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> > > Short stories by Colin Cameron

1 February 2007

Introduction

A man faces us, wearing glasses, hand on chin

Photo of Colin Cameron

The following series of short stories and vignettes have been written from a social model perspective. With cutting humour, they exemplify the disabling attitudes that disabled people face on a daily basis.

As well as being an academic, with contributions to many disability publications, Colin Cameron has worked within Disability Arts as an arts development worker and as an artist in his own right. He was manager of Tyneside Disability Arts during the mid-1990s. After a spell as Associate Senior Lecturer in Disability Studies at Northumbria University, he was appointed manager of Lothian Coalition of Disabled People in Edinburgh.

He then established his own business as a Disability Equality Trainer & Consultant adding a Certificate in Training Practice from Leicester University to his qualifications.

His PhD research area at QMU involves the exploration & development of an Affirmative Model of Disability.

His publications include Swain, J. & Cameron, C. (1999) Unless Otherwise Stated: Discourses of Labelling & Identity in Coming Out in Corker, M. & French, S. 'Disability Discourses' (Open Uni Press) & Swain, J. French, S. & Cameron, C. (2003) 'Controversial Issues in a Disabling Society'.

Better

cartoon of Cameron freezing

Cameron Freezing. Illustration by Colin Cameron.

Tuesday morning. Second period. Ten o'clock to ten thirty-five. Maths first. Biology next. Now this. I hate Tuesday mornings. I hate Tuesday mornings. Across from the new block. Into the old block. Into the changing room. Shoes off. Tie off. Blazer off. Jumper off. Shirt off. Trousers off. Pants off.

'Pants off gentlemen.' That's what Malcolm says. 'Hasn't Ashton got a lot of hair around his cock? He's got more hair around his cock than any of us. I've hardly got any. Compared to him. But at least I've got some. Not like Pratt. I bet he hasn't got any yet. Look at him. He keeps his pants on. Underneath his shorts. Better not let Malcolm catch him like that.'

Into my shorts. Trainers. Rugby shirt. Why am I wearing a rugby shirt? I don't play rugby. I can't play rugby. I'm excused games. But not this. Last one out. Always the last one out. It takes me longer getting changed. All the others have started.

They'll be miles ahead by now. Ashton will almost be back. It's cold out here, and grey, sunless autumn. School gates. There he stands. Malcolm. Warm in his track suit. Encouraging wave and a smile. Good luck son. What does he expect? At the top of the hill now. Into Green Hill Woods. Beech trees mostly. Look, there he is now. Up ahead. Fatty Clark. I can still just see him. But I can't see any of the others. They'll be miles ahead. They'll be making the turn. Up the short path. Behind the houses on Abercrombie Road. Ashton will almost be back. And I can't even run as fast as Fatty Clark.

Tries very hard in spite of his obvious impediments. That's what Malcolm wrote. On the last report. At least I'm trying. That's the main thing. I'm making an effort. If I just keep on trying and making an effort. I'm bound to get better. I'm getting better every day. If I keep on trying and making an effort I'm bound to get better eventually. The doctors told me that if I keep on trying and making an effort then one day nobody will be able to tell.

It's freezing out here, and grey, sunless autumn. Sunken old path. Steep banks. Damp leaves everywhere. At least this bit's downhill. I wonder if the Stranglers will get to number one. No More Heroes. I'll have to get it. I can see into back gardens. See the washing on the clothes lines. See the little garden sheds. Only six weeks till we break up for Christmas. Six more weeks. Six more runs. Six more Tuesday mornings. Single biology on Tuesdays. Double biology on Fridays. Only eighteen more biology lessons. At forty minutes each. That's, that's, that's two hundred and eighty minutes of biology. That's, that's, that's four hours and forty minutes. Plus homework. What a waste of time. I can't even see Fatty Clark now.

It could all have been different. If I hadn't stepped in front of the car. If the car hadn't been going so fast. I wish I hadn't stepped in front of the car. If I keep on trying and making an effort One day I'm going to beat Fatty Clark. Every day I'm getting better.

Nicky Turner lives up there. I really fancy Nicky Turner. But she's going out with Russell. He said he French kissed her. And that she let him feel her tits. I wonder how you do French kissing. I'll see her at church on Sunday. She's getting baptised next month. It's Taylor's birthday next week. He's having a party on Friday. A disco. There'll be loads of girls there. I wonder if any will let me French kiss them. I doubt it. But you never know.

I wonder how long it will take before I am better. Really better. It's taking a long time. Three years. Three years is a long time.

I wish I could stop wanking. I really wish I could stop wanking. I haven't done it for three days now. There he is. Up ahead. He's just reached the turn. Fatty Clark's just reached the turn.

