A short story: ‘A beacon to us all’. 

When the angels opened the box that contained the body parts that would make Jaycee a recognisable human being, they must have been drunk. Either that or one of them had told a joke of such hilarious proportions that their concentration had wandered from the Conveyor Belt of Life, and instead of fitting Jaycee together in an acceptable fashion, they had giggled uncontrollably and thereby botched the job.

Whatever the reason, there was no doubt that with Jaycee there had been…mistakes.  

Let me put it another way.

If there was such a thing as a shop where you could buy a limp of your choice then Jaycee had, without doubt, bought the best one in the store and that’s not all. On the day Jaycee visited they must have had a promotion going, an offer that included free ugliness with every limp purchased.  

I’m sorry and all that but someone has to say it and it might as well be me, poor Jaycee was one of the most hideous looking men I had ever seen. So alarming was his visage that handsome lessons for life would have been wasted on him. Jaycee had it bad.

Someone, and I guess I’m talking God here, someone had dealt him from the bottom of the pack. However, before I’m accused of being nothing more than a cruel and heartless beast, it really ought to be pointed out that Jaycee made no efforts to help himself.

In my defence I’d like to call as my first witnesses…Jaycee’s clothes.

I’d like to call them but they can’t come. They‘re real tied up at the moment. They’re stuck to his body. This is what I mean about Jaycee not helping himself, Jaycee’s clothes had been with him for so long that they’d taken root and clung to him like a second skin. You see where I’m coming from?

Jaycee was a sorry specimen and like sorry specimens everywhere, he spent most of his waking hours as the neighbourhood target. Jaycee was there to be boffed, bashed and abused whenever it took anyone’s fancy. It was his job in life and before you raise your hands and your voice in protest, think about it. Jaycee’s lot had worth, and was not without some historical context. Why, if this had been sometime in our not to distant past, Jaycee would have worn the mantle…Village Idiot. He would have been revered for his ability to remove the stresses and strains from so-called normal life. Poor harvest? Punch Jaycee. Wife gone down with boils? Put Jaycee in the stocks. Let’s face it, before the cat was domesticated enough to kick, the likes of Jaycee were seen as a godsend and were, I truly believe, the first ever therapies. 

Although, in our PC driven society we would like to push such memories to the back of our minds, the truth of the matter is times haven’t changed that much. People like Jaycee still exist on the edge of most so-called ‘normal’ communities and are still abused in that good old, time honoured fashion that we’ve all become so familiar with.

This is how it works. 

People like Jaycee have unwritten permission to become part of the sights, sounds and smells of whatever it is that passes for everyday life. They’re allowed to wander around displaying their own particular brand of weirdness for all to see and no-one apparently, on first sight, gives a damn. They can dribble, talk to themselves and shout at their invisible companions to their hearts content. However, working on the basis that you have to draw the line somewhere, there are rules. What people like Jaycee must not do, is rock the boat 

Now… 

Rocking the boat consists of a number of what we shall refer to for the time being, as ‘no no’s’, some of the more serious I will attempt to list.

On no account will Jaycee (or the likes of), take part in…

One. The frightening of small children;  
Two. The keeping of unreasonable hours;  
Three. The consumption of alcohol in the street;  
Four. The unnecessary opening of trouser zippers…and last but not least…  
Five. The ogling of women’s breasts.  

Stick to these rules and everything’s hunky-dory. If the weirdly strange like Jaycee can fulfil their set role with the minimum of fuss and bother, then they’re tolerated and free to come and go more-or-less as they please. There is one other important issue that must not be passed over concerning the valid existence of the likes of Jaycee. The old ways still apply. In other words…Everyone Loves A Scapegoat.  

When we were kids, Fat Freddy and me would lean out of his mother’s bedroom window and wait for Jaycee to come stumbling past, which he did at four thirty every single day of the year, never late, never early, always smack on time and heading for God knows where.

Clump…drag….clump…drag.  

Me and Fat Freddy, (according to our mood at the time), would run to the window, stick out our heads and yell in unison…‘Hey…twisted man’ or even, ‘Look at the freak…look at the freak’ Thankfully, (if that’s the correct way to put it), ‘Hey twisted man’ and ‘Look at the freak…look at the freak’ was as bad as it got. At that time in our youth neither Fat Freddy or me had ever read The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so Jaycee was spared, ‘The bells…the bells’ 

Fat Freddy and me, we were evil little bastards. For what we put Jaycee through both of us should have been birched within an inch of our lives or even worse. If there was truly a God then he should have forced Fat Freddy to eat cabbage for the rest of his life and turned my anti-spot cream into cement. As it was, there was no justice heavenly or otherwise for Jaycee, life for him was a round-trip of abuse and then some. However, and I promise you that this is not an excuse, we were not the worst.  

What it was with the kids on my street and is with kids everywhere even today, is the big B. Boredom. Idle hands and all that stuff. What kids need is a hobby…and boy did they find one in our neighbourhood. You can forget train spotting or stamp collecting, for hobby come pleasurable pastime and activity read, Jaycee.

I didn’t see it and neither did Fat Freddy. What we got was the aftermath. We both missed the actual dirty deed because our attention was taken by other things, although I did and still do, hear the screams.  

At the time of the horror, Fat Freddie was studying himself in his mother’s full length mirror. While he was busy admiring the way her wedding dress highlighted his curves, I was looking on in amazement at the deftness, skill and speed with which he made his way around the room on six inch stilettos, ( a skill that would serve him well in later life-but that’s another story).
‘It’s a little tight under the arms, don’t you think?  

