Extracts - Inceptus

An excerpt from Inceptus


Looking back on how things had turned out for me everything had gone pear- shaped from me being about 12 years old. Up until that one day in March my life had been much the same as any other child my age. My parents were hard working, supportive and unfailingly kind in all their dealings with others. They were from working class backgrounds and had never had a particularly hard time but nothing was that easy or lucky. My father always said that you only get out of life what you put in and that there is no get rich quick route. It was certainly true in their case but after many years of hard work they finally saved enough to buy their first car and in some ways that was the beginning of the end.
            The day had started normally with me getting the bus to school just after eight in the morning. It was a cold day so the windows were rather steamed up and I had cleaned a patch with my jacket sleeve so that I could see outside. My mother had always encouraged me to be observant and occasionally admonished me for not noticing things on the five mile journey. There was nothing else in my head except for the timetable of the coming day and whether I’d completed my homework successfully. I was diligent about completing homework because I hated having to repeat work as psychologically it was the worst of punishments for me. Other lads on the bus were trying to write and complete tasks but I couldn’t believe that the teachers would not be aware of work that had been completed properly or on the vibrating conveyance that transported us to school. I was always glad to help friends particularly with Maths that I found easily accessible. It was that which had led me to a later maths degree and accountancy qualifications. Even so I had plenty of friends and enjoyed sport of many types but in March it was football and I played for the school team. I was never considered a geek because of that but in many ways I was really quite geekish.
            There was no difference between this day and any other when I set off and the morning lessons were as they should be without any surprises or undue stresses although the Geography teacher was a bit hard on our self-confessed class fool. Lunchtime was the usually rapidly consumed tasteless fayre and then outside for a kick around before the afternoon of learning re-commenced. It was quite a shock for me when one of the prefects, a favoured sixth former, called me away from the game in which I was involved to tell me that the deputy head wanted to speak to me urgently.
            I was worried immediately because when you had to see Norman, his name was Norman Moss; it was inevitably bad news and usually involved punishment of some type. I just couldn’t think that I’d done anything to deserve his attention. The deputy head’s office was in a short corridor along with that of the head, the staffroom and the admin suite. There were chairs for visitors to sit on while they waited but on this occasion there was no one in the corridor and Norman Moss’ room door was stood wide open.
“Come in Patrick,” instructed the deputy kindly which was unusual. Normally boys were addressed by their surnames. “Close the door.”
            I did as I was asked but then became aware that Moss was not alone. My class teacher, Mrs Skews was there also and looked rather flushed in the face.
“Sit down please Patrick,” asked Mr Moss quietly.
            Now I was worried because children were always stood in front of the large desk as a rule and awaited their chastisement head down and hands behind backs. I took a chair opposite the deputy and beside my middle-aged female teacher. I just did not understand what was happening but the feeling of foreboding was building within me. The two adults were not angry in anyway and I still hadn’t come up with anything that I thought I may have done wrong.
“Patrick,” began Mr Moss with a sigh. “There is no easy way to tell you this.”
            He’d stopped again and was looking down at a pen he was fiddling with between his large, red hands. Norman had been a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Royal Marines during World War II a fact of which he was rightly proud but today he just seemed to be an old man.
“There’s been an accident,” he went on. “A car accident and unfortunately your mum and dad were involved.”
            He paused and looked at me for the first time since I’d sat down but his eyes seemed more rheumy than usual and Mrs Skews sniffed slightly and dabbed at her nose with a handkerchief. I didn’t know whether they were waiting for me to say something but I seemed to have lost the power of speech. Looking back all I could remember were the words ‘There’s been an accident’ and they whirled round and round inside my head. Norman Moss seemed to have given up and had gone back to contemplating his biro.
“Patrick I’m really sorry,” began my class teacher in the local accent. “Your Mam and Dad have been killed.”
            That was the end of conversation for quite a while or so it seemed. I was dimly aware that my teacher was sobbing quietly and the deputy was somewhere off in his own world. I just felt alone. I had no mind for practicalities, how many twelve year olds do, but my mouth wouldn’t work and I wasn’t even thinking about what all this meant. I became aware that the old man opposite me was speaking.
“Your Uncle Jack is coming to take you home with him,” Moss informed me. “You can wait in here until he arrives. Mrs Skews will wait with you”
            So that was it as far as Norman Moss was concerned and he rose and left the small neat little office. Mrs Skews stood and walked to the window that looked out over the playing fields that was still occupied judging from the shouts, laughter and general noise of children playing. I really was alone even in this place full of people. At that point I hadn’t spoken and I don’t remember saying anything for the rest of that day.
