A dark tale – as follow-up to super-ego monologues …
* * * *
The phrase was boringly familiar, Johnny had heard it all his life, and it shouldn’t have mattered. After all, there was a special compartment in his mind where confusing feely things were safely deposited. He never gave much thought to the contents of this compartment. The term ‘silly,’ was just that, silly, though it was most peculiar that he should encounter it again and again. Why him? Why get himself over and over into situations where his words or deeds warranted derogatory comments, even though they were meant as a joke? Don’t be silly had become an endearment. In fact, playing silly was a role he had perfected. People like to be entertained. Only on rare occasions did he feel sudden heat rising to his head, like when his boss recently pronounced in front of his colleagues, ‘Johnny, the only reason you’re still here is because every office needs a fool … for balance, as it were, ha, ha, ha.’ Heck, he told himself, stuff it away and get on with life.
And so he did. Johnny finally plucked up the courage to confess his love to Julia, a work colleague, and the girl he was smitten with. She laughed often and tended to take the sting out of snide remarks from his boss. ‘Don’t take it to heart Johnny; he’s having a bad day.’ When he made himself a cuppa, he would always ask if she wanted one too, if only to see her sweet smile. Today he acted – asked her out for a drink. Today was going to change his life. He even drank more than his regular pint of beer to fuel his courage.
The truth hit him like a sledgehammer. All she replied to his confession of undying devotion was, ‘Oh Johnny, don’t be silly.’
That instant the whole accumulated contents of compressed humiliations stirred most violently. His throat choked, his heart somersaulted. Alarms went off in his head. He rushed from the pub. On the sidewalk an elderly couple stepped aside, panic in their eyes, or was it disgust, pity even, the kind reserved for a drunk who had spoiled himself. Sod them. At the T-junction a group of youths loitered in front of a take-away. Why did he attract bullies like a magnet? ‘Hey fella, peed in your pants? Ha, ha. He walked fast, and faster. They sneered after him, ‘where ya heading, twat, home to ya mamma?
Home he went, his mama’s home, now a shrine. He hadn’t changed a thing, she’d know if he did. He wouldn’t want to upset her. She might stop looking after him. But was she, really? Was she looking after him now? Wouldn’t she want him happy and married? A little voice in him said – I don’t want to lose you to a slut.
Julia? A slut?
But of course, don’t you see, Johnny, she likes attention, she likes to flirt, she likes her drinks paid. Bet she’s got someone to pay for her services, you know what I mean, don’t you? Men are her servants, the more the better, she don’t want them too close. She’s not after washing your socks, you silly fool …
The solution came in a flash. A cool plan presented itself like a template. The next time he saw Julia he apologised for rushing from the pub. ‘Forgive me, I don’t know what came over me, I’m such a fool. I hope we are still friends.’ She’d want to make up to him. That fool business would prick her conscience. And it did.
‘It’s me who needs to apologise. You’re a decent chap, Jonny. Tell you what; let’s have another drink, this time on me.’ Johnny was well prepared. They had a most charming evening. He offered to take her home, which she rejected, and he expected …
No need to go into the gruesome story; tabloid-sales hit a new record before the week was out. People love grizzly details. If there was one message Julia took over into her next life, it was, a smile too many can have unforeseen implications.
In prison, Johnny found his moral nemesis; a follow prisoner appreciated his crime. ‘You finished what I couldn’t. You’re my hero. ’
It was Johnny’s right of passage. The first compliment he ever received. Finally he’d done something right. Did his mother approve? Johnny never found out, his action had stunned her to silence, killed her voice … though it killed the little one in need of it too …