Whenever I write a new book, I ask a friend if I can borrow a story of theirs, something that happened to them that I then dramatize a wee bit and adapt to move my story forward.
I’m constantly surprised by how willing people are to let you hear their most personal lows and highs and basically, fuck about with them for entertainment.
For my debut novel, Bobby’s Boy, I used an experience of my own; sitting on a doorstep, neglected, day upon day. I also adapted an upsetting episode form a friend’s life. My friend had been tied to a chair and whipped, to ‘whip the gay out of him’. I dramatized this and made it worse than reality (as if reality in this case wasn’t bad enough) and thanked him over and over for trusting me with something, he hadn’t shared with his own family.
For Naebody’s Hero, I had my main character, Rob wake up to an empty house. Parents gone. this happened to a friend of mine and like Rob, he used it to become a truly good person.
My new book, Head Boy is no exception. Why make it up, when you can steal your friends stories and embellish them? One of the loveliest, funniest (and most gorgeous) people I know had relayed this particular story to me a year or so ago, mostly because we share some history and too many common incidences of being let down by parents. You know who you are. Thanks for trusting me.
In this scene from Head Boy, Stacey is patching up an injured Davie Diller. Diller hs been tortured. The pair are occasional lovers.
The following excerpt is copyright to Mark Wilson 2013
Michael Jackson and Bubbles
Hunched over, hands deep inside the sleeves of his coat for protection, Diller slipped through the school gates and made his way around to the rear of the building. Kicking the door to save him using his hands to knock, Diller sighed with relief as Stacey opened the rear door for him. He didn’t know Cardinal Newman High School very well, but Stacey’s instructions had been clear.
“Davie, what’s happened to you?” Stacey had spotted the burst nose and bruising that had already formed on his face.
Diller slipped his hands through his jacket sleeves, and held them up for her to see.
“Oh God, Davie. Get in here.”
Stacey led him to the school’s little first-aid room and clattered around in cupboards and drawers for a minute or so collecting liquids, cotton and bandages.
“Sit here” she told him. Pushing his hands into a metal bowl filed with disinfectant, she waited for him to wince but saw no reaction.
“You’re not going to tell me what happened are you?”
Diller shook his head. “I can’t, Stace.” He wiggled his fingers in the bowl silently for a second or two, enjoying the clarity of the sting.
Stacey reached out and touched his cheek in the one place that looked like it wouldn’t hurt. Come on. Let’s get this cleaned up.”
Carefully disinfecting each of his nail-less fingertips, the cuts on his nose and cheek, Stacey then began applying ointment and bandages to each of his fingers. Davie stood up. “Just plasters on the finger-tips please, Stacey. I need to use my hands.”
“You need to keep these clean, Davie. I’m using bandages. Band-Aids are no good.”
Diller held her hand lightly. “Please, Stacey, just the plasters.”
Looking miffed, Stacey did as he asked despite her annoyance. Retrieving a big box marked ‘Multi-coloured Band-Aids.’, she proceeded to place a different coloured plaster on each of his damaged fingertips. “Blue, pink, yellow and purple. There ye’ go, tough-guy. MJ lives.”
Diller did a short Moonwalk in reply, making her laugh.
“Seriously, Davie, you should go to the hospital.”
Ignoring her remark, Diller put his arms around her and pulled her in close. “Thank you.”
Shrugging him off, Stacey told him “Don’t be getting all lovey with me, son. Friends with benefits, that’s what we agreed.” She was grinning.
“Aye, and some benefits they are.” Diller laughed.
“You had better be going home, Davie?”
An icy-seriousness slid over Diller’s face. Na. I’ve got people to meet at Angel’s.”
Stacey shook her head. “Go on then. Off ye’ go.”
Diller turned to leave but halted as Stacey took a firm grasp of his forearm.
“Hang on a minute, Davie.”
Diller sat back down, nodding his head in a gesture that conveyed, go on then. Stacey sighed and sat next to him, taking him by the arms again, avoiding his hands.
Staring out the little window in her office, she looked sad for a moment before talking.
“Do you remember ma Mum, Davie?”
He did, she’d been a big MILF in her younger years, in all honesty Davie would probably still fire into her, just for the novelty; she was still a good looking woman.
“Aye.” He said.
“Well, you’ll remember the state she used to get into, with the drink….and the drugs?” Stacey looked into his eyes, her own eyes, quivering and misting a little as she dredged up rusted memories that were perhaps better left lying to rot.
“Aye.” Diller said softly. “I remember.”
Stacey shifted her damp eyes back to the widow, giving Diller her profile.
“One Christmas, Mum bought me this bike; my first bike. I was probably five years old. It was beautiful.” She smiled at the memory for a second and then turned stone-faced.
“I played with it all day long on Christmas day, this beautiful pink bike, with tassels on the handles and clean, white pedals. I loved it. Mum made me stay in the house with it, we had a long hallway, so I didn’t mind…not really.” She smiled sadly at the thought of herself happily coasting up and down her Mum’s flat’s hallway.
“I went to bed happier than I could ever remember being. I felt surrounded by love that night; that was a rare feeling for me then, in those days. I thought that only someone who really, really loved you could put such thought into finding such a perfect present for you; that’s what I fell asleep thinking. How loved I was.” Stacey smiled again, a sadder smile this time.
“When I woke up the next morning, the pedals were off of my bike. I asked my Mum why and she told me that the bike, my bike, was faulty and that she’d send it back to the catalogue the next day for a better one, one that wasn’t broken. It would be back in a few days; she promised. I watched her take my beautiful bike away and planked myself on the window sill, remember those big windows in the flat?”
“Well, I sat there every day at eleven o’clock, when the post came, waiting for my new bike to come. I sat there every day, Davie. Day after day, she’d tell me, I’m sure that it’ll be here tomorrow, hen. Just wait and see. After six months I finally figured out, that she’d sent it back and gotten a refund; for money for drink.”
Stacey turned back to look into Diller’s eyes. Hers were no longer moist, they were steel.
“I got that bike for one day and spent dozens of days afterwards deluded, waiting desperately for it to come back. Who does that to their children, Davie?”
“I know, Stace. It’s shite.” Diller put a hand over hers, the one that still rested on his arm. He didn’t like this kind of closeness with anyone, it reminded him of holding Paul’s hand. No don’t go there.
Stacey shrugged him off and took his face in both of her hands. “That’s what you’re like, Davie. You give a little of yourself and you take it away before anyone can love it too much. You’re a fucking Indian-Giver with your affection.” Stacey laughed at this, then turned serious again.
“You need to sort yerself out, Davie.”
Diller looked away from her piercing eyes. “I thought you were happy with just a wee shag now and again, Stacey.”
She burst out laughing. “I don’t want to marry you ya’ arsehole; I just want you to let me be your friend.”
She reached out to his face again and rested her palm against his cheek. “You need to let somebody love you, Davie….. As a friend.”
Diller stood up from the table they’d been sitting on and pulled his zips up tight, closing his coat.
“Wouldn’t know how. I’ll see ye’ later, hen.”
“Go on then.” Stacey nodded at the door and watched him leave.
Head Boy will be published by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, late July, 2013