Friday, 7 December 2012
This is a long piece. If you don’t have the time or the patience to stick with it, click on this link to Nightfalls (US) to avoid any complications.
When the invitation from Katherine Tomlinson arrived in my email, I was delighted. Being asked to participate in an anthology by someone you respect is something special and it can be a tonic to any flagging ego.
Needless to say, I told her I’d be there and, no doubt, I went around smiling for the rest of the day.
I was grateful for the time I had to write something down, too. 6 months I had. More than enough. All I had to do was to imagine the end of the world and tell a story about it. Simple.
My idea came almost immediately. I wanted to use a DJ. Have him working like it was any other normal day. Maybe let him reflect upon his life and his regrets and use his status and his radio studio to put out word that he wanted to speak to the love of his life. Someone he’d not been in touch with for far too long. Maybe make peace or find some physical comfort with the woman.
It got me thinking about what I’d want to be doing when the world came to a full stop. Sex was there. Drugs. Family togetherness and playing games. Finding a spot in nature and contemplating. Joining some big party. The final choice would definitely be a difficult one. I reckon for me, I’d go for being with my family and imagining it was Christmas day – food, celebration and love.
Then came the time when 6 months had all but passed. Katherine emailed me a reminder with a week to go to the deadline and the word-count was zero.
Sadly for me, when I got the message from Katherine it coincided with my mother falling, damaging her arm and her confidence enormously. I asked Katherine for a week’s extension and it was very kindly granted.
The Monday after I’d returned from my time seeing her, I set about the opening. It involved the DJ driving in to work. There were pros and cons about the end-of-the-world thing. There were lunatics and the frenetic out on the streets, but the roads were free of traffic and it was an easy journey.
The DJ found a name, Greene, and so the story found its title also.
I came to admire Green Day at the first time of hearing, something from Dookie as I played pool with a couple of mates in Hampstead. I even went to see them around 15 years ago and loved their energy and the fullness of their sound.
Things were coming together nicely. Another couple of visits and I’d have it polished off by the end of the week - all I needed was to decide on what was going to happen.
The idea came the next day and it was something of a U-turn. No matter, now I knew my direction it would be simple.
The next day was Thursday. The day my mum was due out of hospital. The day it would come to feel like the world really had come to an end.
I got the call in the middle of a lesson. Mum had died. I cried – couldn’t help myself. I told the children I was working with how they could use what they know, tried and stop the quiver in the voice and sent them back to their own teacher. The motor-skills group finished off and left me alone. The adults were kind to me and told me to go home, not that I had any choice. First, what I needed to do was cry my eyes out until there were no tears left to make sure that I could be safe in the car.
I arrived home. Took a hug from my wife and got into bed.
Amidst a storm of emotions was some kind of clarity – I needed to clear my decks. A promise is a promise and my story needed to be finished. Besides, I needed something to focus on. Something to latch on to in a world that just wasn’t making any sense.
I typed at the keys. The words came. Sometimes I remembered what was really going on, so I quickly buried myself back into my fiction.
The words kept coming. The story seemed to hold. I found an ending and was done.
A couple of reads through and as soon as my wife stopped writing up her work, I grabbed the chance to get on the computer to send it to Katherine.
I explained the situation. Told her that I had no faith in what I had just produced and that I wouldn’t be in any shape to edit and entrusted that job to her.
And that’s when everything seemed to fall to pieces. When a brutal numbness took over my life.
I got back to some kind of normality after the funeral.
Katherine was great. Really lovely. So lovely that she suggested that the book might be dedicated to my mum, that plain old Irish woman who hadn’t managed to make it home. I didn’t want to be selfish, but at the same time couldn’t turn down such a warm and human offer. It’s in the book now and I’m so happy that it’s there. So delighted to see my story made the grade too.
And that’s how I came to write this story. It’ll be a marker in life for as long as I’m able to hold on to such things.
In so many ways it was the end of the world. Now, I suppose, it’s time to try and turn that into a new beginning. I can begin that process by recommending that you buy this book. My mum was big on charity and Nightfalls is for a very good cause. How neatly things can sometimes fit together.