When I am better Really better. I'll catch up then. It won't be “This is Cameron and he had an accident..” It'll just be “This is Cameron.” When my knee is better. When my hand is better. When my speech is better. People won't wonder. Won't stare. Won't talk to me as if I'm stupid.

Here's the turn. Not that far to go now. Can't see Fatty Clark, though. He must have put on speed. He'll be wobbling up the hill. At least I don't wobble. I was hit by a car but at least I don't wobble. End of the short path. Behind the houses on Abercrombie road. Then back up the hill. Back up the hill. This is the difficult bit. I'll be late for biology. I'll be late for biology. I'll be last back to the changing room. And I'll take longer to get changed. I'll be late for biology as usual. And he'll have started already. And he'll ask why can't I get a move on.

And I won't know what page they're on. I hate biology. I hate Tuesday mornings. Four hours and forty minutes. And how many minutes of maths? Forty minutes of maths every day. Minus yesterday. Five days a week. Two hundred minutes of maths a week. That's, that's, that's one thousand one hundred and sixty minutes of maths. That's, that's, that's twenty hours nearly. Nearly twenty hours. And homework. What a waste of time. This hill goes on forever.

One day I'll be better. All I've got to do is keep on trying. Keep on making an effort. The doctors said so.The physiotherapists said so. The speech therapists said so

Top of the hill again. Round the corner. Back to the gates. There he is. There's Fatty Clark. There's Ashton. There's Pratt. There's Malcolm. There's the whole lot of them. Lined up by the gates. They're clapping. They're cheering. What are they clapping for? What are they cheering for? They're clapping me. They're cheering me. They've waited for me. They've waited till I've finished. They're clapping and cheering me. I know what they're saying. Tries very hard in spite of his obvious impediments. That's what they're saying. Never gives up. That's what they're saying. An example to us all. That's what they're saying. Well, fuck them. Fuck the whole lot of them. Fuck the whole fucking lot of them

It's not going to happen. I'm never going to be better. Not really better. There is never going to come a day when nobody will be able to tell. People will always be able to tell.

Fuck Fatty Clark. Fuck Ashton. Fuck Pratt. Fuck Malcolm. Fuck everybody. Fuck Tuesday mornings. Fuck maths. Fuck biology. Fuck this. Fuck trying. Fuck making an effort. Fuck better. Fuck better.

This is the way I'll always be. This is the way I'll always be. This is the way I'll always be. I know one thing. They'll not be clapping me like that again. I'll not be some plucky cripple for them to cheer at. I'll become a full-time objectionable cunt instead.

Sadie

by Colin Cameron

Sadie had only recently started attending the Disability Arts theatre project at the Terminus Road Arts Centre. She had not known what to expect when she had first come along. The name of the group - Up Yours - had seemed unnecessarily rude and confrontational. But she had always enjoyed drama at school. Everyone had said that her Servant in last year's production of Romeo and Juliet had been remarkable (considering her limitations). And this was a disabled drama group. So she had decided to give it a go.

What she had not been prepared for - the thing that really unsettled her - was that the group of people she met here seemed to be glad that they were like they were. Disability seemed not to be something of which they were ashamed, which they tried at all costs to keep hidden. They talked about barriers, and they talked about rights, and they talked about something they called the Social Model.

They were rehearsing for a cabaret show they were going to be doing in a few weeks' time. Sadie had quickly realised that all their sketches and songs were actually about disability. She had been given a part in a sketch in which she was at a bar and got angry because the accessible toilet was being used as a broom cupboard. This rather fanciable wheelchair-user called Charlie played the part of the bar manager. He did patronising and condescending very well, she thought. Until very lately disability had always been about the last thing on earth that Sadie would have wanted to talk about. She knew she was disabled. She lived every day being disabled. She didn't need reminding that she was disabled. She had to put up with the stares and the pity and the sniggers. Every time she had to talk to a stranger or someone she didn't know very well - anyone official or just someone in a shop or at a bus stop or one of her mother's friends - she could see them watching, wondering, judging.

She hated it. She hated being who she was. She hated having to live in this body that seemed to her so completely alien to the way she thought about herself. What she wanted above everything else was to be normal. And yet - and yet - what this lot at the drama group were saying seemed to make sense. The things that had happened to her - which, up until now, she had assumed had only happened because of who she was and because of what was wrong with her - seemed to have happened to them as well. The new unexpected thoughts and feelings she had been experiencing were exciting and welcome, if strange.

Anne

by Colin Cameron

“Of course I accept the Social Model of Disability”, said Anne, a Senior Lecturer in Caring Professional Studies. “ One has to accept that people with disabilities - and I do think it's important to say people with disabilities, because you have to remember that, when all's said and done, they are people, a fact I'm sometimes in danger of forgetting - have the same social rights and whatnot as the rest of us.”.

