walking passed one house where people were preparing to attend a funeral brought back the memories of my own suicide attempts and of my sister, Michele, who had lost her fight for survival at just twenty one years old. I was not the only member of my family to suffer at the hands of my mother!
Michele had been mentally and physically handicapped all her life but she did not escape the physical and mental torture. At times she was deprived of food for so long that she would eat the raw potato peelings from the bin. On a few occasions even ate the dogs food, she was so hungry. Laurence and Beverley also suffered. I recalled the time when Laurence had dropped his dish of rice pudding on the floor and scrapped it back into the dish. It was covered in dog hair. My mother made him sit and eat it while he choked and heaved and removed hair continuously from his mouth. Laurence and I once stood side by side in sheer terror, waiting to be burned. My mother often put the money in the cutlery drawer in the kitchen to pay the milkman. One Friday night she sent my brother to the shop to fetch her ten cigarettes and used the money from the drawer. When the milkman called for his money, she could not pay him and accused her sons of stealing the money. She sat at the table smoking her cigarettes while we screamed in pain as our dad burned our hands over the flames of the gas cooker.
The journey into the past continued, passed Whitesmore School where I arrived daily covered in blood, passed the river where I was found floating by a couple of kids after taking an overdose of tablets and passed the sewerage pipe where I used to hide at night with rats for company, passed the woods that were so familiar to finally arrive at my sisters house.
The court hearing took only a few minutes. The judge sat with a huge pile of papers before him. The room was silent. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest. This was the most important day of my life.
I had never had any real ambitions before, unless a constant wish to die was an ambition. The birth of my son gave me, "A Reason for Living" and an ambition; "For me to be a caring, successful and loving parent, to rear my son to the very best of my abilities and to see he never has to experience the sort of life I have experienced."
The man sat in front of me had the power to destroy everything. The judge looked up, his face was wrinkled, stern and cold-looking with emotionless eyes.
"Where is the mother of this child?" he asked. Tracey's solicitor was present, while Tracey was absent from the Court room.
The judge awarded me full custody of my son, Shayne. My fear finally removed, I could breathe again. Tracey was awarded reasonable access, December 1989. The access lasted just two months before it collapsed!
It was two years later before Shayne asked about his mother. It was something I had expected, but not so soon. No matter how hard I tried, I found it impossible to explain to him, in a way that he could understand that his mother walked out when he was only ten weeks old.
'How does a child of three relate to time? What does ten weeks mean to a child of that age? What does three years mean to a child of three years?' I thought.
I tried to explain in the best way I could but it was not enough. My son wanted to see his mother and who was I to say no? My son had to learn a lesson, the hard way. I took him to his mothers flat, without warning to her or explanation to my son and knocked the door of the flat. Tracey looked at us standing on her doorstep, obviously shocked by our sudden appearance.
"Who's this?" she asked.
"It's Shayne," I said with some contempt in my voice. She picked him up and almost squeezed to life out of him.
"Hello Shayne, I'm Tracey, your mom." Shayne started crying hysterically and he came running over to me.
"Me wan' go 'ome, me wan' go 'ome," he cried. I sat him on my lap.
"It's all right son. This is your mother. Do you want to say hello to her?" I asked softly, but hoping he didn't.
"Me wan' go 'ome, me wan' go 'ome," he cried, gripping my trousers. Tracey made some tea.
"I see you've learned how to make tea then," I said sarcastically. "Whose is this baby on the floor, eating the dogs food and wearing the floor cloth?"
Tracey picked up the crawling baby off the floor and handed it to me. I had never felt so disgusted in my life. It was difficult to tell what colour the baby grow was originally. I'd never seen them in battleship grey and black before.
"It's my baby," Tracey said, "Will you hold her for a minute?"
"Have you got any rubber gloves?" I asked. "These clothes are disgusting. My dishcloth is cleaner than these clothes. Doesn't your washing machine work, or can't you read the instructions?"
She passed me the hot drink in a well used dirty cup and handed Shayne a bottle. I started laughing, as I tipped the cup of liquid in her plant pot. "He drinks from a clean cup. He doesn't take sugar and he doesn't drink dish water and neither do I."
"Well you make it then," she snapped. "I have to give the baby her tablet and get her fed."
"What's wrong with the baby?" I asked, as Tracey started trying to get the baby to swallow the capsule she had forced into its mouth.
"She can't shit, so the doctor gave her these tablets and now she's being sick all the time," Tracey answered.
I started reading the box from the medication. I went over to the baby and stopped Tracey from putting the capsule back into the babies mouth. "Has nobody explained to you about these capsules?" I asked, rather concerned.
"Tracey, you are going to kill that baby if you continue giving these like this. You need to go back to the doctors and explain what you have been doing. These capsules are suppositories and are supposed to go up the backside."
