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St Nobody

I don’t believe in God.
It’s Sunday and it’s 1993. It’s summer. I’m eleven and I come out of my house and see the rabid dog is sleeping. He’s a collie but all his fur has gone, just red raw flesh. He’s sleeping, thank God. I won’t go through Reeds Road when he’s awake. I pass him as quietly as possible. I even catch myself praying a bit.
In mass they told me that god was bread but they wouldn’t let me drink his blood.
I pass the reeds of Reeds Road. Maybe they’re not reeds but they’re still stained with blood. Mr Moogan’s blood. Smithy told me it was an axe. Gravey told me it was a knife. Dad said it was fists and that I should stay away from the reeds.
I pass two McIntyre kids frying an egg on the pavement. There’s white dog crap everywhere and I can smell meat and strawberries. Nicola Reeves is sitting on a wall with her legs crossed. She’s wearing a white skirt but I don’t look at her.
I don’t believe in god.
It’s hot. It’s as hot as I’ve known it. At Amo’s shop I buy bread and ham. I buy two cans of coke and a packet of Wotsits. When I was ten a man tried to make me go into his flat with him on Paxton Road. I pass the flat and the man is there. He has one arm but he’s drunk and doesn’t see me. Come in and see my washers, he said to me that time, I’ve loads of washers. I didn’t even know what a washer was.
I pass through the arches and I see Chris’ homemade USS Enterprise model in his bedroom window. I could knock for him, tell him where I’m going, what happened, but I don’t. Chris believes in god.
When I was five my nan died. After the funeral we went back to her house and there was a buffet and coke and pickled onions in the onion-faced dish. I was sat in the living room looking at this picture of Jesus. His chest was open, his heart was right there, still but beating, blood red, redder than the reeds.
I don’t believe in god.
I push through the gap in the fence and I’m on our school field. I can smell the dirty river. There are white lines painted on the grass from sports day. Fading. I did ok. I won the javelin and the shot-put because I’m no good at running or football.
Our school looks at me, all empty and silent. I go round the back to the tarmacked playground. When I was nine I got hit full in the face there by a corky. I hurry over the playground to the hole.
I don’t believe in god.
In mass they asked me to be an altar boy but mum said I’d be no good. Once, when I couldn’t stop washing my hands, I left the tap running at home and we all went to mass. It must have been Easter because the mass went on for ages. Lights out. Candles burning. The wax dripping down on to the flimsy circles of cardboard that the candles were pushed through. When we got home the kitchen was flooded. Mum cried. I went upstairs to wash my hands.
I don’t believe in god.
I peer down into the hole. I don’t know what the hole is. It shouldn’t be there. At first I thought it was a window, like open and forgotten, but Gerard said it wasn’t a window. He said it was a hole.
I can see below our school. There’s a table, two chairs, no door, no way out. There’s a wine bottle on the table all covered in hard wax, the candle burnt right down and no good. Gerard is sitting on the floor, his head in his lap.
I don’t believe in god.
“Gerard,” I say and he looks up.
Gerard’s eyes are red. As raw as the rabid dog’s skin. As red as blood upon reeds.
I hear something moving and then I see Him in the shadows, against the wall. He looks up at me. St. Nobody.
St. Nobody’s eyes are black, not red, and his body is thin, just bone really. He’s wearing a smock. It’s dirty and stinks. He looks at me.
I don’t believe in god.
I look at St. Nobody even though I’m so scared I want to wee. I can feel my legs trembling. I want to cry like Gerard has been crying.
I don’t believe in god.
“Hurry,” says Gerard and I take a really deep breath and squeeze myself through the hole. I drop down. The floor isn’t hard like the rest of the floors in our school. It’s soft. It’s mud.
Gerard scrambles closer to me as St. Nobody comes from the shadows.
“I’m hungry,” St. Nobody says.
I toss the Wotsits, bread and ham over to him. I try not to look at his face. He has no fingers on one hand. Yesterday he told us people pray to his fingers.
I don’t believe in god.