She took a nibble at her nutty crunch biscuit.

But, at the same time, I don't think that this means that we should quite throw out the Medical Model. After all, we have to accept that there will always be a need for caring professionals to look after people with disabilities and to help them to take those little steps towards normality which they're obviously quite incapable of perceiving the need to take for themselves. Now, don't try and put words into my mouth, dear, I'm not saying that I disagree with the Social Model, not for a minute… It's just that sometimes it does seem a little extreme, as if we're going too far in the opposite direction. I think that probably the best solution would be if we were to recognise that both models have validity in the appropriate contexts, and that to adopt a little bit of a Social Model perspective here and a little bit of a Medical Model perspective there would enable us all to get along happily.

She took another nibble at her nutty crunch biscuit.

"And kindly remember, dear, that I have been working with the handicapped for over thirty years now, so I think I'm entitled to say that I know what I'm talking about."

She gave her mouth a little wipe with the paper napkin.

Conventional Wisdom

by Colin Cameron

Upon being roused by the alarm at 7 o'clock Henry found himself torn from his slightly sordid dream and back once again in the world of responsibility. He sat up, rubbed his eyes and reached over to the bedside locker for his spectacles. Thursday. Yes, this was Thursday, and there was always a lot to do on Thursdays.

From various drawers and shelves he produced his nicely ironed vest, pants, socks and shirt. He found his neatly pressed trousers and blazer together with his smart blue tie hung tidily in the wardrobe. He laid all these out in an orderly fashion. His polished brown shoes were at the foot of the bed.

After a quick visit to the bathroom to wash his face and hands, roll some Sporty deodorant under his armpits, pass water and inspect the worrying boil that had recently appeared on his penis, he got dressed. He combed his thinning hair at the mirror and felt a little thrill of pride in his appearance. His aunty was waiting for him in the kitchen.

“And what will it be this morning, love?” she asked fondly. “Bran flakes?”

He cast his eyes at the headline of the local free newspaper: 76 Year Old Ron Ties The Knot At Last. It was a story about the registration of a gay civil partnership at the town hall. “What is the world coming to?” Henry asked himself.

Driving to work Henry reflected upon his enormous responsibility. As Building Superintendent of the Terminus Road Arts Centre he liked to consider himself a beacon of professional efficiency in an environment of chaos. While all around him seemed wilfully feckless and irresponsible, at least he could be counted upon to know. To know where things were, or where they should be, or where they might be. To know what to do when the heating system broke down or when the handicapped toilet became blocked again. He remembered Kipling's words: If you can keep your head…

In the car park, fumbling in his pocket for the arts centre keys, Henry looked towards the rear door of the ugly grey building. He saw one of the Thursday wheelchair people waiting to be let in.

“Why do they have to arrive so early?” he muttered. “Surely he knows that we don't open until nine thirty and it's… What! It's only a quarter past now! How long has he been waiting? And just look at the state of him! What must his carers have been thinking of, letting him out like that?” He passed the young man in the wheelchair as he went to open the door. “I suppose you know we're not open yet?”

Charlie, the young man in the wheelchair, looked at Henry. “What a tosser”, he thought. It wasn't his fault that the taxi had turned up half an hour early.

Charlie

by Colin Cameron

Back home at the end of the evening Charlie laughed. He thought of Cheryl, the manager of the Terminus Road Arts Centre, who had disturbed rehearsals this afternoon to appear in the theatre and announce the fact that she, too, was now disabled. “Yes, that's right, dears”, she had explained. “I've been told that I've got to wear glasses”. This news had been met with silence. “You see, dears”, she had continued, “We all have disabilities in one way or another, even me, so I can quite understand how you must feel”. Then she had vanished.

“Fucking obtuse, fucking ignorant, fucking…” Charlie hunted for the word but left it. What was the matter with people like her? Why couldn't they get it? What couldn't they understand? What made it difficult? People don't have disabilities. They have impairments. Disability is oppression which limits what people with impairments can do and makes them feel shit about themselves. People with impairments don't long to be cured. They just want the fucking barriers removed so they can get access to the same opportunities as everyone else. What was so hard to grasp about that? “And they say there's something wrong with us. Cheeky bastards.” Charlie rejected ideas around normality and abnormality, and preferred to think in terms of the Ideal and the Grotesque. Unless they were arseholes, nobody would describe themselves as ideal; and, even if they did, it wouldn't count because they'd be arseholes. Everybody was more or less grotesque.

Those little idiosyncrasies, weaknesses, characteristics, complaints which everybody has but which they make such a thing of keeping hidden from the public gaze - whether it's farting, belching, picking their noses, looking at their snot after blowing into hankies, or at their turds after going to the toilet, constipation, diarrhoea, memory loss, facial hair, halitosis, body odour, weak bladders, stretch marks, swollen feet, suicidal urges, foul moods, anxiety, nausea, dread, or worrying boils on the penis - leave little room for doubt that everybody is more or less grotesque. Henry was grotesque. Cheryl was grotesque. Even Sadie was no doubt grotesque, though Charlie decided he'd be quite interested in finding out more about how.

