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He woke in a tiny bed-sit, a picture of his son's face falling away from his eyes like a rainbow drifting into the filthy walls. In a state of confusion he clambered into his clothes along with the three flights of stairs he managed to manouvere in massive strides, standing on the cat that scared him half to death and jolted him closer to the front door. The fear of what that hologram of his son meant drifting through my mind. The Queen Lizzy was quiet for a change the drunks and junkies were asleep or still locked up in the cells after the dawn raid. He ran to the end of the street where the kebab van parks and sat on the wall awaiting the girl to exit the phone booth. For fucks sake hurry up he told her silently, my motives losing momentum. He turned to the street and watched the creeds of the world clamber along , among them the lost and the lonely released into the community, the mad one's the real people. An old lady with a white painted face shoved a shopping trolley along the middle of the road the rush hour traffic swerving to miss her. Elvis in a sequined waistcoat posing for a shout singing Love me Tender across the street. A man in a long black coat who never speaks to anyone justs walks around with a scrunched up ball of paper in his hand wiping crayons taken from his breast pocket across the page. I met him once in the Irish cafe and like a tourist I bought him a cup of tea and asked could I have a look. Without a sound and half a smile he handed me his sketchpad while another appeared instantly from within his coat and he began drawing the scene outside the window.
Only I could see what he was drawing his back was to the view he watched him draw half a man, half a car and half a street like the aftermath of a blitz. The other ones, with crayons, he said and he took the ball of paper from his pocket and rolled it across to me on the artificial marble Formica topped table. As I unfolded the ball of paper Monets, Lillies, Van Goghs trees and Vermeer's light to me filled my eyes, I looked at him and saw in his eyes the other half of everything.
He rushed past the girl and shoved the coins in the slot my heart beating wildly like electronic codes gathering in his head, a dead tone. He took the rejected coins and shoved them home again and again only to hear the same dead tones ringing like a thumping headache, she must have changed the number, he thought as he returned to his little room. Feeling caged like an animal trying so hard to concentrate on a book that it only brought confusion. Unable to erase the sight of the picture of his son appearing like that hologram and the worrying thoughts attached to it. Your conscience is the prison of the mind, no matter how hard you try you just can't out run it, Oh how I wished at that moment that I was one of the dispossessed shuffling through life on the oblivious of any moral obligations. He thought of my father trying to run all his life from his bastard past, each one of 5 siblings six born in a different town and staying no longer than a year in each town. Belfast during the 60s and 70s being the longest we stayed anywhere then that it was probably one of the safest places in the world for him, what past would want to find you in Belfast during the nightmare of the troubles. When he gave up running from his past a secret family exploded after thirty-one years of marriage to my mother and showered down on us like emotional shrapnel, sending the family to the four winds to lick they're wounds, killing my father and devastating my mother with three strokes. He always swore he would never be like him and here he was in a fucked up town in England while everything is across the Irish Sea.He discarded the book with a vengeance into the corner of the room took his only coat from the only chair and left the still madness of the room and joined the frantic streets. It was warm summer's evening, which didn't help much as the town's grim sights clashed with the elements and his void. He called at the Asian shop and purchased a bottle of over priced wine (uncorked), without a care for paying over the odds, anything to surpress his inner lament and to awaken his mind to simpler things. He walked south of the town intent on not opening the wine until he reached his destination. Beneath a filthy old railway bridge he uncorked the wine and took a deep swig while in his mind he told the roaring train thundering overhead to fuck off. He passed the roundabout where the cars waited impatiently for their little piece of space in a mad hurry to get nowhere.
Dusk fell on reaching his destination, his space by the river, He went there often to clear his head of the modern filth. He sat by the river edge smoking and chugging the wine; a warm slight breeze blew with the river flow creating short sharp waves that gleamed with the red dye injected sky.
