Here’s a very early sketch I did of the protagonist Laurie Coates. I do a lot of this kind of sketching before committing a scene or a characteristic to the manuscript. So, here’s Laurie in development.
I’m Laurie and I am not a pleasant person, by which I mean that I don’t like other people and the converse is true. They scare me. They frighten me, that sounds more like it; they frighten me like a child is frightened by shadows more than darkness. They – all of you – have frightened me since I was less than ten years old.
I remember my the, how do you say this, after party? The gathering that followed my father’s funeral didn’t help steer me into a social mind. When people gathered, drank, ate sandwiches, told me how much I reminded them of my dead father , got drunker and more morose until they exposed me – a boy – to their fears of their own deaths. Exhausting. I’d not even considered the possibility of anybody other than my father being dead. I had to think about that.
Not all of them got drunk and slurred about themselves. Some of them just took their sandwiches and pies and drink and left our home quietly so that, they assumed, no one would notice them being their or not. I noticed them. I noticed everybody, every newcomer who proclaimed their lifelong friendships with my dad but who I’d never seen or even heard of. Every mate from the navy. Every colleague. No relatives though.
“They call me Chip or Dusty or Reg or Action. Your dear old dad and me went way back to the navy, to business, to that sports team, this pub, that horse race”.
Then for no reason because these people didn’t know me from Adam or Eve, “Your dad would be proud of you today. You’d be the light in his eye!” Apparently they didn’t know my father from Caine or Abel.
I wasn’t dead or even close to death. I hadn’t been sick, properly, physically ill for a decade. Aside from being ambidextrous in fact, I was nothing like my dear old dad. My hair was dark, he was bald. My eyes were blue. His were brown. My face was beautiful, his was gaunt. I was thoughtful, he was stupid. I was adventurous, he was set in his ways. I was tall and elegant – I am tall and elegant – he was the size of a goblin. I was about to get on my bicycle. He as buried underground in hole.
It was horrible. A scrum of slurring self-indulgence. It was claustrophobic. I hated every second of it. As soon as I could also left the house quietly, a pie in my pocket and cycled to the churchyard and sat under the yew tree, which was, which still is I presume, hundreds of years old.
I looked out over the valley and the gentle river Icene to the south of the church and I smoked a cigarette that I’d stolen and I thought about why people were so strange.