- Author: Jacques Kat
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Jacques Von Kat
Copyright © 2021 Jacques Von Kat
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording,
scanning, or otherwise without written permission from the
publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website,
or distribute it by any other means without permission.
Jacques Von Kat asserts the moral right to be identified as
the author of this work.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names,
characters, places and incidents portrayed in it are the work
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual
events is purely coincidental.
Cover design by: EC Editorial Cover Designs
For our parents.
In loving memory of Frankie, Wayne and Craig. Gone too soon.
I watched the world and the townsfolk pass me by from the reflections in the shop windows. This part of town was my favourite place to people-watch in my hometown of Thorne, as the façade was made entirely from reflective glass. My second-favourite location was outside the library, though I didn’t sit there often with it being opposite the police station. This spot was better, longer, and I could watch everyone via the store fronts until they vacated my line of sight.
I watched the world like this every day, though it rarely changed. The local family-run shops were dull and gloomy with their aluminium or wooden doors and faded lettering. Even the graffiti on the walls and shop shutters was black and white; the favourite line of the moment was “Thatcher is a…”
I couldn’t repeat the last word.
The town’s façade may have been dreary, but it was the inhabitants I was waiting to see. They brought colour to the world around me. Streaked hair, neon tracksuits, and khaki pants were the current styles. I’d never seen such an array of colours—some days it seemed people had stepped right off the catwalk. Folks around here followed the trends in magazines and Topof the Pops—now even men were wearing makeup. I didn’t know what that was about; you’d never catch me in blue eyeshadow.
A group of screeching mothers strolled past, pushing their even louder screaming kids, no doubt making their way to playgroup or a coffee morning. A police car passed by resembling a giant jam sandwich, and I kept my head down ’til it was gone.
My preferred spot was a battered wooden bench covered by remnants of green paint and which had a concrete frame on either side. With all the jagged reminders of who had sat here before or who was boyfriend and girlfriend, it was apparent to me that everyone who had sat on this bench before me either had a pocketknife or a marker pen in their pocket. I’d yet to include my name; I’d never had a girlfriend, or even kissed a girl.
I scratched off a lone streak of green paint with my fingernail to reveal the rest of the brown slat underneath, then picked at the tiny flecks stuck under my nail. I liked to keep my hands clean, and not only my hands; my face was also scrubbed clean every morning. I couldn’t see any excuse to be dirty if you had access to water—soap was a bonus. When I’d attended school, some kids were unkempt. I couldn’t fathom why; they had to have had water at home, surely.
I looked back to the glass windows, and my pulse quickened as I spotted a suitable candidate. I examined the man’s reflection as it sauntered by. He was average height (around five foot nine), his brown hair was permed, and he had a moustache. The man walked with his hands tucked in his jean pockets, and he leaned slightly to the left. If he had moved his hands up to his belt loops and worn a Stetson, he could have passed for an extra from a Spaghetti Western. I nicknamed him “The Texan.” I gave a name to everyone I followed. I had a nickname too: “The Mirror Man.”
The man reminded me of a gunslinger, and the sight of him brought me back to this morning’s conversation with my grandad during breakfast. He hadn’t stopped talking about Marvin Gaye being shot since it had been reported in yesterday’s paper. He liked his songs; I’d often catch him singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine. I would laugh when he couldn’t hit the notes—no one in our family was a particularly good singer, though we all loved music.
Grandad couldn’t understand what had happened to Mr Gaye. He’d only been forty-five—‘No age at all.’ His words, not mine. He said guns in America were meant to be for protection, not shooting like you were in the Wild West. I told him I was glad we didn’t have them where we lived.
Mum snapped when I muttered those words. She snapped at me a lot—and that’s when she chose to notice me at all. I didn’t know which was worse.
‘Don’t be so naïve,’ she’d told me. ‘Of course, we have guns here! What about farmers, the armed forces, and the IRA? Plus, all the antique ones from years ago.’
I didn’t know anyone with a gun (not that I knew many people), and I certainly wouldn’t have put farmers in the same category as the IRA, I knew that much.
I got up from the bench, smoothed down my clothes, and paused for a green Vauxhall Viva to pass before crossing the road to catch up with The Texan. My heartbeat thudded in my ears as I wondered if the unsuspecting man could be ‘The One’; the person to show me the way.
There had been many potential Ones, though they had all fallen at the last hurdle, plunging me