Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Sin.... RIP Tuesday...

"What is Bill Posters supposed to have done?" So started the conversation that killed Tuesdays.

Innocent questions have led to worlds colliding, man facing off against man, handbags at dawn and hissy fits.

"Were you looking at my missus?"

"What did you just say?"

"Do you want fries with that?"

From the utterances of such comments, wars have been waged. A battle can be fought between countries, families, religions and even shoppers after the last tin of beans on special offer. The god you worship, the borders of your land, or the fact that you don't like salad cream can be enough to bring out the big guns or the heavy handbags. And it can be started in a heartbeat.

My coin, my precious two pence piece, was the cause, or at least the catalyst, for so much destruction, but it can take much less than the flip of a coin to bring chaos a-hunting. Chaos, in all his many forms, doesn't mind from which little acorns grow the mighty oaks of dissent. That he can sit back and watch the show, feet up, snacks and drink at the ready, is enough. Chaos is fairly chilled. He doesn't need to work hard at his job - he has us lot to do the grind for him. All he needs to do is stir it up a little, like the gravy for the Sunday roast. Then he can chow down on the fun.

An old joke, though, should not be the stuff from which bedlam begins. Should it? Did anyone lose their temper from being asked how the chicken crossed the road? Did a knock knock ever turn into a knock out? I wouldn't have thought so, but stranger things have happened. Especially in here.

In here, one Tuesday, is when something strange happened.

OK. I can give you that - this is an asylum. Strange is part of the wallpaper - all shades of white with some white thrown in for contrast. Although if Strange had a colour, I'd have thought it'd be a bit more purpley, maybe with some green tinge on the edges.

Days don't have meaning in here. Well, of course they have MEANING. Monday is still the first day of the week and there's still seven days until the next one swings around and whacks you over the head. We don't replace the names with random words like changing Wednesday to Wibble or Friday to Igglepop. But you forget them. Not the names, but the days themselves. They become less real. Like they used to exist, and still do - wandering around outside the windows, peeking in every so often to see what a world without time might look like. Each morph from light to dark to light again is just another few ticks of the clock. What does it matter what day it is when some people can't remember their own names - and don't want to?

But Tuesday was different. Tuesday was Music Day. MTV was piped into the recreational room, over the speakers and the television set attached to a bracket high up on the wall, securely locked in a scratched, excrement-stained perspex box. Tuesday was the day when people smiled. Some even danced - or shambled... or shuffled their bum on their seat because they were too drugged up to do anything else.

Until Lissy, blonde and a little bit... special... asked that fateful question.

"What is Bill Posters supposed to have done?"

Innocent, that's what she was. Oh, not in deed, not indeed. She was far from innocent in deed, but she was one of life's innocents. Blonde, not just by hair colour. Naive and gullible. Which was how she ended up being a guest of Dr Connors. A carnival of errors had passed by her town and she'd gone on every ride from noon till doom. Not literally, of course. There's carnivals - or fun fairs at least. Rides that are too expensive and hook a duck style games that are too loaded against winning. But a carnival of errors? You don't find them crammed into spare carparks in the middle of town, full of screams from the not so scary rides, music blaring and candy floss being chomped by the bucket load.

But one passed by. And she was the sole paying customer. Being who she was, trusting and... special, in a special kind of way. She killed her mother's boyfriend. Heads and hammers don't mix, and Lissy wanted to find this out for a fact. Her brother told her to, and he was her big brother - by eight years - so she almost always did what he said. She trusted him. Well... you would, wouldn't you?

The problem was, her brother had died years before, along with her father, in a car accident. It made it difficult for her brother to tell her anything.

Still, though, she insisted her brother had told her to do it. The boyfriend was evil and wouldn't just be happy with her mother. Get him before he gets her. That's what her brother said. Apparently. Grief can be a horrible thing. It can twist your mind, playing with it as if it were a cat's cradle. Thumbs in, fingers out until the whole thing is one big knot. Then you end up here. At least they have nicely padded cells, just so you don't hurt yourself.

Tuesday. I can't remember what was playing. To be honest, and I'm nothing if not honest, even though it's a wonderful, gratefully received, brain-numbing-breaking thing to have, the music always seemed to fade into the background. You were so used to the mutterings and utterings of everyone else, you found it easy, and automatic, to tune out noise. Even MTV. Still, though, with it singing around the back of your head like a fly on stage in the karaoke bar, you smiled and danced, shuffled or nodded your head.

Sitting in the middle of the floor, just to the left of the no-man's land of the Corner-copias, was Lissy. Knees up tight under her chin, hands gripping her toes, just begging for someone - usually Terrence - to come along and push her over, Lissy stared at no-one and nothing in particular. She was frowning. I saw her, with her brow furrowed and her face looking more puzzled than a 500 piece landscape. I would have said something - asked if something was wrong (not entirely the stupid question you'd think considering we were in a mental hospital), but she seemed to be working something out. Then she asked:

"What is Bill Posters supposed to have done? Why does it say on all those big pictures by the side of the road that he's going to be prosecuted? And why don't they have a picture of him?"

Three people looked at Lissy, special and make-allowances-blonde as she was, and laughed. Whether she realised there was no such person as Bill Posters (although I'm sure there's some parents, somewhere in the world, cruel enough to give their child such a name - a bit like calling your son Sin), or she was oblivious and thought there really was a vendetta against this poor man, who's harmed no one and just wants to lead a quiet life, those three didn't care. It humoured them and there was little to be humoured about in here.

An orderly, Carl Withers (whose real name was Weathers - but this place is this place) shook his head. 'Idiot patients' was clearly written on his face. I smiled. I liked Lissy. She was quiet, unassuming and usually fairly happy. Her dead brother, and her not so dead mother, never visited her in the asylum so she was no longer haunted by ghosts pushing her to do things she really shouldn't be doing. Most either ignored her, wandering aimlessly in their own little worlds, or didn't hear. One man had none of these reactions.

His name was Edward. If you even tried to call him Ed, he punched you. Right in the face. Fast and sharp, the reflexes and accuracy of someone well versed in fast and sharp punches. He was a loner, mainly because the majority of patients had been punched in the face. He wasn't seen in the recreation room very often thanks to the number of visits he paid to room 101. Fast and sharp wasn't only restricted to the patients.

He was sitting on the front row of the bolted down chairs that faced the television set. He stood, walked over to Lissy, bent down and said quietly in her ear:

"His name is William."

Lissy, bless her, should have seen what was coming. I did and the way Carl Withers, with his right hand not quite as big as his left, pushed himself away from the wall he was leaning against, I was sure he had seen it too. Lissy, though, remained as unaware of the forthcoming event as she was regarding Bill Posters' actual status. If she'd hadn't, she wouldn't have said, with a faintly amused-confused look on her pretty face:


It was three days later when she regained consciousness. Another two before she made it back to the recreation room. The first thing she said when she walked in was to me.

"I only asked."

Edward returned to the fold two weeks later. He was subdued to begin with. A stint in Room 101, with its padded walls and obligatory strapped-up dress code, does that to you. Unusually, it was another month or two before he punched someone else. I think that's a record.

But Tuesdays? They were dead. Whether the riot that ensued after Lissy's face met with Edward's fist was due to the time of the lunar month, or an unusually low level of drugs, or the fact that, as Connors said, all that loud music makes people anxious, no-one really knows. But Tuesday died, and the music died along with it.

When you take away sound, even background sound that nobody really hears, all that's left is a sad silence.

And that can be deafening.

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