Posted by: splosher | 09/10/2010

A lost memory, recalled…

It’s funny how childhood memories are remembered, when as a grown-up you look back to a time in your distant past: trying to recall specific instances and vague nuances, the mind can and does form stringed-together sequences that sometimes need an adult’s perspective to bridge the missing gaps. These ‘mental gymnastics’ can lead to a falsified recall and contribute to all kinds of health problems in later life if not analysed properly, from such extremes as being convinced you were molested as a child at the hands of a family member to believing you were abducted by Aliens and underwent medical examinations while you slept! I only mention these as dichotomist examples because I had a personal flashback to a long-repressed and quite disturbing memory last week; the occurrence had been tucked away deep within my childhood brain-box for so long that the brevity of its middle-age disclosure meant I had to scrutinize all its aspects for any false memories I may have juggled into existence. Frighteningly, I’m pretty sure things happened the way I’m about to relate them and this makes me even more thankful for the eventual outcome.

The recollection is from when I was aged around ten or eleven years old and hung around with my best mate of the time, “Killy”; this moniker was my mate’s nickname, which was derived from his surname as most kids’ nicknames originate from in one form or another. He enjoyed people calling him Killy due to the fact it made him sound hard as nails, the first step to instilling uncertainty in other kids if you’re out to make a name for yourself as a potential “cock” of your school year and this name-making was definitely what he intended. Indeed, he was a handy lad but tended to err on the side of bullying and it was this potential for harrying that sometimes came my way as Killy tried to consolidate his reputation in other kids’ eyes, although he would always realise his mistake and apologise at a later date.

Anyway, my newly-excavated memory occurred during the school holidays’ of 1981, as our first year of senior school had come to pass and we found ourselves sculling around without a care for what tomorrow might bring. This particular mid-summer’s day found us playing around and exploring behind Killy’s parents’ palatial house, where an industrial yard stood neglected and disused. All it took for two born explorers to gain entry was a quick clamber over his back garden fence and we were then into the lost land of the unhitched wagon trailers: giant calligraphic company names stretched out on vast side panels, faded and peeling in precisely arranged lines, apparently forgotten about and left to decay with Nature’s encroaching grasp. Well, this is how it seemingly appeared to two young lads, bored from a lack of stimuli during the holidays and used to egging one another on into more daring situations, regardless of whether danger was apparent or there were any real consequences.

I recall we’d actually been into this trailer graveyard a couple of times before and had had a good old time smashing up some of the more rotten trailers with what we could find at hand, whether that entailed using half-bricks, metal scaffold bars or our steel-toe-capped Dr. Martin boots. On this particular day, our crunching, gouging and splintering of the wooden panels seemed to consume us and perpetuate a vandalism frenzy only like-minded kids’ understand and relish in. It made no difference to us that the trailers’ owners may not be as happy with our handy work as we obviously were and we progressed along the darkened HGV alleyways, unaware of our cacophony of noise as we got down to business.

In time, Killy and I ended up inside one of the long HGV trailers, down at the furthest point from the wide-open doors where the cab cut-out steps up, oblivious to all and sundry in the lightless murk as we deafened one another with our over-exuberance. Suddenly, during a break in our noise-making, we both heard something outside the trailer; we froze in mid-motions, our dilated pupils gazing at one another as we tried to catch the sound again but we were greeted with just the muffled silence swirling inside our oblong box. I indicated with a head-twitched side glance towards the back doors now would perhaps to be a good time to leave and Killy nodded his understanding.

Just as we reached the trailer’s open doors, a shadow loomed across the outside brightness and within a split-second, engulfed our escape: we stopped dead in our tracks as first a hand and arm appeared across the open doorway, followed by a boot and leg. At this point, I spun towards Killy and read the white pallor beneath the sweat-sheen of his face as if I was looking in a mirror, then watched as his expression turned into horror now he peered towards the shadow blocking our exit. I turned but dropped my gaze and was met by a pair of jeans, a big-brass, buckled belt and a tucked-in, red-checked shirt belonging to the giant of a man now straddling the doorway.

“WHAT’VE WE GOT HERE THEN, EH…?!” boomed from the faceless entity and his voice reverberated along the trailer’s length, echoing back to the two shit-scared children now stood quivering with the realisation they’d maybe gone a step too far in their enjoyment. I say faceless because for some reason I never lifted my eyes up from looking at his torso and hands, which were now clenching fists before his belt: thinking about it now, I may have purposely avoided eye contact because of my trepidation towards my father as I didn’t really know him too well because of my parents’ divorce. Killy however had no worry whatsoever of father figures – his parents lived together, so he was used to having his Dad around, plus getting leathered now and then – and so he went to get past our human blockage with the words, “Can you move, I wanna get past…?!”

“WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE F**KING GOING?!” bellowed forth, followed by “NEITHER OF YOU ARE GOING ANYWHERE, RIGHT?”, a statement that started the blood rushing deep in my ears. As I turned to look at Killy, I saw him get pushed back a foot or so by the bloke: immediately his pale face began to flush, his mouth tightened and his eyebrows’ squinted with a flash of childish rage. I knew instinctively that this expression was a response to his father’s occasional beatings and was automatic, but even before I could say anything to try and calm him down, he stepped forward once more and uttered the immortal phrase, “F**KING MOVE!”

Horrific things tend to happen in slow motion and are then played out at the same speed when remembered later, and this freeze-framed scene was no different. Still looking at Killy, I saw the bloke’s left hand grab his coat’s front and crumple it in his grasp; with this, Killy’s expression flared even more and I could see his right hand begin to form a fist as he started to raise his arm; then, the bloke’s right hand came flying through the air and slapped Killy full-belt across his face, leaving the echo of calloused skin on soft flesh resonating in the trailer’s void. The shock of this action resulted in Killy’s face flicking from the colour of blushed red, through to a greyish-white and quickly followed by a crimson beetroot, all in the space it took for the bloke to land his open palm to letting go of Killy’s jacket front.