He cheerfully admitted his own grotesqueness. He transferred from his wheelchair and reached under the mattress for his copy of Mammoth Jugs. Half the pages were stuck together, but still he might manage a satisfactory wank.

The Brick

by Colin Cameron

cartoon af man sitting on a bench with a roll-up

Illustration of Alasdair by Colin Cameron

Alasdair sat on the metal bench outside the ancient town hall and smoked his roll-up. He watched all the people who passed him by: the harassed-looking young mothers with their wilful, bawling toddlers; the exhausted-looking old ladies who filled their remaining time with regret for days gone; the dejected-looking middle-aged men with whom life had been sparing in its distribution of half-decent opportunities; the bored-looking school kids who stuffed their spotty faces with large portions from polystyrene containers.

Then his gaze became fixed upon a sight all too familiar and depressing in this windy seaside town. A support worker from one of the local residential homes was out with one of her 'clients', a disabled man who sat in his wheelchair staring miserably into the distance as he waited for his 'carer' to finish her conversation with her pal. He only wanted to get back inside, into the warmth where he might be able to regain some feeling in his toes.

“So, whit's doin' at the weekend?” Alasdair heard the support worker ask her friend.

“Nothin' much,” replied the friend. “Alan's asked me to go doon the club wi' him fer the darts, but I'm no sure. He's been seein' that Kelly behind ma back, ye ken, Kelly from doon the road, the hoor.”

“Aye, she wis always a brazen little bitch,” agreed the support worker. “I've kent her since primary.”

“Well, I've got tae go,” said the friend. “I'm meetin' Paul in the bar, an' ye ken whit he's like if he's kept waitin'.”

“Paul!” laughed the support worker. “Ye're no' tellin' me ye're seein' Paul as well! I could tell ye a thing or two aboot Paul, so I could!”

“Aye, well, it'll have tae wait. I'll catch up wi' ye!” And the friend headed towards the dingy hotel across the street.

The support worker looked down unenthusiastically at the man in the wheelchair. She did not say anything to him, but resumed pushing, keeping an eye out for more acquaintances to stop and blether with. She was - Alasdair considered - probably in her mid-twenties. She wore a pair of tight jeans that emphasised the roundness of a large arse and, underneath a denim jacket, a pink T-shirt through which he could make out her nipples. Her mousy hair was tied in a pony tail. Alasdair watched her departure with a feeling in which disgust mixed with anger.

An elderly lady sat down next to him, clutching her leather handbag closely. She followed Alasdair's gaze. “It must be awful to be like that,” she said.

“Mm,” agreed Alasdair. He felt pretty sure that they were not thinking about the same person. Having finished his roll-up, Alasdair got up. He smiled at the elderly lady and crossed the road, wondering to himself how long it would be before the new greengrocer's would go out of business.

As he entered the newsagent's, the grey-haired woman behind the counter turned and regarded him with suspicion. Then she resumed her conversation with the wee balding gent in an anorak about how the town had been going downhill since all these incomers had started arriving.

Alasdair searched the counter for a copy of the Herald but could not see one in its usual space. He decided to wait. After about three minutes, the grey-haired woman said to the wee balding man, “Just a minute, Sandy...” and turned to Alasdair. “Were you wanting something?” she addressed him.

“Um,” faltered Alasdair, “I was wondering if you've got any Heralds left? Just… there don't seem to be any more copies on the counter…”

The grey-haired woman shook her head. “I'm sorry, son, I can't understand a word you're saying. What is it you're after?”

“Never mind,” said Alasdair, and left the shop. The grey-haired woman shrugged, and resumed her favourite topic.

At the bus stop outside the bar into which the support worker's pal had disappeared, there was only one other person waiting, another old lady. Alasdair considered that this was likely to mean either one of two things. Either his bus had come early - which would have been unlikely but, with the perversity of public transport, not as unlikely as to have been impossible - or there simply weren't very many people wanting this particular bus. For a Thursday lunchtime, he reflected, this would have been unusual. He thought about the matter for a minute and then decided that he would ask.

“Excuse me, please,” he addressed the old lady. “Do you know if the bus has been?”

The old lady fixed him with a look of pity. “Whit a shame,” she said. “Oor Sadie's Billy was like you. He died, of course.” She reached into one of her bulging shopping bags and produced a bar of chocolate. “Go on, son,” she said. “Take this.” Alasdair decided that he would walk.

