Ex ams, prior weres, future wannabes. Oh, fuck that. The really big ones. Yes, those, rubber stamp it time. Boing! Success dash Failure. On your head and reading. Yes, wear it. Thirteen years brought to orgasmic climax in hours and minutes. Uh uh uh! Finally. Faces down with a do or die. Looks serious and worried. Because it really was the big one. Bigger besides for the rest. I’d die, because I didn’t care. But they did. They saw the point, knew the consequences. A voice at the back of my head whispered, ‘Why, why, why?’ A million times over. Really. That much. ‘What was the point?’ I wasn’t listening. I’d heard enough. Brain case head case erase.

Others. Extracurricular morons. There, from my class. People I knew wouldn’t pass, that everyone knew would fail. Morons with outrageous aspirations. Too thick to realise how stupid they really were, overextending their abilities to the kingdom of Cretiny. Was I one of those? Stupid enough not to know? That it was all a waste of time? It was. I knew that. For sure. But still a moron? And did they know? Did they all know? No, I wasn’t. I was another kind. Bin me.

Buzz, whizz. Peyoo! A whole week. Gone. With a bucket full of brains down the drain. On paper. An arm, with a hand, hosing down the ink. Filled pages full with it. Shite, from the fullness of my head! Everything. And glad to be rid of it. They could have it back, every last word and number. Finished. Made it my last day of school. Vroom vroom freedom. Eyes wide open awake. No dreams or horseshite. Close those fucking eyes! Keep them closed. Progression A to B. I needed a job. Out there, the so-called real fucking world. School was nicely nice, pretendly so. A silly world. But no one told me. The real world. No one warned me. I didn’t know. I had to find out. I found out.

Step out. The aftermath. A job. And there would be. Afterwards. He had said so. A thousand times over. ‘Think of your future, son. Think.’ Think? Yes, that, a thousand times over. And now, inside my head. A thousand times more. ‘Think, think, think.’ But I couldn’t. I hadn’t been taught to think. Picture it: someone’s head, call it mine, filled with shite and waiting. All of it crap and pointless to the man, call him me. And planted there by… call them cunts. And on the day, spewed out in words and numbers, on pages in time. Exams. That was it. That’s what happened. And why? Who cared! I’d get a job. Or he would, for me. Like he did last summer. Just for the holidays. Working with him. They fired me anyway. ‘There’s a job waiting,’ he threatened. A so-called second chance, last chance. But she intervened, said it might not be a good idea for the two of us to be working in such close proximity on a day-to-day basis. Again! I’d find my own this time. Without his help. And I would.

Eventually. Ha, ha, ha. Be that way. I was.

Two people, himandher. Sheltered and fed me through the years. But who were they? And what were they doing in myhouse? Wrong! Not this, not that, but their. Possessive as in hisandhers. And threatened to throw me out of it too. Yes him, half of they. ‘Lazy,’ he said. ‘You’re a lazy fuck. Do you know that?’ No, I didn’t, and no I wasn’t …well I didn’t think I was but he said it so it …Then all those roads with all those choices, and everyone choosing blindly, eyes closed and all that. Not me. I’d take my time. Was that so wrong? It was, because they said it was. Why? Because they said…

‘Start at the bottom and work your way up,’ he said. Worked for him, so why not me. Twenty years a clawing, how far? As far as they’d let him. And now he wished the same for me, his only son. Well, I didn’t want it. I’d dig from a pit of my own choosing. He’d get me a job though. He would. I knew that. It was an undeniable certainty.

‘Here, see the man.’ He handed me the details. Two jobs two hurdles. Jump! Falling. And not caring either. Go on, do, for just a little while. Ok, I would. Endure the hardship. Get the job and never look back. Slot and file away. A future all sewn up. Tight, with no holes. Now I did care. I was serious. I would do my best. Do your best I urged myself! ‘Do your best son,’ they’d always said. And so I did. Or so I thought I did. But they never said. Never affirmed it for me. And every time hence, bettering my best. Yes, I’d do my bester. Your bester. Yes, shut up and do it.

*

Hurdle number one. Man at the top spoke: ‘Sit down please. Open to the first page of the test booklet before you.’ Man at the top emphasised time. ‘Move on if you’re not sure you know the answer. Keep going, complete the test.’ So, how difficult could it be? ‘You’ll pass no problem’ he said. Pass what? He was sewing me up. He was.

‘First two questions are sample questions,’ he said. ‘You have one minute to do each. Begin!’

First question: two squares on either side of a balanced weighing scale. Question; which side was heavier, left or right. Good good. The answer would come from the smallest space. The one between my ears. Think! It was easy, two squares, one left one right. Find the volume of both squares. Bigger volume-heavier weight-correct answer. Easy. Now the volume of a square was.. ? A head stuffed with figures and formulae: area of a triangle, volume of a cylinder, capacity of a cube, a right angle’s perpendiculars, a left angle’s isosceles. It was all in there, locked away. But what was it? Length by breadth by … Jesus what? It didn’t matter though, there were no lengths given, no numbers to fit the equations. Jesus. No figures made my formulae worthless. A print error, that was it. I’d…

‘That’s it, time’s up. Place your pencils on the table before you.’ Yeah, right there where I’d left it! I hadn’t touched the fucking thing.

‘I’ll go through the second question first,’ he said.

