A LITTLE BIT OF PUBLICITY
Here's a little thought.
It's been suggested that I ought to put a great deal more effort into publicising my novels, all of which are available in either paperback or download, and so here I am.
The thing is, what I really, really enjoy doing is writing stuff â€“ though that's not exactly the truth.
What I love even more than that is, having written something, reading it! I like absorbing my own words and telling myself little things like â€œaren't you clever, Peterâ€ or â€œthat could have been put a bit betterâ€... Then I like moving on to something else.
So publicising something I wrote before today sort of slips to the back of my mind. I even find that sequels are easily forgotten because sequels mean revisiting an old idea, and I like new ideas.
Most of my stuff was written above five years ago when I was a sad and lonely single elderly man (happily divorced and the kids were becoming â€“ had become â€“ adult). Before, in fact, I met the angel who was to become my wife.
So I thought I'd dredge one of my titles from the abyss it may well have fallen into and present a few paragraphs for the perusal of my Gather friends (and anyone else who might choose to land on these words.)
It's called THE GENTLEMAN OF THE ROAD and it concerns the wretched life of one Kevin Stonewell, mis-brought-up by an alcoholic prostitute with very little going for her. Things happen to Kevin in the 345 pages of the book. Mostly bad things, scary things, but evil cannot last for ever...
Anyway, here's a taste of it and if you think it's worthwhile I'll provide a link so that you can get your hands on the whole glorious thing!
THE GENTLEMAN OF THE ROAD
Kevin Stonewell wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth and a tear from the corner of his eye and stared after the shrinking figures of his tormentors as they ran like giants through the gloom and round a corner, out of sight.
They had beat him up again. Of course they had. It was all part of lifeâ€™s rich pattern, but it hurt like mad and made him cry.
That was their motive, in part. They did it because it made him cry. And because he was different. And because he wore broken pebble glasses which were cheap, like everything he owned was cheap. And because he came from the scruffy terraced house at the bottom of the cul-de-sac, the one with the torn and grease-grey curtains, where everyone stank. And because it was a dull evening with fog everywhere and darkness falling and no-one could see the way he bled and cried.
It didnâ€™t matter so much, though. Heâ€™d bled before, and cried, and both dried up soon enough. Even the pain faded, not so quickly, but what the hell? Pain was nothing. Just a nagging in his flesh and round his bones and where bruises spread like melting wax from satanâ€™s candles across his scarred skin.
He looked around again. They were gone â€“ of course they were. The fact they beat him up like that didnâ€™t make them popular, though they liked to think it did. They laughed and joked about it, clapped each other bravely on the back, grinned their Cheshire-cat grins as they stomped so bravely off. But there were loads of people who despised them for it, who came up to him when they were gone and put sympathetic arms round his shoulders and muttered little homilies about how cruel the world was, and then went away because, well, he sometimes smelled of the urine that was kicked out of his bladder when the bullies beat him up.
Of course the world was a cruel place! Hadnâ€™t he been born into it, with his weak eyes and weaker mind, his twisted face, his shambling shoulders and loony gait, all the mess that was the total substance of the only things he truly owned, his body and his flesh?
And having crafted him hadnâ€™t the world scorned him? Wasnâ€™t it always like that
with things? If there was a top and a bottom to the order of this or that or the other wasnâ€™t he always at the bottom and everyone else he knew, even the scum who beat him up yesterday and today and tomorrow, werenâ€™t they always closer to the top than him?
Wasnâ€™t that the chief purpose of Destiny?
It had to be because all the rest of creation pressed savagely down on him, the good and the bad and the ugly, the cruel and the kind, that pile of humanity stretching steadily away from him, above him, squashing the life out of him with its weight. He mooched along, dragging his bad leg. It hadnâ€™t always been bad, only the past few months, and they had done it to him, had done something to the bones inside his skin
so they didnâ€™t hold his weight properly any more. Ma might have taken him to casualty, but it was half a mile away and she was drunk. But then, there were loads of things she said she might have done, but the drink and less often the drugs got in the way, closed her eyes, numbed the truth in her mind, made her open another bottle or once in a dark blue moon swallow an extravagant pill.
He didnâ€™t like to think of Ma being out of her mind like that, though she usually was, and he understood why. The world scorned her too. She wore cheap glasses with pebble lenses just like he did, she had to have used clothes from boot sales or charity shops, other peopleâ€™s sometimes smelly castoffs, she staggered about a lot and looked â€¦ different. When you were grown up like Ma was and still treated like that by the rest of the world you had every right to get drunk as often as you liked, or at least as often as you could afford it.
Ma could afford it quite often because all his uncles helped her out. She was popular with his uncles and they came ever so often, always one at the time and always for an hour, give or take a few minutes, a whole parade of them, strangers one day, uncles the next. And they always gave her money, not enough to make her half-way rich but enough for another bottle of this or jug of that from the off-licence.
They were mostly scum with yellow teeth and dull eyes, well past their prime, though one or two were different from the run of the mill predictable types. He couldnâ€™t work out why, it seemed incongruous, but Ma attracted occasionally one or two more sophisticated â€œunclesâ€, a policeman, a clergyman, once upon a time a shamble-shouldered teacher.