As he progressed up the High Street his gaze was drawn, as it invariably was, to the sign above the charity shop window. “Caring for the Sick and Handicapped of all ages”, he read. He felt the anger rise within him. It was time, he felt, to make a statement. At three o'clock the next morning the High Street was still. It had been deserted by even the wind. Alasdair stood on the pavement in front of the charity shop window with the brick in his hand. During the intervening hours he had given considerable thought to what this moment would be like.

Would he actually go ahead and do it? He had never really engaged in any acts of direct action like this before. Yes, he had been down to Newcastle, on a number of occasions, to join in some of the demonstrations by disabled people campaigning against the continued provision of segregated education and for affordable accessible homes; but he had always made sure to stay in the background on such occasions, so that he would not draw upon himself unwanted attention from the police. He had his reasons.

Would he go ahead and do it? He knew that if he did, he would never be able to tell anyone around here that it had been him. Nobody would understand. His point would be missed. It would go over their heads, and be dismissed as an act of stupid vandalism. He would be regarded as a crip with a chip. Nothing would come of it and nothing would change. The support worker would continue to look with cold indifference through the people with whom she worked; the elderly lady on the bench would continue to imagine that being impaired necessarily represented devastating personal tragedy; the grey haired woman in the newsagent's would continue to be patronising and condescending; the old lady at the bus stop would continue to find comfort in her own heavy-laden existence from the knowledge that there was always somebody worse off.

And yet, he recognised that in such an individual act of rebellion, in such an anarchic act of self-expression, there would be something artistic, something of beauty created. Come the busyness of the High Street in a few hours' time, not one soul would be able to look at the charity shop front and see it in the same way they had seen it before. They would look up and read the words “Caring for the Sick and Handicapped of all ages” and below they would see the jagged edges of the desecrated window. Their hallowed, unexamined notion of 'care' would have been affronted. They would be appalled. It would have to be boarded up.

However temporarily, then, he would have made a difference. The interpretation that others put upon his act was their own affair. Would he do it? After this night, Alasdair always said that the shattering of glass was his favourite sound.

Dr Pillock

The following is one of the exercises we used while I was lecturing in Disability Studies at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It is one of several case studies depicting typical problem behaviours often associated with the non-disabled. The original aim of the exercises was to enable group reflection and discussion among students.

Dr. Pillock peered across his desk and fiddled with his thermometer.

“Well, Jim,” he said in comforting, paternal tones. “I'm not saying it's going to be easy coming to terms with your condition. You will, of course, go through a grieving process over the loss of your old self, but that's quite natural. After all, there are a lot of things you'll have to come to terms with and a lot of lifestyle changes you'll have to make… Loss of dignity and self-respect, having other people make the simplest decisions for you, being judged to be incompetent and needy, and so on. But if you need any support, the nurse at the surgery has just completed a six week Introduction to Counselling Basics course at the local college, and I'm sure she'll be an excellent source of emotional strength should you need it.”

“Oh,” said Jim.

“I know you might be experiencing a tendency to see only the negative side of the picture at this stage, but chin up, old boy, things aren't that bad. I know some patients with your problem who have gone on to regain quite normal lives. Why, only last weekend I spotted old Norris Morris and his wife Doris taking part in the 48-hour Trampoline Challenge down at Connolly Park to raise money for handicapped kiddies. And this weekend I believe that Derek - you know Derek - will be going abseiling down the walls of the Limited Options Day Centre to raise funds to buy a new minibus for staff outings. You should have a word with them, Jim, you really should. A fine job they've both made in overcoming their limitations.”

“Oh,” said Jim.

“Well, if that's all, I really must get on. Any questions?”

“Um, well, em…” Jim hesitated. “What if I don't want to do the 48-hour Trampoline Challenge? What if going abseiling down the walls of the Limited Options Day Centre would be the last thing on earth I would ever consider doing, before I acquired my condition or now? What if engaging in ridiculous, over-the-top, sporting activities just in order to prove how 'normal' I still am isn't something I'd ever remotely contemplate?”

“Ah, well,” replied Dr Pillock. “Now, there we begin to have a real problem - an attitude problem. Let's face reality, Bob, at the end of the day it's down to you how you deal with this. If you put a brave face on it and go out there and make the most of things, take the world as you find it, and accept things as they are, then you'll be all right. I'm sure you'll manage to fit in somehow. Just don't draw attention to yourself and don't expect too much. But start complaining and - well, nobody likes a whiner, do they? Come on, that's the spirit, life's just like that, I'm afraid. Ask the nurse to send the next patient in on your way out, will you?”

“I see,” said Jim as he left the room. “Thank you.”

Better

cartoon of Cameron freezing

Cameron Freezing. Illustration by Colin Cameron.