A treat for his eyes after the usual week of air-conditioned factories, traffic jams and everywhere the sight of built up Grey areas filled with drunks, junkies, and perverts clambering the streets in search of some temporary nirvana. That vexed feeling came fleeting back at the sight of the riverboat pumping along unnaturally like filth on the river, it's cheap coloured lights flashing and cutting the reflection of the line of trees from the far bank like a chainsaw. Idling towards the boat were a train of swans at point was a beautiful white bird followed by four black cygnets, guarding the rear was the majestic male. Pleasantly they blended with the scenery, belonging.
The bright lights of the boats exterior and the lights within clashed creating silhouette shapes from within that pranced around out of sync with the nightclub thumping beats. Mans celebration driving like a nightmare on the surpassing river.
He recalled a night he was on board that very boat, The Princess, a cruise or so he thought and pleasure trip he dreamed. One of the girls in work arranged it In anticipation he pictured the scene,relaxing on the starboard bow with a beer mellowing with the sights and the natural flow of nature passing by. Most of the people he worked with were assholes their form of chilling out after work was glued to the box in the corner that pumped garbage into their minute recesses.
He was excommunicated, he's an odd-ball, they said because he couldn't make a comment on the latest goings on in the soap operas or who scored the vital goal in the football or give my opinion on the lunatic on the news that murdered twenty seven men and women and ate their genitals He liked poetry and literature they can keep their electrified dementia, I'll stay quietly insane.
He got a beer and left the swarm of people within, He sat on the deck ready for the world's natural flow. The disco beat pumped decibels of thumping sounds through the hull, echoing tremors through the river capacity. It's no wonder it's a good river for fishing they want to be caught and have their necks smashed on the nearest rock, he was so pissed off he wanted to catch the hook pull back on it and be hauled to freedom. He was starving wanted to hear classical and let his mind wonder off to take it in then pour this experience out on paper .
He tried hs best to relax and push those stupid sounds away, just when he thought he had it sorted one of his fellow workers broke his concentration to talk shop. He had riverboat sickness, leaving the deck he returned to the madness and sat with his fellow used and the pretence of beer and whisky flowed. The booze took its toll and he was no longer in control, letting it flow with the filth of the boat on the river. As the train of swans met the boat two silhouette shapes stood on deck drinking from glasses that flashed in the moonlight, pouring their substance from the glasses down on the flock, their strict security broke in shock. He yelled at the shapes, you think it's fucking funny, ya mindless wankers. In his rage he didn't notice the swan swimming towards him bolting onto the bank honking and hissing wildly flapping it's outstretched wings. He stumbled back and ran for cover behind the trees with the echoes of laughter from the boat. He zigzagged the line of trees and by the time he reached the rivers edge again after finishing the wine it seemed the moon and stars were out for his benefit only. Mellowing in solitude pondering his circumstance watching the shadows from the far shore rippling a picture for the album of his mind, until something caught his eye. He turned to see the swans silently coming along the river edge. I was about to get up and run when I told himself stall, relax, his heart beat wildly and shook with fear like the flowing river when the majestic bird broke the water with great ease onto the bank and idled towards him.
The massive bird came strolling along the grass verge for a second we made eye contact before he lowered his head closed his eyes and braced himself. He felt the strength of it's breast as it pressed against him, it's cold beak brushed his forehead and flowed to the nape of his neck with the affection of a lovers touch and a sensation flowed through me his mind and body, a new sensation, something he had only come close to experienceing seeing his children being born. It cleared his mind of every trivial thought he ever had. he opened his eyes, left the river and returned to the town, got his gear together from the corner of the filthy room and left. On the train the he thought maybe I should leave her alone, maybe their better off without me.
On the boat crossing the rough Irish Sea political parties condemned murder in the TV lounge.
As he sipped a pint of Guinness, It's winter in N,Ireland all things are dying, the rain and the sea spray cut with the coldness of steel but he held in his hands a picture of sons, reality was pulsing with a rhythm he never wanted to lose.

Adrian Fox.