            Uncle Jack was Mum’s eldest brother and was retired. He’d been a long distance wagon driver but retired at the then mandatory age of sixty-five and after a few short months together his wife had died and so he now lived alone. He still did the occasional driving job as he was quite fit but wasn’t working that day. I always felt that he looked older than his years, although his hair was still quite thick and only had a few streaks of grey amongst the very dark strands, but he tended to stoop and was quite gaunt looking. His face was quite wrinkled and would probably become more so as a result of parenthood being thrust upon him at sixty six years of age. They’d never had children themselves.
            I heard voices in the corridor and without really being aware of the process I was soon sat in the front of my uncle’s old car and heading towards his house, what had become my new home. The journey only took ten minutes or so but not a word was spoken, even when we got inside and he made a drink, nothing was said.  What could anyone say that had any meaning? When any human is permanently snatched from their ‘normal’ situation there are no words to give comfort that don’t seem like crass platitudes.
            There were practicalities that had to be gone through but to a twelve year old the concepts involved were unfathomable. Suffice it to say that my old home was cleared and my belongings moved into Uncle Jack’s, and I think he raised a fair amount from selling various items because later when the time came there was no difficulty with tuition fees at university.
            I am sure that for the three years I was with my Uncle I wasn’t easy. The whole of my life seemed to be centred round one emotion – anger! At school I was a constant source and centre of trouble, resulting in many visits to school from Uncle Jack and a whole range of punishments. It may have been that added stress that I was putting him under that resulted in his stroke. Even at home if I was not yelling I was moping and sullen, some of the behaviours were just down to the usual teenage traumas, but others came from that coiled beast gnawing away at my insides. The worst part was that it wasn’t me and subconsciously I was aware of that but helpless to control and eventually tame the devil within.
            Not being dim I had enough common sense to back off from getting expelled but only just, these were traumatic and formative years. Towards the end of my fourteenth year I believed that I had quietened somewhat but nothing positive just more sullen and less overtly aggressive. Unfortunately, by then the die was cast for Uncle Jack.
            Another day at school, another call to the head teacher’s and more long faces but this time there was a person from social services, local government mafia, in place to ensure the stupidest rules created by man could be put into practise. I don’t remember her name but she was to be a central point of reference for me for some time. This time it wasn’t Norman Moss, he’d retired as had the head, they just all seemed like grey people to me, no relationships, rule followers frightened of stepping into humanity.
“Your Uncle died in an accident at home this morning Patrick. I’m really sorry,” stated the head.
“We’ve arranged for you to go and live with a family not far from here…..,” the social services woman’s voice drifted over my head as the shock of losing my nearest relative hit me for the second time in my short life.
            The details were sketchy – the authorities believed that my Uncle had a stroke, fell pushing the armchair against the lighted gas fire, and died from smoke inhalation from the ensuing conflagration. This was to be confirmed a couple of weeks later at an inquest and after a post mortem. I was there escorted by a couple who were introduced as the wardens of a local authority home and who were confirmed as my legal guardians. I was a stranger to the machinations of authorities but my overall lasting impression was ‘have rules will follow blindly’.
            Looking back I had never had the opportunity to grieve properly, there was no tearfully anguished stage, I’d just cut to anger immediately and although I had been coming round from the lack of tenderness in my life, I’d plunged deeper into negative aggression when Uncle Jack had died. Those to suffer at my hands were the bullies in the home in which I’d been billeted. Not that I didn’t take some beatings because I wasn’t the biggest teenager in the world but I never stopped fighting and wouldn’t give up. That scared my adversaries they couldn’t understand why when I was hurting I just didn’t stop but the answer was simple – I didn’t care. I’d been loved dearly by my mum and dad; loved generously but distantly by my Uncle; but, loved not at all since his death. What did I have to care about?
            Listening to the submissions by various people at the inquest a policeman stated that the house had been broken into on the day of the fire. When asked if that fact could have brought about my Uncle’s stroke a pathologist just stated that it couldn’t be ruled out. Death by misadventure was the verdict and the police were still investigating. I remember that part of the process remarkably clearly and so later when a young man of eighteen years was sentenced to twenty four months for burglary my interest was heightened.
            I muddled my way through school for another few months, and was shifted once to a different home, in the intervening time between my uncle’s murderer being jailed and my fifteenth birthday.  Six months later, much to my annoyance, he was released on probation. One of the things I’d learned from growing up in authority homes was that revenge is a dish best served cold. It had happened on more than one occasion that I’d sneaked into a bigger boy’s room at night and dealt some severe damage after a previous altercation during which I’d come off worse. So following up on this burglar was not going to be a problem.