Tuesday morning. Second period. Ten o'clock to ten thirty-five. Maths first. Biology next. Now this. I hate Tuesday mornings. I hate Tuesday mornings. Across from the new block. Into the old block. Into the changing room. Shoes off. Tie off. Blazer off. Jumper off. Shirt off. Trousers off. Pants off. Pants off gentlemen. That's what Malcolm says. Hasn't Ashton got a lot of hair around his cock? He's got more hair around his cock than any of us. I've hardly got any. Compared to him. But at least I've got some. Not like Pratt. I bet he hasn't got any yet. Look at him. He keeps his pants on. Underneath his shorts. Better not let Malcolm catch him like that. Into my shorts. Trainers. Rugby shirt. Why am I wearing a rugby shirt? I don't play rugby. I can't play rugby. I'm excused games. But not this. Last one out. Always the last one out. It takes me longer getting changed. All the others have started . They'll be miles ahead by now. Ashton will almost be back. It's cold out here, and grey, sunless autumn. School gates. There he stands. Malcolm. Warm in his track suit. Encouraging wave and a smile. Good luck son. What does he expect? At the top of the hill now. Into Green Hill Woods. Beech trees mostly. Look, there he is now. Up ahead. Fatty Clark. I can still just see him. But I can't see any of the others. They'll be miles ahead. They'll be making the turn. Up the short path. Behind the houses on Abercrombie Road. Ashton will almost be back. And I can't even run as fast as Fatty Clark.

Tries very hard in spite of his obvious impediments. That's what Malcolm wrote. On the last report. At least I'm trying. That's the main thing. I'm making an effort. If I just keep on trying and making an effort. I'm bound to get better. I'm getting better every day. If I keep on trying and making an effort I'm bound to get better eventually. The doctors told me that if I keep on trying and making an effort then one day nobody will be able to tell.

It's freezing out here, and grey, sunless autumn. Sunken old path. Steep banks. Damp leaves everywhere. At least this bit's downhill. I wonder if the Stranglers will get to number one. No More Heroes. I'll have to get it. I can see into back gardens. See the washing on the clothes lines. See the little garden sheds. Only six weeks till we break up for Christmas. Six more weeks. Six more runs. Six more Tuesday mornings. Single biology on Tuesdays. Double biology on Fridays. Only eighteen more biology lessons. At forty minutes each. That's, that's, that's two hundred and eighty minutes of biology. That's, that's, that's four hours and forty minutes. Plus homework. What a waste of time. I can't even see Fatty Clark now.

It could all have been different. If I hadn't stepped in front of the car. If the car hadn't been going so fast. I wish I hadn't stepped in front of the car. If I keep on trying and making an effort One day I'm going to beat Fatty Clark. Every day I'm getting better.

Nicky Turner lives up there. I really fancy Nicky Turner. But she's going out with Russell. He said he French kissed her. And that she let him feel her tits. I wonder how you do French kissing. I'll see her at church on Sunday. She's getting baptised next month. It's Taylor's birthday next week. He's having a party on Friday. A disco. There'll be loads of girls there. I wonder if any will let me French kiss them. I doubt it. But you never know.

I wonder how long it will take before I am better. Really better. It's taking a long time.

Three years. Three years is a long time.

I wish I could stop wanking. I really wish I could stop wanking. I haven't done it for three days now. There he is. Up ahead. He's just reached the turn. Fatty Clark's just reached the turn.

When I am better Really better. I'll catch up then. It won't be “This is Cameron and he had an accident..” It'll just be “This is Cameron.” When my knee is better. When my hand is better. When my speech is better. People won't wonder. Won't stare. Won't talk to me as if I'm stupid.

Here's the turn. Not that far to go now. Can't see Fatty Clark, though. He must have put on speed. He'll be wobbling up the hill. At least I don't wobble. I was hit by a car but at least I don't wobble. End of the short path. Behind the houses on Abercrombie road. Then back up the hill. Back up the hill. This is the difficult bit. I'll be late for biology. I'll be late for biology. I'll be last back to the changing room. And I'll take longer to get changed. I'll be late for biology as usual. And he'll have started already. And he'll ask why can't I get a move on. And I won't know what page they're on. I hate biology. I hate Tuesday mornings. Four hours and forty minutes. And how many minutes of maths? Forty minutes of maths every day. Minus yesterday. Five days a week. Two hundred minutes of maths a week. That's, that's, that's one thousand one hundred and sixty minutes of maths. That's, that's, that's twenty hours nearly. Nearly twenty hours. And homework. What a waste of time. This hill goes on forever.