He didnâ€™t like his uncles, though, be they scum or otherwise. They often shouted and raged and called Ma filthy (she was most of the time, but it wasnâ€™t anything to do with them, was it?) and said she was lucky they went anywhere near her with their wallets. And sometimes they hit her, knocked her about, and even thumped him when he got too close for their comfort. But the truth of it was, and Kevin half-glimpsed it from time to time, Ma was cheap like other whores werenâ€™t, and those men, saintly or satanic, liked cheap.
And when Ma cried, which she did when they hurt her, theyâ€™d put their arms about her shoulders and hold her really tight and tell her they didnâ€™t mean it with little nibblings of her ears and promises of a bright new tomorrow in which she figured prominently, when this or that happened, a boat came in or the horses or dogs played the game like they should or their lotto numbers brought them fortunes. And her tears would dry up and sheâ€™d smile at them and believe them because she was drunk and drunkards usually believe lies.
They werenâ€™t the kind of uncles that other boys had, but then there was nothing about his life that had much to do with the lives of other boys. And it had always been like that, for as long as he could remember. He didnâ€™t even have a father, just a long- forgotten uncle who died of cancer and who Ma had said once, when she was more drunk than usual because he was only recently dead, was his father. But even if he was it didnâ€™t matter. You canâ€™t call a dead man dad or turn to a decomposing corpse for reassurance.
He came to the corner, the one that led to the street where he lived, and he paused and looked about him. It wasnâ€™t unknown for them, the gang, to be waiting there, out of sight, ready to torment him again. This time there was nobody lurking in the mists and shadows, nobody ready to put the boot in or smash a knuckle-dusted fist into his fragile face. He sighed his relief and limped on.
By the time he got home he was wet. With blood, with tears but mostly with the water that clung to the mist like dew clings on dawn-time cobwebs in the hedges that lined the morning roads, when he staggered along, going to school where he was hated.
Ma was in and drunk, slobbing on the settee, a bottle in one hand and cigarette in the other. She wasnâ€™t wearing her glasses and one of her eyes was black, but that was nothing unusual. Black eyes and Ma went together like strawberries and cream, only sour, bitter, and maybe the sticky tape that held the arms onto her glasses had come unstuck like it often did.
She looked at him but didnâ€™t see the three kinds of wetness because her eyes were blurred and her head throbbed.
â€œWhere ya bin?â€ she asked.
â€œOut,â€ he replied, quietly.
â€œOh. Then get out,â€ she replied. He knew she hadnâ€™t needed to ask where heâ€™d been and hadnâ€™t even understood his monosyllabic answer. And if heâ€™d said something like Ma, Iâ€™ve been beaten up, she would have grinned at him, or winked, or something like that and said Son, soâ€™ve I, so what?, and the sodding sadness of it all would be the empty truth behind her drunken careless words.
â€œIâ€™ve just come in, Ma,â€ he muttered.
â€œThaâ€™s nice, dearie. Now out ya go. Uncle Geraldâ€™s due anâ€™ heâ€™s a kind man wiv â€˜is wallet,â€ she slurred and lifted the bottle to her lips because of the way it anaesthetised reality, and took a long, long swig at it.
Kevin didnâ€™t like Uncle Gerald because Uncle Gerald always duffed him on the head when Ma was in the bathroom doing the mysterious things she did when uncles called. Uncle Gerald was smart, suited, not one of the scum though inside his rotten heart
Kevin knew he was the worst scum of them all. Most uncles would slip him a smallish coin and tell him to get lost, but Uncle Gerald just thumped him hard as hard and told him the Lord would take care of him. And he should know, being who and what he was, didnâ€™t he know everything about the Lord and his mysterious ways? And there was no coin, small or large, but Kevin still had to get lost.
So Kevin slipped back out of the house and into the soaking mist.
He was just in time. Uncle Gerald appeared out of the gloom, walking with a hateful arrogance towards the house, his suit grey and pressed, his collar back-to-front because he was a priest or something, though Kevin thought he shouldnâ€™t be, not a man who spent all the rotten time he did with Ma up in her room. And Kevin scuttled off, needing to get as far away as quickly as he could. He watched from the corner as Uncle Gerald disappeared into the house. He couldnâ€™t climb inside the manâ€™s head, of course, couldnâ€™t read the self-hatred that was putrefying a long-dead faith, but that didnâ€™t matter. He knew just how Uncle Gerald hated himself because Uncle Gerald hated everything under the good clean sun and showed it with the emptiness behind his eyes.
â€œThereâ€™s times,â€ Kevin muttered to himself, loud so the empty streets might hear,
â€œthereâ€™s times I know that one day, when Iâ€™m big enough to matter, Iâ€™ll change the way things are.â€
And the empty streets mocked the sorrow in his words, the drizzle ate through his
clothes, the dankness into his bones. And he coughed and spluttered because thatâ€™s what the wet made him do, and he wept because of the promise, made by him to him, that he would do it as sure as eggs are eggs, and find a better way. One day, sooner than when, because he had to.
Â© Peter Rogerson 16.07.12