“Not so tough now are you, hard-man?!” came in an almost whispered tone when compared to the bloke’s previous tumultuous vocal utterances. As I stared at Killy’s burning-bright cheeks, glowing in defiance with gritted teeth and an adrenaline pant, I spotted a single tear begin its lazy roll down the side of his face, but there was no shame in this shedding of eye water. Then I heard, “Do you want some, eh?!” aimed towards me, to which an unrecognisable voice replied: “No, no, I don’t want any…” escaped from inside my mouth, stammered with nerves, shock and fear and sounding nothing like my normal speech. At this, I glanced back at the man’s hands, open and slightly moving to emphasis their potential to deliver another slap and found myself mesmerised by his gold-banded Wedding ring, glinting a reflected sunbeam from between the partly-open doors.

“You two little bastards are going to learn a f**king lesson today that you’ll remember for the rest of your lives,” came in conjunction with the bloke stepping back and closing the doors of the trailer until there was just a slither of light slicing through. At this, I felt as if I was going to keel over and faint as my heartbeat began to blur and my vision started to pinhole as my periphery began to collapse in on itself with black and white swirls. Then I heard Killy start saying, “Wait ‘til I tell my Dad what you’ve done… you’re f**king dead!” which was quickly followed by the bloke laughing at his green but impassioned statement. “Oh yeah, who’s your Dad then, eh?!” was mockingly delivered; when Killy told the bloke his Dad’s name, he replied, “Well I don’t know him, so it don’t mean f**k all to me, boy!”

The bloke’s checked-shirt clad torso twisted back to my direction. “What about you? Got a big, hard Dad as well, eh…?!” slithered out towards me, carried on the now noticeable reek of stale alcohol, a smell I was used to in my life because my whole family were heavy drinkers and it was an odour I knew could mean trouble. “Yeah,” I answered, “I’ve got a Dad…” hoping this would placate the now-giggling maniac who was obviously getting pleasure from terrorising and beating children while inebriated. “Well, speak up then,” came the bloke’s reply, “what’s his f**king name?!” I told him my father’s name in hushed, trembling tones.

His voice pitch changed slightly as he spoke, “What did you say his name was…?” and I again repeated what I’d just said, only this time a little louder; at this, the bloke fell silent for a split second and then said, “Where’s his local…?” I glanced across at Killy, who flicked me a look of quiet confusion and then I carried on, “The Church Inn, just over there…” and at that, I raised my left arm and pointed in the general direction of the pub in question, still without raising my eyes to look at his face. 

Suddenly, light flooded into the trailer as the bloke stepped outside and held the doors open. “Off you go then,” came as a great surprise when Killy and I heard it being delivered by the now-friendly psychopath, “and don’t let me catch you in here again, alright?!” Without any further prompting needed, we both shot through the gap and quickly passed beneath the outstretched arm of the bloke as he held the doors open: as I went by, he quietly said “Don’t forget, Lad… not a word about this to your Dad, okay…?” to which I just nodded and grunted as I followed Killy. We didn’t speak a word or look behind us during the stomp through the trailer lanes towards his back fence and I can still remember feeling the sense of terror building inside as the fence got closer and we moved quicker in unison.

We cleared the fence in a couple of leaps and as we dropped down onto the other side, both of us found a crack each in the wooden slats and peered back through into the trailer yard, checking to see if the bloke could to be seen. There was no sign of any movement and it was only at this point I became annoyed with myself for not looking at his face to begin with, as I realised I had no frame of reference for this potentially life-changing moment. When Killy’s Dad finally turned up a couple of hours later and we told him what had happened, he was over the fence and stalking around the trailers with a Browning 9mm handgun, looking for retribution. Now, whether he would have used the gun is another matter but it was fully loaded and he was a good shot due to being a member of the local shooting club, so who knows how far he would have gone with his kid’s face being slapped off by a stranger? I mentioned it to my Dad during my weekly visit to his house but as I couldn’t give him a description of the bloke there wasn’t much he could go on, so it was gradually forgotten about over the subsequent years and just became another unsolved portion of this fate-driven life of mine.

It’s now thirty years later as I write this recollection: Killy and I went our different ways just five years after as we left senior school and I have no idea how his life turned out, although I do silently thank him for taking the face slap on that particular day, grateful it wasn’t me. Also, since dredging this painful recollection up from the depths, I’ve been periodically wondering who the trailer yard maniac could have been and with hindsight, have tried to remember all the people across my home town in the hope of triggering something off, but sadly to no avail. This unnamed nemesis, who instilled a lifetime of subconscious unease into me regarding drunken adults, has thankfully remained unknown to me and I now count it as a blessing I never looked upon his face as I have no mental image to have future nightmares over. The scariest part is that without the unintentional help my Dad’s name brought me on that summer’s day back in 1981, trapped in the back of a rotting trailer with someone incensed enough to have already struck a child without regard, my so-called life could have turned out a whole lot worse…

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Responses

  1. i have a similar story to this as well, funny isn’t it?

    • Not really funny, disturbing is more the phrase that springs to mind! Have seen I’m linked from Facebook – do not give my name on there, okay?!

  2. Wow, thats brutal but its something that I think many people have a similar experience of. Maybe not as terrifying though.

    • I know and no exaggeration needed in the story. Funny thing is, our Danny read it and said the exact same thing had happened to him! I left his reply at that because finding out any more details can open a can of worms…


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