I wasn’t really listening, at least not to Freddy. And if I had been I would have disagreed, it fitted him perfectly. If it hadn’t been for the terrifying screams that were filtering up from the street below, I would have told Fat Freddy that he made a fine looking woman.

It was four thirty. Jaycee time.  

Odd, but on that particular occasion we had no mind to abuse him. He could have passed below that window and we couldn’t have cared less. Even little shits like us needed a break.  

The screams were terrible.  

Page BreakIn our headlong rush to get to the window, Fat Freddie’s skill with women’s shoes inexplicably left him and he fell, losing two front teeth to the corner of the bed. In normal circumstances Fat Freddy, who in those days was an out and out wimp, would have yelled the house down. As it was, something much more awful was going on outside and Fat Freddie’s pain paled into insignificance. We took up our usual positions at the window and were stunned into silence at what we saw below us.  

Jaycee was burning.  
Jaycee was a column of red fire.

I don’t know what was worse, Jaycee aflame or the group of mutant children clutching cans of lighter fuel and hair spray, who fell about laughing a few yards behind the glowing pyre.

Apart from my horror and my helpless anger, the other thing that will always stay with me was the smell. The odour of burning human flesh wafted up to our vantage point, causing me to puke violently over Fat Freddy and perhaps more seriously his mother’s wedding dress. To this day I can’t eat barbecue food.   

Amazingly Fat Freddy never said a word. I could have done it again as far as he was concerned. His total attention was fixed on the poor flaming Jaycee as he clumped…dragged…clumped down that terrible and wicked street, silent now and seemingly oblivious to what must have been searing pain. What kept him going I don’t know, but whatever it was he seemed absolutely determined to keep his mystery appointment.

Clump. Drag. Clump. 

An unknown woman clutched at her ears, drew in enough air to deprive us all of oxygen and made a sound like god knows what, then promptly fainted. Me too. This being the case I have no recollection of what happened next but was told later of Polly O’Riley’s welcomed intervention. 

Polly O’Riley owned Polly’s Bar, a lowlife establishment that I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to get into. A massive bald-headed man, sporting what I would call a circus strongman’s moustache, he kept what angry folks on the street (overheard by me and Fat Freddy), called a disorderly house, that, apart from his gigantic presence seemed to be staffed entirely by females.

The only other real information that me and Fat Freddy ever gleaned about Polly’s place came more often than not from the constant press reports and photographs of Polly himself in the Weekly News. Standing outside his premises with the Polly’s Bar neon sign blinking away in the background, Polly stood with his hands held open and his shoulders shrugged, staring wide-eyed and innocent into the camera lens. This became known as his ‘What? Me? pose’. The headline would read something like…’Owner of Bar denies Brothel accusations. Again’.

The way I understand it, Polly was in the process of cleaning out his beer pipes when he saw the action on the street. Without hesitation and pausing only to grab a pickaxe handle and a galvanised bucket full of beer slops, he ran to Jaycee’s immediate aid.  

Cracking a few heads with the hefty road implement as he went, the outraged Polly put paid to Jaycee’s illuminations by dousing him with the dregs, giving him artificial respiration and calling an ambulance. Needless to say, a different picture of Polly O’Riley appeared in the Weekly News a few days later. No longer labelled ‘Brothel Keeper on Street of Shame’, Polly O’Riley was declared…hero.

When I finally returned to the land of the living, the only thing that remained to remind me of the horror of what I’d witnessed was the impression of Jaycee’s footprints that were melted into the tar at the side of the road.

Well…all that was a long time ago. Fat Freddie’s gone and moved on to greater things and Mister Polly O’Riley died an old man but not before he admitted on his death bed to being Jaycee’s long-lost father. It should come as no surprise that, that little piece of news, freaked us all out.

As for Jaycee, he didn’t die. He’s still with us and every now and then a guilty community remembers that terrible day and gets itself together to raise funds to update his wheelchair.  

Jaycee’s motorised now. 

Me? I feel dreadful. After all these years I still feel that me and Fat Freddy were a major part of Jaycee’s fiery torture. Contributors if you will. Although the sheer shame of it drives me down and makes me physically sick, somehow, I cope. I manage. How? Easy….

Let me welcome you to Kid-o-logy Corner. This, my friends is how it’s done. This is what helps me sleep at night.

I like to think that Jaycee’s had the last laugh. Look at the facts. Me, Fat Freddy and the actual perpetrators of the wicked crime against Jaycee, all of us, we’ve grown old and soon we shall die, indeed, some of us have. None of us can escape the ravages of time and all of us are moving physically and mentally slowly downward, closer and closer towards our last resting place. Time is short.  

This is my point… 

while all around him innocent and guilty alike, sag, lean and totter, Jaycee stands (or rather sits), immune to it all. While we crumble away to dust, he’s safely encased in that tight plastic-like excuse for skin that stretches across the place where his face used to be.   

Shiny, new and untouched by time, eternally wrinkle and blemish free and able to service his complexion with a quick wipe over with a damp cloth, Jaycee has a kind of peace, a sort of security that lies within the arms of the community, a community that will love and care for him as long as their guilt lasts.  

Listen.  

While I’m rotting away in some unvisited plot on the outskirts of the city, Jaycee will be fed and watered for ever. I can see him now, pointing his wheelchair in the right direction, tapping in his co-ordinates and pressing a switch.

Can’t you hear it? Can’t you hear the whine of the solar-powered motor as it purrs softly into life? Can’t you see Jaycee as he heads off into the sunset, going where he always goes when four thirty rolls around?   

Look at him, just look at that lucky guy. 

 

end  

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