Second question? I didn’t even get to answer the first. But I wasn’t interested, didn’t want to know. Then: ‘The first question is simpler again.’ I looked up. I was listening now. Intently.

‘You have your scales in front of you.’ As he had. ‘Two objects are placed on the scales, one left, one right.’ He took two books and placed one on either side. ‘So which is the heavier?’

Of course, yes. But it was too late now. It was always too late. To have been less stupid a minute previous. I looked about me. Was I the only moron there? It was difficult to tell. They all looked stupid. I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. No, I wouldn’t. For sure.

Hurdle number two. There, on a page, a million tiny triangles. Instruction: dot each one in the middle with a pencil. Tiny triangles sliding off the page and I dotted each one. Dotted the whole fucking page a thousand times over. ·Dotted the desk and more besides and still didn’t get picked. No invitation back for a preliminary interview. No letter telling me I was a moron, that I’d failed a simple test of skill involving spatial relations and other basic human functions. I was a basic human function. Nothing more. He was right. And he was wrong. I didn’t pass.

So I didn’t care again. Went back to it. Not even disappointment. Time took care of that. Brought it all up to date. Life was now. Not school, nor the day after, just me and mine. No one else’s. Mine. All fucking mine. I had the morning, turned it over and skipped the wake-up call. That was it, was. School! Done with!

But I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t. I had to go to work. Adults worked, they told me. Children went to school. I’d left school, I was now an adult. If I didn’t go to school, I went to work. Logical. Only I didn’t have a place to go. I didn’t have a place to work. I needed a job for that. I had to find a job.

I wasn’t lazy. I just didn’t want to work. I’d get around to it. Later. A year or two maybe. No more. I’d be ready then. ‘So what do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘I want to be like Daddy.e’ But I didn’t. What I wanted was stunted growth. To be left alone with my toys. Forever. Yes, that long. My playthings me, and me their plaything. Hiding in the wardrobe. Feed me, clothe me, leave me be. There. Yes, there was. always someplace else. Always. So wrong. What was? That was. Find a job, go on.

*

Interview ninety-nine I had all the names, a whole list of whatnots. Longish. I knew rejection. What would I wear? What else but… l’d make it one hundred too probably. A job, being interviewed, but not a paying one. Research specimen maybe. No. Ninety-nine heads in a room in the city somewhere comparing notes, discussing the movements of a Wayne McElvanney, interviewee, doing the rounds and making no effort whatsoever to alter one single garment of his interviewing wardrobe. It’s what made me laugh. Every time I sat down. One thought one laugh. Over and over. Do something. Change! No!

Clobber. And if not that then naked. Except for the tie of course. Best bib and tucker. Most important, meant you took it seriously, that you respected the process. That’s what they said in school, it’s what the career counsellor told me. That was all he told me. It said a lot, the tie. Much more than that cunt ever did. Counsellor. Wear one. Go on.

But I didn’t have a tie. Flowers and fruit and the one black was all he had. His dying tie. For the coffin, and the spin down to dirt. Mother’s brother’s suitcase under their bed. She’d placed it there after he’d died. Earthly possessions of a mad mucker. Some things she’d taken from his shack for posterity. The dog had the house, he had the shed, his shack. ‘Too big,’ he’d said, waving his hands, gesturing too big. Some clothes, souvenirs etc. He, him, didn’t want it under his bed. So he threw it out the window. Kicked the dog out the door. She screamed, waving her fist at him. It was only a fist, nothing more. ‘Not dead a week and you … ‘ she broke off crying. He was dead three months. It just seemed like a week. Uncle was lucky. Had he been alive, pwong! out the window with the suitcase. And the dog. He didn’t care. People, living or otherwise, objects, fragile or sturdy, made no difference to him. The suitcase stayed. The dog went. Eventually. She was like that. Had it in her, sometimes. Dog out, dog end.

Perfect! Light brown shirt, black pants, anorak. What else! I washed it in the sink, the anorak. Ninety-eight forays and a wash was wanted. With the kitchen floor scrubbing brush and a bar of soap. Scrub, scrub, scrub. It turned the water black. The dirt did.

I sat down. It was a friend of the family. We had one. The jobs I got were similar contacts. And now chap number ninety-nine, chump. He owned a hotel, knew Uncle when he had a brain. I had already worked my way through two jobs, numbers forty-four and seventy-three. Friends of his he’d gone to. Yes, friends! And I had compromised those friendships he told me. My behaviour, my … It was everything. Not just … Or so he said. My anorak was still damp, inside and out.
‘Was it raining?’ Ninety-Nine asked, turning toward the window. ‘Not yet,’ I said. Then more questions. One after the other. A place to hang myself from. Words would do that. What you said, how you said but never why you said. And if they delved, then they’d know. They didn’t, and they wouldn’t. So I got the job. And what about school? He never asked. Thirteen years and they didn’t want to know. Half a lifetime and it came to nothing. I got the job and not a word. Blabbering on about interests, hobbies, and bogus ambitions. I had none. Nor hobbies. No one had. They were all bogus. But you couldn’t say TV or messing with your privates. He just wasn’t interested. ‘When could I start, was I sure about the hours?’ Yes I was. ‘Unsociable hours,’ he said. Unsociable lad, I thought. He shook my hand. Dry. ‘I’ll let your mother know.’ And he would. It was raining when I got out.