Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Short story: You raise me up

I've been meaning to write this short story for a while, but never quite got round to it. A 4am jet-lagged state in a Dallas hotel did the trick. It features Mary Carmichael, a main character in my novel Saving Siobhan, and her sidekick, Jacob.

Norm, this one is for you.

You raise me up

‘For god’s sake, Jacob, will you stop humming that tune,’ Mary said.

‘It’s Westlife,’ Jacob replied, as if it that was all the justification needed for humming the same tune for more than two hours. He drummed his fingers on his knees.

‘I know it’s bloody Westlife! Can we change the channel?’

‘Westlife are the greatest!’

‘Westlife are mental cruelty!’

It was approaching one o’clock in the morning. They were parked on a quiet residential road bathed in orange streetlight. The house that they were observing had been in darkness for the past two hours. On several occasions, over the preceding couple of months, Mrs Kovac and her three young children had been subjected to taunts and attacks by a small gang of local youths, who for reasons known only to themselves had taken a hostile dislike to the Bosnian family. The local guards seemed powerless to do anything without material evidence, and by the time they arrived the youths had scarpered. In desperation she had turned to Mary Carmichael for help.

‘Westlife are number one!’

‘Yes, because bonkers people like you and impressionable young girls buy their bloody songs.’ She turned in her seat to stare over at him.

‘I’m not bonkers. I’m special.’

‘We’re all special.’

‘I’m special and you’ve got no legs. Look!’ Jacob pointed at three youths approaching the house, dressed in jeans and hoodies, their hoods pulled up obscuring their faces.

The first egg hit an upstairs window, the second the front door. The youths were laughing and joking, shouting taunts as they off-loaded their supply of ammunition.

Mary already had the camera up to her eye, taking photos, zooming in, hoping for a shot that would identify the attackers.

‘Mrs C?’ Jacob prompted, reaching for the door handle.

‘No, no. We stay in the car and take pictures. Not that I have a choice,’ Mary replied. Her wheelchair was on the seat behind her. By the time Jacob had retrieved it, and she had transferred into it, the youths would be long gone.

‘I could stop them.’ He stared over at her.

‘I know you could,’ she said, raising the camera back to her eye. ‘But you’re not going to. We don’t want to stop them. We want to catch them.’

Their cache of eggs exhausted, one of the youths extracted a can of spray paint from his hoodie and scrawled something on the wall. The three of them stood back to admire their statement: ‘Go home pakis’.

‘Jesus,’ Mary muttered. ‘I guess by definition they’re stupid, but these guys really are morons. They’ve got the wrong country, wrong culture and wrong race.’

A neighbour shouted at the youths from an upstairs window.

One of the lads took flight and darted along the pavement, the other two shouted back threats.
Before Mary could react, Jacob pushed open the door just as the youth drew alongside. The boy crashed into the door with a thud and landed sitting on his backside. Jacob was already up and out of the car.

‘Jacob! Jacob, get back in the car,’ Mary instructed. ‘Jacob! Don’t do anything stupid. Jacob, are you listening to me?’

The kid had risen to his feet, angry and embarrassed at being floored. ‘What the fuck! A fucking mongol! A mongol wearing a fucking Westlife t-shirt. You’re fucking dead, Mong.’

He’d been joined by his two friends, their hoods still up.

‘Jacob, get back in the car,’ Mary instructed.

‘Listen to your mother, Mong,’ one of the other lads said.

‘It’s not nice to throw eggs at people’s houses,’ Jacob said, pushing the car door shut.

‘It’s not nice to knock people over, you fucking Mong.’ The youth went to push Jacob, but found only thin air.

Mary had her mobile phone to her ear. ‘Grant? Grant, you’d better get over here. Jacob’s out of the car. Some kids are about to get hurt ... I’ve asked him to get back in. He won’t listen ... Just get over here!’

‘You’re fuckin’ dead, Mong.’ The lad launched himself forward, trying to save face.

Jacob ducked a shoulder, placing it into the youth’s midriff, lifting him up and letting him drop with a thud to the pavement behind him. ‘You raise me up ...’ he sang, ‘so I can stand on mountains.’

The two other lads rushed him. He stamped on the shin of one, and landed a heavy blow to the stomach of the other, then grabbed their hoods and clattered their heads together. As they moaned, folded in two, he rounded them and swept their legs away so that they landed on their prone friend. Tugging one up onto the other, he sat on their backs.

‘You raise me up ... to walk on stormy seas,’ he continued to sing.

Mary lowered the car window.

‘Jesus, Jacob. All we were trying to do was take some photos.’

‘You said you wanted to catch them. I’ve caught them.’

‘Are you lads, okay?’ Mary said loudly.

‘Fuck off.’

‘That’s what happens if you mess with Ireland’s judo champion. He won the bronze medal at the Special Olympics.’

‘He’s a fuckin’ spaz. You’re both fuckin’ dead.’

‘He isn’t a spaz and he whipped your racist asses. Perhaps you should try out for the trampoline team, Jacob?’

Jacob raised himself up and dropped down, repeating the action enthusiastically several times.

Mrs Kovac appeared in her gateway, gazing at the scene, her brow furrowed in concern.

‘That’ll do, Jacob,’ Mary warned. ‘We don’t want to bust the springs.’ Mary waved tentatively at the Bosnian woman. In the distance a siren sparked into life. She rolled her head back and let out a deep sigh, wondering how she was going to explain the situation. She doubted the police would buy the argument that she was just passing. She seemed to have been just passing an awful lot of incidents of late.

‘You raise me up ... so I can stand on mountains,’ Jacob sang happily, bumping up and down in time to the music only he could here.

‘Jacob, stop with the feckin’ Westlife.’

‘Westlife are the greatest!’

‘Westlife are mental torture. If the police ask, we were just passing, okay?’

‘Okay. You raise me up ... so I can walk on stormy seas,’ he crooned to her.

‘You’ll be walking home.’ She raised the window, but Jacob just increased the volume of his singing.


Bernadette said...

Terrific story and tribute rolled into one. Nicely done.

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Excellent story, Rob.

Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Rob. Great story, Jacob would have loved it.

Anonymous said...

Rob - What a terrific story! And it is also a wonderful tribute :-).

Paul D Brazill said...

Cracking story. Great characters.