“Thank you,” St. Nobody says. His voice is far away and distant and dead. He eats and we sit there. I hold Gerard close to me. I can hear a siren outside.
“Are they still looking for me?” Gerard asks and I nod.
“Will they find me?” Gerard asks.
“Dad will,” I say.
I never told anyone where I was going or what happened. No one. Not mum. Not dad. Not the police. Not no one at all. I just brought Gerard to the hole and He was waiting
“What time is it?” St. Nobody asks. He has orange Wotsits dust all around his mouth. Orange against the grey of his stubble. Orange in his sallow cheeks. A coke can hisses open and he downs it.
“I don’t know,” I say.
Gerard is cold. Gerard is always cold. Gerard is as cold as all the winters there have ever been but its summer and it’s hot. I feel bad I didn’t bring Gerard any Wotsits or coke or anything, even an ice pop. I doubt he’d have wanted an ice pop.
“I’m scared,” Gerard says.
Once, in mass, Gerard pointed at a statue of St. Columba and asked me if St. Columba had been a boy once but I didn’t know. Gerard was already sick then. He asked if he’d be a saint one day but I told him there was no god. There couldn’t be.
“Are you tired?” I ask Gerard and he nods.
Down in the hole it’s even hotter than outside but I can hardly bare for Gerard’s head to be on my lap. It’s ice and freezing.
I look at St. Nobody. I watch as he goes to the muddy wall and tips some coke onto his finger so it’s wet and then he pushes his finger at the wall, moves it down from up high and then up again so there’s a wide gap between the two lines. Then he dips his finger in the coke again and joins the line, top to top. A door.
I watch as St. Nobody kneels and prays. I hate seeing people pray. It’s like playing football without a ball.
I don’t believe in god.
“Come on,” St. Nobody says. His voice is old.
“I don’t want to,” I say but it’s Gerard who stands up, ice cold Gerard, ice pop Gerard and I can’t not help him so I let Gerard lean on me and we cross the room.
The door has no handle.
“I don’t want him to go,” I say.
The mud around the door looks funny. Sort of yellow now. Bright almost. A halo.
“You’ll see him soon enough,” St. Nobody says and he reaches a hand out for Gerard.
I know what he means. He means heaven.
I don’t believe in god.
Gerard takes St. Nobody’s hand but I won’t let go of him, I’m holding him tight, I’m saying stuff, swearing even though I’ve never said one swear word ever. I hit St. Nobody. He’s not bothered.
But Gerard pulls away and I fall down. It’s stupid but right then what I focus on, what I remember most, is that the bread and ham is still there, untouched, uneaten. It’s on the muddy floor. Pink ham. White bread.
I don’t believe in god.
~
“Patrick,” Gerard calls.
It’s early. It’s still 1993 and I’m still 11 but this is before Him. Not long before but enough before.
I get out of bed and put on my slippers and go out on to the landing. Gerard is there. He doesn’t look that ill. He has some colour.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“I want to go for a walk,” Gerard says.
“We can’t,” I say, “mum and dad won’t let you.”
It’s so early it’s still dark but it’s hot.
“Please,” Gerard says like he wants to play on Sensible Soccer.
We go outside and cross the road towards Reeds Road. The dog isn’t there. The reeds glisten. They look wet.
“What happens when we die?” Gerard asks. I hate that. I can’t answer that. I look at the reeds. I know they’re not really red but I can’t help thinking about Mr Moogan and what happened and his head and blood.
“We go away,” I say and Gerard’s hand tightens around mine. “We go to sleep,” I say but he’s still scared.
“I think we go to heaven,” says Gerard.
I don’t believe in god.
“I think we go through a door,” says Gerard, “I think someone comes and takes us there.”
We walk on. Amo’s shop is closed. Amo has a baby called Jesus Mohamed. Whenever I see Jesus Mohamed it feels weird. I never even knew you could call your baby Jesus.
Bakers Green is quiet. All the cars are asleep and there’s only about one bird, a sparrow or something, sitting on the wall outside the flats.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
Gerard points up Paxton Road to the arches. Through them I can just see our school gates.
“School,” he says.
It’s summer and it’s hot and I haven’t been to school for ages. Gerard hasn’t been to school all year.
