Charles stooped his
face and winced, as his head was addled with an assortment of drugs and
sedatives. He kept the drugs in a glass container, they resembled sweets.
Indeed, if he pretended that this were the case, he could down the potent
substances in a single swallow. This would make suicide all the merrier, but he
could not complete this Herculean task.
His room teemed with
books, which he had read several years ago. He was re-reading them -
recycling them - as there was nothing else to do. The pages were
encrusted with a yellow surface and the titles on the spines were illegible.
His favourite authors
were from the Victorian era, as modern authors were superfluous and
perfunctory. If anything, the modern world terrified him. He was afraid of
cars, telephones, tall buildings and motorways. Reading about a quaint world
populated with people who spoke in stiff and elevated ways comforted him. It
comforted him to read about a quaint past where people lived in towns with
local churches, libraries and schools. It comforted him to think about a time
when culture was organic and took centuries to form. Culture was now
artificial; it was created by corporations. It was created by marketing
departments. Trends appeared and disappeared every second. Also, contemporary
culture was highly atomised and fragmented. Charles longed for a time when one
lived in a town and knew the vicar and the butcher. Of course, he was kidding
himself he would be equally afraid in such circumstances.
There were four books
that he still had not read, however. These were sacred texts that he would be
able to understand when he turned fifty books by Kant and Hegel. The
time would come in six years; only then might he be able to understand them.
They were the most important artefacts in his room.
Charles had not
showered in several weeks, he had worn the same tousled shirt for the last five
years. His room was dingy and musty, the room smelt of cat urine. Several
plates of cat food and water were strewn across the room. The windows were
covered in sheets that protected Charles from the sun. His room was a protected
hermitage, a place where he could ensconce himself away from a predatory and
There were a couple of
feeble attempts to integrate himself into this world. Charles took a job as a
phone clerk, which he left after a year. He used to confront, hector and
interrogate strangers in the streets. That was years ago, as he had not left
the house in ten years. Merely glancing outside would be unthinkable, a
terrifying excursion into the social domain.
What was the cause of
all this? Was there some clichéd Freudian reason that neatly explain
this wad of pathologies? Charles father beat his three sons on a regular
basis. He was an overbearing tyrant who cast his nefarious shadow on the entire
He once broke
Charles collar bone in an angered frenzy. He constantly fought with
Charles mother, an amphetamine addict. She once scratched and bruised his
face so much that he had to wear make-up at work. His father had been a marine
in World War Two and he was a muscle-bound, law-abiding conservative. Although
he was an atheist, he had sent his children to a Catholic school, as he wanted
to discipline his children and instil them with Christian moral values. He
wanted at least one of them to be a marine. As such, he was devastated when
they all turned into terrified, acne-ridden, awkward nerds.
Charles stayed in the
house until his fathers dying days. His father threatened that he would
make his life a living hell if he did not find a job. Indeed he did. His father
refused to speak to him, he was brooding presence.
However, they finally
rekindled their relationship. Charles sat next to his father in his deathbed
and comforted him. It was the only moment of tenderness in their entire
School was only more
terrifying. The corridors were patrolled by heartless boys who would beat up
anyone who did not conform to the ideal of a tall, blond-haired, sporty,
Christian, leather-sporting hunk. One such hunk was Scutch, who beat Charles up
in front of the entire school. This only endeared him to the schoolgirls, the
wretched creatures. Charles never recovered from the incident and, despite his
good looks, he never went on another date. He became a meek and inconspicuous
shadow, who ambled across the corridors without courting much attention. He had
the looks and intelligence to excel both socially and academically, but there
was something wrong with his personality.
Charles kept reams of
his juvenilia. He had been a prolific writer of comics, producing one
thirty-six page comic every week. He and his brothers ran the Animal Farm
Comic Book Club and Charles was the principal author and illustrator. He
would cajole his brothers into doing all of the work indeed, this was
the last time that he ever boasted a position of power. Poor old Maxon was
merely the supply boy and the poor neglected creature had been relegated to the
petty confines of loserdom ever since.