One day I'll be better. All I've got to do is keep on trying. Keep on making an effort. The doctors said so.The physiotherapists said so. The speech therapists said so

Top of the hill again. Round the corner. Back to the gates. There he is. There's Fatty Clark. There's Ashton. There's Pratt. There's Malcolm. There's the whole lot of them. Lined up by the gates. They're clapping. They're cheering. What are they clapping for? What are they cheering for? They're clapping me. They're cheering me. They've waited for me. They've waited till I've finished. They're clapping and cheering me. I know what they're saying. Tries very hard in spite of his obvious impediments. That's what they're saying. Never gives up. That's what they're saying. An example to us all. That's what they're saying. Well, fuck them. Fuck the whole lot of them. Fuck the whole fucking lot of them

It's not going to happen. I'm never going to be better. Not really better. There is never going to come a day when nobody will be able to tell. People will always be able to tell.

Fuck Fatty Clark. Fuck Ashton. Fuck Pratt. Fuck Malcolm. Fuck everybody. Fuck Tuesday mornings. Fuck maths. Fuck biology. Fuck this. Fuck trying. Fuck making an effort. Fuck better. Fuck better.

This is the way I'll always be.

This is the way I'll always be.

This is the way I'll always be.

I know one thing. They'll not be clapping me like that again. I'll not be some plucky cripple for them to cheer at. I'll become a full-time objectionable cunt instead.

Better

cartoon of Cameron freezing

Cameron Freezing. Illustration by Colin Cameron.





Tuesday morning. Second period. Ten o'clock to ten thirty-five. Maths first. Biology next. Now this. I hate Tuesday mornings. I hate Tuesday mornings. Across from the new block. Into the old block. Into the changing room. Shoes off. Tie off. Blazer off. Jumper off. Shirt off. Trousers off. Pants off. Pants off gentlemen. That's what Malcolm says. Hasn't Ashton got a lot of hair around his cock? He's got more hair around his cock than any of us. I've hardly got any. Compared to him. But at least I've got some. Not like Pratt. I bet he hasn't got any yet. Look at him. He keeps his pants on. Underneath his shorts. Better not let Malcolm catch him like that. Into my shorts. Trainers. Rugby shirt. Why am I wearing a rugby shirt? I don't play rugby. I can't play rugby. I'm excused games. But not this. Last one out. Always the last one out. It takes me longer getting changed. All the others have started . They'll be miles ahead by now. Ashton will almost be back. It's cold out here, and grey, sunless autumn. School gates. There he stands. Malcolm. Warm in his track suit. Encouraging wave and a smile. Good luck son. What does he expect? At the top of the hill now. Into Green Hill Woods. Beech trees mostly. Look, there he is now. Up ahead. Fatty Clark. I can still just see him. But I can't see any of the others. They'll be miles ahead. They'll be making the turn. Up the short path. Behind the houses on Abercrombie Road. Ashton will almost be back. And I can't even run as fast as Fatty Clark.



Tries very hard in spite of his obvious impediments. That's what Malcolm wrote. On the last report. At least I'm trying. That's the main thing. I'm making an effort. If I just keep on trying and making an effort. I'm bound to get better. I'm getting better every day. If I keep on trying and making an effort I'm bound to get better eventually. The doctors told me that if I keep on trying and making an effort then one day nobody will be able to tell.

It's freezing out here, and grey, sunless autumn. Sunken old path. Steep banks. Damp leaves everywhere. At least this bit's downhill. I wonder if the Stranglers will get to number one. No More Heroes. I'll have to get it. I can see into back gardens. See the washing on the clothes lines. See the little garden sheds. Only six weeks till we break up for Christmas. Six more weeks. Six more runs. Six more Tuesday mornings. Single biology on Tuesdays. Double biology on Fridays. Only eighteen more biology lessons. At forty minutes each. That's, that's, that's two hundred and eighty minutes of biology. That's, that's, that's four hours and forty minutes. Plus homework. What a waste of time. I can't even see Fatty Clark now.

It could all have been different. If I hadn't stepped in front of the car. If the car hadn't been going so fast. I wish I hadn't stepped in front of the car. If I keep on trying and making an effort One day I'm going to beat Fatty Clark. Every day I'm getting better.

Nicky Turner lives up there. I really fancy Nicky Turner. But she's going out with Russell. He said he French kissed her. And that she let him feel her tits. I wonder how you do French kissing. I'll see her at church on Sunday. She's getting baptised next month. It's Taylor's birthday next week. He's having a party on Friday. A disco. There'll be loads of girls there. I wonder if any will let me French kiss them. I doubt it. But you never know.

I wonder how long it will take before I am better. Really better. It's taking a long time.

Three years. Three years is a long time.

I wish I could stop wanking. I really wish I could stop wanking. I haven't done it for three days now. There he is. Up ahead. He's just reached the turn. Fatty Clark's just reached the turn.

When I am better Really better. I'll catch up then. It won't be “This is Cameron and he had an accident..” It'll just be “This is Cameron.” When my knee is better. When my hand is better. When my speech is better. People won't wonder. Won't stare. Won't talk to me as if I'm stupid.

