Parents work mainly in simplifications. Ask a question and you’ll receive precisely enough information to shut you up. As you get older, the questions become more complex as do the answers. A system of gradual revelation. Television took gradual out of the equation. Somewhere in Gloucester a three-year-old watches Titanic and asks, “Daddy, what are they doing in the back of that car?” In Austin, Texas, a seven-year-old watches an episode of CSI, “Mommy, what’s auto-erotic asphyxiation?” In Brighton a ten-year-old – me – watches an episode of Quantum Leap and then asks the question, “Mum, what does rape mean?”
The accepted parental answers are: You see, when a boy loves a girl… When a boy has no one else to love… When a boy hurts a girl…
Simplifications are all parents think we can handle. Simplifications lead to me seeing Richard West hitting Stacy Nichols on the arm in a deserted stairwell; to me running into my first year class of middle-school and yelling out, “Mr. Lockley! Mr. Lockley! Richard’s raping Stacy on the staircase.”
Maybe parents do it for their own benefit too. One day I asked my mother, “Why doesn’t Dad live with us anymore?” The whole truth flashed through her eyes, her pain was synthesised into tears: one part heartbreak to two parts oblivion. I can’t imagine how she could have put that into words. My bite-sized truth for the day:
“Because he decided he didn’t love me anymore. But he still loves you boys very very much.”
For a time, that was enough.
July 28th, 1 AI (Anno Inmortuis)
I remember an interview I had with a career counsellor back in high school. He kept going on and on about me needing to decide what I wanted to do with my life. “Jobs give us fulfilment Katherine, jobs give us a purpose Katherine. You need to engage in your life more Katherine,” he said. I had like, no answer for him. Most of my friends had decided back in 9th grade, but not me. I wanted to do nothing. Looks like I got my wish.
The days are hard to keep track of. My phone died a while back, the calendars ran out and the newspapers stopped arriving. I can count the nights, but I can’t remember if this year was a leap year, or if March has 31 days or 30. Stupid things like that. Where’s Google when you need it!
It’s getting quieter here, back before the riot, our town had about 5,000 people. Now I think we’re down to 50. You’d think we’d all stay together, pooling our resources, keeping each other company, but we don’t. The only other person on my road still around is Leah Maclay. Her parents died back in October before last. Nothing restores your faith in humanity like a crisis. Everyone gets scared and their first thought is: “I must protect myself and my family.” Where do they go? To the gun store. How many people turn up at once with the same exact thought? Hundreds, maybe a thousand. So did they (a), agree to ration ammo like civilized people, or (b), shoot the hell out of each other. If you picked A, I like your optimism. If you picked B, I like your accuracy. I’m starting to see the importance of a purpose, a goal. Wake up, try to wash, find food, read, sleep. So boring. Even my 50 Shades fanfic can only entertain for so long.
A wall of video monitors stood in front of Marshall Ledbury, he leaned forward in his chair as he surveyed them all. “Standby. We are live in thirty-five seconds. Des, roll credits,” he said into his headset. He watched on a monitor as the credits ran through, making sure that all five of the cameras were in place. “Okay Kate, lights up and cue the applause.”
The house-band started to play a clean yet furious riff with intricate beats while a small crane swung a camera over the audience as they clapped and cheered, standing. Hundreds of eyes watched the intermittent glow of the applause sign, converting it to enthusiasm en masse.
“Camera one, standby,” he said, watching as a woman in her early thirties stood at the front of the studio stage. Her wavy brown hair curled under her chin, settling gently on her shoulders and neck. She quickly checked that her microphone was still clipped on to the top of her elegant white maxi-dress. She scanned the audience in front of her, her arms resting on her hips with her face projecting an impressed smile which mirrored a similar expression worn at this point on at least fifty-percent of the previous shows. She nodded her head slightly as the applause died down. The glowing sign had ceased.
Turning her attention to the camera in front of her, the woman began her routine upon Marshall’s cue. “Good evening, and welcome to Saturday Night with me, Ashley Chapman. The mayoral elections this week saw Jason Paddock take control of the capitol, after promising to cut rising fuel costs, bring in harsher punishments for criminals and reduce hospital waiting lists. He’s solved all three by personally overseeing development of the new Prius Soylent. It offers an impressive 98 MPG. That’s miles per grandmother.”
Applause and laughter. Ashley smiled back at the audience, clasping her hands together.