Charles only cared
about comics as a child, reading and drawing them every single day. Nothing
could stop his implacable obsession. His brothers had other interests, but
nothing could deter Charles from realising his obsession. He became more and
more accomplished, his panels laden with detailed cross-hatchings.
He later became
interested in texts. He was primarily interested in the pictorial impression
generated by the text rather than the meanings that it connoted. The drawings
in the panels no longer mattered; the speech bubbles branched out onto all the
intensified. Charles kept several diaries in which he would draw a tiny
indiscernible splodge. Not even a magnifying glass would be able to discern its
contents. They were symbolic of his increasing anxieties and neuroses.
But the main obsession
that dominated his comics was Treasure Island. He saw the Walt Disney
adaptation when it came out. He would eagerly play pirate games in the streets
and sport the bandage, the imaginary parrot, the hook and the wooden leg. The
film became the main theme of his comics. More worryingly, he became infatuated
with the films star, Bobby Driscoll. He would draw him again and again
and again. He would lovingly recreate his face, his costumes and his startled
Why him? Did Driscoll
symbolise Charles lost innocence? Was Charles himself a perpetually
scared infant? Did Charles never want to move on from the halcyon days of his
Charles! A piercing voice emanated from downstairs. It was his mother.
Her overweight flesh sagged as she climbed the steps. She brought the telephone
a quaint relic from the 1950s with her. Charles, she
growled in her gravelly voice. Its Robert
he wants to speak
Robert, of course, was
his famous brother, who had gone on to unlikely success by drawing his dirty
secrets, confessions, sexual fantasises and an assortment of depraved
miscellanea. He caught the psychedelic zeitgeist of the 1960s and became part
of the underground comics scene. Their father ceased to talk to
Robert when he encountered his comics, their unabashed smuttiness revolted his
entrenched conservative principles.
Charles retrieved the
handset. Hey, how are ya doin The familiar nasal voice
emanated from the speaker. Robert, as usual, laughed nervously and
uncontrollably as soon as he completed a casual sentence. Hey,
Charles, Robert continued, can you still make it?
He knew what Robert was
referring to. The local cinema was screening the Walt Disney version of
Treasure Island, the very film that captivated his youthful mind and
which continued to permeate his imagination. Charles had not seen the film in
Robert, Charles replied in his soft, drawled and
slurred voice. Id love to
Ill get a
nervously. Well, it would be great if you could see it, Charles. I mean,
youve been waiting for this moment for a long time.
Charles hesitated, bowing his head. Ill do it, Robert. Ill go
see the movie. He hung the handset.
Charles handed the
telephone to his mother. Its great that youre doing this,
honey. Im proud of you, youre a great kid, she blurted out in
her husky voice.
mother, Charles muttered, as he shuffled over to his room. His whole body
trembled as he shunted his legs forward with difficulty. He closed the door and
sighed with relief.
Charles stumbled over
to the window and gazed at the rug that covered the sunlight. He knew that the
local cinema was located a few miles from the house and that Roberts wife
would drive him there.
Charles retrieved the
rug from the window and the sunlight shone full into his face. He shielded the
sunlight with his hands and covered the window immediately. His heart was
beating and he was sweating in a frenzy. He fell onto his bed, ensconcing
himself into the sheets.
As he burrowed into his
protective sheets, Charles reminisced about his childhood years, alongside
Robert, Maxon and his two sisters. His childhood was fraught with difficulties,
which he had never recovered from. Charles would always say How goddamn
delightful it all is to be sure whenever he encountered an obstacle.
Those words always made him feel better. Those very words came back to him.
Charles thought about all the pleasurable things in life. He thought about all
the things that he loved and which made him want to stoically overcome these
obstacles. He thought of Roberts successful career, of his childhood
comics, of Treasure Island, of Donald Duck, of his Victorian
novels and of those sacred continental texts. Yes, all these things made him
think how goddamn delightful it all really was.