Here's the turn. Not that far to go now. Can't see Fatty Clark, though. He must have put on speed. He'll be wobbling up the hill. At least I don't wobble. I was hit by a car but at least I don't wobble. End of the short path. Behind the houses on Abercrombie road. Then back up the hill. Back up the hill. This is the difficult bit. I'll be late for biology. I'll be late for biology. I'll be last back to the changing room. And I'll take longer to get changed. I'll be late for biology as usual. And he'll have started already. And he'll ask why can't I get a move on. And I won't know what page they're on. I hate biology. I hate Tuesday mornings. Four hours and forty minutes. And how many minutes of maths? Forty minutes of maths every day. Minus yesterday. Five days a week. Two hundred minutes of maths a week. That's, that's, that's one thousand one hundred and sixty minutes of maths. That's, that's, that's twenty hours nearly. Nearly twenty hours. And homework. What a waste of time. This hill goes on forever.

One day I'll be better. All I've got to do is keep on trying. Keep on making an effort. The doctors said so.The physiotherapists said so. The speech therapists said so

Top of the hill again. Round the corner. Back to the gates. There he is. There's Fatty Clark. There's Ashton. There's Pratt. There's Malcolm. There's the whole lot of them. Lined up by the gates. They're clapping. They're cheering. What are they clapping for? What are they cheering for? They're clapping me. They're cheering me. They've waited for me. They've waited till I've finished. They're clapping and cheering me. I know what they're saying. Tries very hard in spite of his obvious impediments. That's what they're saying. Never gives up. That's what they're saying. An example to us all. That's what they're saying. Well, fuck them. Fuck the whole lot of them. Fuck the whole fucking lot of them

It's not going to happen. I'm never going to be better. Not really better. There is never going to come a day when nobody will be able to tell. People will always be able to tell.

Fuck Fatty Clark. Fuck Ashton. Fuck Pratt. Fuck Malcolm. Fuck everybody. Fuck Tuesday mornings. Fuck maths. Fuck biology. Fuck this. Fuck trying. Fuck making an effort. Fuck better. Fuck better.

This is the way I'll always be.

This is the way I'll always be.

This is the way I'll always be.

I know one thing. They'll not be clapping me like that again. I'll not be some plucky cripple for them to cheer at. I'll become a full-time objectionable cunt instead.


Paul

Poor things!

The hot night at 11pm heaved with noisy, jostling crowds of mostly young people out on the piss. Scantily-dressed women in their late teens and twenties, in their gangs of three or four or twelve, eyed up the well-groomed packs of casual young men. The men eyed them back. Movement was all around, people coming, going, passing, stopping to look, being left behind and catching up.

A sense of raucous, boozy enjoyment was mixed with a threat of testosterone-fuelled violence. A heavy-built bouncer admitted Paul and his friends into The Castle Tavern, a crowded bar with a shabby grandeur that had obviously seen better days. Heavy metal thumped from the speakers.

Paul and his friends sat knocking back their pints. It had been Paul’s round. It was clear to Paul that the others were all having a good time. They were all laughing and joking, but he could hardly hear a word any of them said. That Chris, yeah, he was all right, he was. Paul had met him at work in the office a few weeks ago when he’d started. Chris had invited him down to The Pied Horse for a couple at lunch time. His mates seemed okay, too. Neil and Ian and the other Ian. If only he could hear what they were saying.

What were they laughing at now? Fucking heavy metal. He hated heavy metal. He looked down at his new shoes. Great shoes they were. £110 he’d paid for them. Most he’d ever paid for a pair of shoes. Chris had a pair just like them. What were they laughing at? Seemed like they were all having a good time. If only he could hear what they were saying. What were they laughing at?

He noticed a girl sitting with her mates at a nearby table. She’s nice looking, she is, he thought. She’s a bit of all right. I wonder if she’s noticed my new shoes? An hour later Paul stood at the bus stop. Chris and Neil had gone to the bogs and the two Ians had gone to the bar to get the next round in. He had smiled at the nice-looking girl but she and her mates had started laughing too.

He had waited twenty minutes but none of his friends had returned. Eventually he had gone to the bogs but they were empty, stinking of piss. He had gone to the bar, but could see no sign of either Ian or Ian. He had gone back to the seats but they had been taken by another group. He had stood there for a while, looking for the others. The nice-looking girl and her mates kept on laughing. Hadn’t they noticed his shoes?

There was a wheelchair-user waiting at the bus stop with Paul. A young guy, probably about his age. That must be tough. Having to use a wheelchair like that. Paul wondered what was wrong with him:
“You all right, mate?” he asked.
“Fuck off,” the wheelchair-user replied. “And take your stupid shoes with you.”