On leaving Tracey's flat, I felt desperately in need of a bath and thought how lucky I was and how lucky my son was. We started our journey back home.
"Shayne, do you want to come back here again another day?" I asked.
Shayne grabbed me, as if I had abandoned him and started crying, "Me wan' go 'ome, me wan' go 'ome," he said in his toddlers voice.
I felt so hurt at what I had done to my son, but didn't see any choice in the matter. He had made his own decision and he really didn't need any help from me and that was probably the most important part of the whole exercise. He never asked about his mother again and completely of his own free will started denying that he had one.
He started nursery when he was four years old, the same age that I started and I remembered the first lesson my father ever taught me, the day I started school.
"Stand up on that mantle piece." My father told me, "Just climb up and stand there, this is your first lesson."
I did as my father said. I trusted him to protect me and look out for me. I stood on the mantle piece looking down at the floor, with my backside pushing me forward away from the wall until my balance was on the edge of falling. It seemed such a long way down. My father stood in front of me, his arms outstretched ready to catch me.
"Close your eyes and jump," he said. "Don't be afraid, I'll catch you."
I closed my eyes and jumped forward to my fathers open arms but went splat on the floor. My father picked me up and wiped the drop of blood from my mouth from where I'd hit it on his foot.
"Here endeth your first lesson. Never trust anyone, never take anyones word for anything and never walk around with your eyes shut!" my father explained.
Funny thing about this lesson was my reluctance to ever share it with anyone. It was so quick and easy to learn and so very difficult to forget. When I did forget, I always got hurt in some way and then I would remember my fathers first lesson.
Now it was time for me to give my son his preschool lesson. I sat him on the kitchen work surface and stood in front of him, holding him securely so that he didn't fall off!
"Talk to people with respect and learn when to listen," I said. "Listening to people is very important."
"Try to keep out of trouble and if you can't keep out of trouble learn how to run. No matter what trouble you get into, never be afraid to tell me the truth. It is important that I believe you above anyone else." I picked up my son and placed him on the floor, end of lesson.
Once Shayne started school on a full time basis I found myself at a loose end, with nothing to do, wandering from room to room, not knowing what to do. I bought myself a long wheel-based Ford Transit van and started going to a dealers auction several miles away from Birmingham. I could go there once a week and fill up the van with second hand goods for as little as a hundred pounds. Then I could resell the goods through various outlets for a considerable profit, or at times a considerable loss! On one of these trips I had returned from this auction, the van fully loaded with all sorts of junk for cleaning, repair and recycling. I had reached Birmingham and was less than three miles from home when suddenly a woman walked out from between two parked cars.
I saw something fly into the air and slammed on the brakes. The whole load shot forward from the back of the van, crushing down onto my back, pressing me up against the windscreen. My head and neck twisted and crushed by a wardrobe that came to rest on the top of my head. I turned my eyes to the road ahead. It was my mother! It was my bloody mother with her stupid white stick, pretending to be blind. It was her bloody white stick that she had stuck out into the road, like a set of emergency traffic lights, expecting all the traffic to come to a sudden halt.
"You bloody mental bastard," I yelled, as I tried to shove the wardrobe back into the rear of the van from the top of my head.
I watched as she tapped her way across the road then folded her stick and walked merrily down the road. Her sight was deteriorating but there was absolutely no need for this pathetic and idiotic sympathy act. It would have been a genuine accident, the chance of a lifetime and I bloody missed it. I cursed and swore all the way home.
Several hours later, I telephoned my sister and told her what had happened. My sister started saying she would leave my mothers body to science so that someone could try and find out why she was insane and that her organs should be donated for experimental research.
"I have some bad news for you. You can't leave mothers body to science," I said to my sister.
"Why not? It would save some animal from the experiments," she said.
"Don't be bloody stupid," I told her. "We couldn't allow all the evil loose into the world. The consequences don't bear thinking about, an animal running around with part of her brain or with the heart or lungs. I will not allow that evil to survive in any other life form."
"So, what are we going to do?" Beverley asked. "You know she carries a donor card, don't you? So her organs would be donated without our say-so."
"No. They can't. They obtain the permission of the next of kin. Think about it Bev, mom and dad are now divorced, neither of them have remarried. I am the next of kin to both of them and what happens to them is down to me," I said.
"I do forgive dad for the bad things he has done and his wishes will be honoured. As for mother, if I lived to be a hundred years old, I could never forgive her for all she has done and the pain we have suffered. I have never, in my entire life, known or heard of anyone in the world as evil as her. I could not take the risk of all that evil being donated to some other living being."
"I won't go to her funeral anyway," Bev announced.
"You will, for the same reason I will, just to be sure she is dead. I will seal the box myself. I would like to see it dropped into an active volcano, the chimney pot to hell, but in any event she is going to hell. . . And may God have mercy on her soul."
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