Are you clever? Do you think you’re clever? Or are you stupid, like me? I’m bottom of the class at everything. Even things we don’t do in school, like eating fast or pretending to fall over, I’m no good at any of them.
Some people say it’s because I’m lazy. Toad Norris, who used to sit the corner of the room and shout things at us, he had a neck like a lizard. We used to go into his classes and sit there for an hour being shouted at. Toad Norris said that I was ‘a lazy good-for-nothing’. Toad Norris, squatting in the corner of the classroom never taught me, or anyone else anything. That’s why he was in charge of the bottom streams. We couldn’t do anything but neither could he. Toad Norris used to call us all lazy. I could put up with that.
My dad, he used to say I was just thick. Except he didn’t say ‘just thick’. He couldn’t say that when his mouth was permanently stuffed with chips or bacon sandwiches. I knew what he meant but it sounded more like ‘jushish’. My dad left when I was about six so I don’t think it was his fault. No, I blame my mother.
Look, I know kids whose mothers shout at them, or who lock them in their rooms, or who refuse to let them have money, or go out. I think that must be pretty terrible. No, my mum didn’t do anything like that. For as long as I can remember, when I get up in the morning I would go into the kitchen and see her staring out of the window. she had a tall stool by the window. I knew what she was doing, I wouldn’t have to ask her.
I would make myself some tea and some toast and then I’d ask her if she was all right and did she want anything and she would say ‘no, love.’
And when I came home again, she would still be there.
Before my father went, when he still had a job, he would come in and find her there.
“Have you been sitting there all day?” he would yell. He would stand there, puffing out his cheeks , his arms stiff at his side and his fists clenched. She wouldn’t take any notice.
It wasn’t as if we had a view of mountains or the sea from our kitchen window. There was the back yard and a wall. Behind that were more houses, like ours. There was a tall red brick chimney sticking up behind those houses once but that’s gone now.
My mother used to sit at the window and stare up at the clouds.
“Why are you watching the clouds?” I asked her once.
“One day it will come again,” she said. “And when it does I want to see it.”
I wanted to know more, naturally. “When what comes, Mum?”
But she just put her finger to her lips.
So my mother sits and watches the clouds and waits for something. I don’t know if she means a spaceship, or an angel or a shooting star.
I care about her but who can I tell? I think she has a sister up north somewhere.