This was put together as a model of the monologue form with inflections towards Scots dialect for Higher English students. The title was borrowed- stolen to be honest- from a popular piece of young adult fiction by Anthony McGowan that was very popular with students in the school I teach in.
The Knife That Killed Me
The knife? It was right there on the table but it wasn’t my fault. I took years to make the cut.
It was my mum you see. She wanted us to be that wee bit better than everybody else. We had the end block in the terrace, nice garden, dad always in work. Decent hard-working family in a nice wee council scheme in the country: idyllic you’d think- nestled below the Campsie hills, the cattle from the farmer’s fields would sometimes find their way into the streets and gardens. I remember my dad digging freshly deposited cow dung into the roses a few times.
You just need to be that wee bit different- a wee bit too posh, a wee bit too clever, a wee bit too Catholic a wee bit too… Take your pick mate, any excuse’ll do in these parts. Not much to do in the country you see, so recreational violence becomes the primary occupation of the weans. Fine if you’re in the right gang with plenty of mates. I spoke correctly, stuck in at school. No doubt about it, I was in the “rang gang”. Christ! When I was seven or eight I got hammered in the face by an older kid by telling him that the earth moved round the sun! I know, Galileo becomes famous for that argument, I just get a burst lip and mental trauma.
I liked the kid that did that to me; I was scared of him but I liked him. He took three of us on a patrol through the reed-beds near the old mill. I was scared of the scratchy needles that the reeds rasped on my bare arms, by the way that the ground would loop down into sudden black puddles. My hands would fly up to reassure themselves by touching the back of this boy. Half to balance myself and half for comfort. He whirled on me, told me to keep my hands to myself. He was furious with my fear, contemptuous of the softness, the weakness in the gesture.
He spoke of his plans about killing the boy with red hair: one of the kids who was that bit different. He would get the wee weirdo and hold him under one these deep puddles until he had blown his last bubble. He was like some kind of scent-hound who tracked and savaged the weak, the unfit and the broken.
No, don’t worry, the three of us came back- the red haired kid wasn’t there. As far as I know the big lad never lived out his murderous fantasy. I was amazed at his power though. I repeated his words to my parents later: “Blow his last bubble!”. I was beguiled by their blunt force. Their faces white and hanging- transfixed by the words from their son: seven years old in shorts and hair still blonde. They told me I was wrong. Where had I heard this? Don’t play with people who say things like that. Where did that boy learn to speak like that?
So there’s me in the “rang gang”. A gang of two by now. I was friends with the posh kid from the new houses that they built on the farmer’s fields. Very posh wee guy indeed, his dad was an art teacher and his mum was a social worker. Total victim material for the local young team. I remember coming off the school bus in the mist of a December evening. Everything black and grey and jaggy shadows. The line of them waiting at the top of the hill. A sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, like standing at the top of a cliff and feeling gravity trying to suck me over the edge. I saw them- the young team- split from my mate and dodged the confrontation. But they got him. I could hear the punches and cries through the grey mist. Thank God they were doing it to him and not me.
“That’s your mate they’re hittin’.” The voice of an older boy said.
The young team didn’t let up. They never got a hold of me but they broke limbs of kids from “bought hooses”, took the streets for themselves. Checkpoints and choke points on every walk to the shops. I mean boys fight, but this… to take one wee guy because he had a bit of a mouth on him and set about him in the park: a closed circle of fists and feet. To actually put him in hospital. The thought of it made me shudder.
Their interests matured into drink, glue, drugs. And then it happened- my brother started to run with them- he was young team. Run isn’t the right word because they didn’t do much of that. A distinct presence on the streets was more their thing, a kind of slouching arrogant little militia.
We shared a room and loathed breathing the same air as each other.
So, it’s the night of my graduation. My mum does this big production at the dinner table. You know fine linen table cloth, crystal wine glasses, candelabra, the best china dinner service. She’s put this together over years. The knife? Yeah, that was a wedding present you know. It must be twenty five years old, couple of years older than me. Only out the mahogany box at big events.
Anyway, the brother turns up, in slurred and smiley mood. He sees the graduation picture on top of the telly, the black gown deflated on the couch. He makes a joke about batman, but the mood soon sours. There’s a bad taste in the air. He talks, rants is more like it- he’s fluent with the crazy eloquence of the chemically enhanced. When will he get his picture on the telly? When will we bow to him like a Buddha? He passed his driving test and nobody even shook his hand. I mutter that he is tripping. He kicks the table and the clatter of china and crystal roars in my mind. All I can hear is things breaking. The knife is in my hand and its swinging…
I’m watching things now but I’m miles away. I’ve stepped off that cliff and I’m falling but I’m standing still.
Then I’m running.
Free and flowing through the night.
Away from the scatter of blood drops that sprayed the textured wallpaper. Away from the white faces and the dark circles of open mouths. I don’t remember stopping…
The brother? He’s okay, he recovered. It was just a scratch really. Defensive wound on the arm I heard.
But the knife killed me. Killed my hope, ended my dreams left me here…
I’ve never minded the smell of disinfectant, it’s sort of comforting: like the way my mum used to put a drop of it with water into a basin next to the bed if you were going to throw up. Being sick can be safe and warm sometimes.