When we’re under the arches I look up at the bricks. Curved bricks. I imagine Chris asleep up there, all his spaceships hanging from his ceiling.
We get to the fence and I show Gerard the gap. He’s little and thin and sick so he gets through easy but I have to squeeze through.
I don’t believe in god.
When I see the hole I think it’s a window.
“Why’s there a window there,” I say because it’s so close to the ground and so small.
“It’s a hole,” says Gerard and he starts walking over to it.
The sun is really up and it’s warmer and there are birds singing everywhere, hidden. I can hear cars on Huyton Lane just beyond the hedge.
I see the hand first. It’s reaching out of the hole. I go to grab Gerard, I shout something, tell him to stop or something but he doesn’t listen. Instead he takes the hand and lets it pull him down. I grab hold of his foot but the hand is stronger.
“You’re hurting me,” Gerard says and for a minute I think he means the hand is hurting him but then he goes, “Patrick, let go. You’re hurting me, Patrick.”
And like that I let go.
I don’t believe in god.
I’m crying. My eyes are red raw and so are Gerard’s but he’s only crying because I am.
“Are you taking Gerard away?” I ask and St. Nobody nods.
I don’t believe in god.
“When?” I ask.
Gerard is huddled in a corner. He’s cold and he’s tired. He’s always tired.
St. Nobody shrugs. “Soon,” he says.
~
It’s not 1993, it’s 1996. I don’t go to our old school anymore. Dad is always sleeping and mum is in Knotty Ash with Aunty Sue.
It’s summer and it’s hot.
I don’t believe in god.
Everyone is playing football but I’m rubbish at football. Yesterday I passed the field and it was full of Germans and Czechs. They were having a massive match, loads of them, about fifty. It was mad.
Sometimes I go for a walk. I like to get up really early but sometimes I go at night, in the middle of the night.
The dog is dead now and no one’s really bothered about what happened to Mr Moogan but everyone knows now it was Smithy’s dad that did it and now he’s out of prison no one goes near him, not even Smithy really.
The reeds are gone. They were just grass really. Mown away. Kept tidy. Amo’s shop is Mo’s shop now, that’s one letter away from Amo but Mo is nothing like Amo. Gravey told me Amo is a taxi driver now and that he bombs it, that if you ever get a ride in Amo’s taxi you’ll crap yourself.
I never see the one-armed man anymore. Chris went back to South Africa and now there’s a girl looking down at me from his window. She’s about twenty and when she sees me she smiles but I don’t smile back. I pass under the arch to our old school. I have to really breathe in to squeeze through. It’s late but there are some lads playing cricket and I can smell the dirty river. They look at me but they’re not bothered so I go round the back of our school to the tarmacked playground.
I don’t believe in god.
Father Turner told me once that god didn’t mind if you didn’t believe in him, that he understood how hard it was to believe in something these days, that God would just wait until I was ready to believe. Father Turner didn’t get it. Afterwards I did a wee against his Skoda.
I don’t believe in god.
The hole is gone. There are only bricks. I sit down against the wall where the hole was and I light a ciggy. It tastes like wood and I see a bat flying over the hedge towards the wildflowers on the other side of Huyton Lane. I look up at the dark sky. It’s really night now. There are a few stars and I smoke and I count them. I can’t count them all.
When I finish smoking I stay there. I put my ear to the wall and listen. I can only hear nothing but I don’t move. I keep listening and I tell myself if I keep listening I’ll hear Gerard, that he’ll still be there. He has to be. There’s nowhere else he could have gone to.
I don’t believe in god.

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About michaeleganpoetry

Liverpool based poet and editor. I have had four pamphlets of poetry published, most recently After Stikklestad (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010). Penned in the Margins published my first collection, Steak & Stations, in 2010.

One response to “St Nobody

  1. Alex Holt

    Magical realism? Is it an exaggeration, like Jean Winterson, but more honest? Anyway I thought you were eleven in 1991 – and that magic door – inspired, but it’s not true.

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