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from A Squandered Life / Eberhard '52

Updated on April 10, 2016
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Born without a clue. A lifetime later, situation largely unchanged. Nevertheless, one perseveres.....

I tried frenziedly to punch them to death....

One day Mari-Ann announced that we were going around to visit some people called Mortons in the village. For some inexplicable reason she wanted us to scrub up and put on some clean clothes, but she happened to mention that there was a boy there who had an electric train, so we were very quickly on programme.

We were shown, smart and clean, into a house full of strangers but I didn't clock any of them. All I could think of or do was look and look for this fabled train. After what seemed like an eternity, the boy of the house - introduced to us as Jeremy - led the way down to a playroom in the cellar. As I came down the stairs I saw a circle of track on the floor and, as I got closer, made out a magnificently industrial looking black engine and some ornate wagons. These were impressive enough in themselves, but Jeremy squatted down beside an ominous looking pale green metal box with a big fat dial on it and wires trailing in and out. He threw a switch and something hummed, but as he turned the dial, miracle of miracles, the train began slowly to move. It headed off down its track, untouched by human hands, and picked up speed.

Jeremy got it clattering around its circuit like a chattering box of scissors, and looked up at us, beaming with pride. We watched, dumbstruck, overwhelmed by the sight and the sound and the smell of ozone which somehow magnified the importance of what we were seeing. After a few moments of mesmerised rapture, Jeremy upped the ante by asking us if we'd like to turn the dial. Harry and I looked at each other, then scrambled over to the ominous metal box and took turns making the train slow down and speed up and slow down and stop and start and speed up and so on for what seemed like forever.

Not long afterwards Jeremy and his family moved two doors down from us on the Lakeshore - into the very Cobweb Manor - and our relationship with him and with the Manor was ratcheted up a few gears as we found yet more in common. Jeremy fit chronologically between myself and my brother. This meant that he was more in thrall to Harry and more likely to be dismissive of me. This created interesting dynamics because Harry, by the same chrono-logic, was often dismissive of Jeremy. Our lop-sided triangle was sometimes augmented by the appearance of Eberhard, a friend of Jeremy's from his previous life. Eberhard used to pick up on the nuances of our three-way relationship and would find them hysterically funny. This would usually set Jeremy and Harry off too which left me not understanding what the fuck was so funny, odd man out, and getting angrier by the minute - which made Eberhard laugh even harder and spin the whole thing even further out of control. I recall getting so enfuriated that I would physically attack all three of them, but they were so helpless with laughter that all they could do was collapse in the face of my onslaught and roll on the floor as I tried frenziedly to punch them to death.

Jeremy's chrono seniority to me was reinforced at the school playground when I eventually made it to there. He would appear with a mob of his mature mates and condescendingly say “hello” and swoop off to do whatever mature boys did. To be fair, I saw more of him than I did of my brother who always seemed distant and totally immersed in even more mature processes. But Jeremy didn't stay long at that school and was soon spirited off to a private one by his British parents who bought into the value of such things. So our association with Jeremy became exclusively a holiday one which I suppose gave it an extra fillip.

© 2013 Deacon Martin


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