I am almost a hundred years old; waiting for the end, and thinking about the beginning. There are things I need to tell you, but would you listen if I told you how quickly time passes? I know you are unable to imagine this. Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel. The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and its dog-leaping happiness, the bleak blackness of passions unrequited, or unexpressed, or unresolved.
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I'm sorry I started all this by trying to fly and I'd take it back if I could but I can't, so please think of it from my point of view: if you die I will have a dead brother and it will be me instead of you who suffers. Justin thought of his brother on that warm summer day, standing up on the windowsill holding both their futures, light and changeable as air, in his outstretched arms. Of course, Justin thought, I'm part of his fate just as he's part of mine. I hadn't considered it from his point of view. Or from the point of view of the universe, either. It's just a playing field crammed full of cause and effect, billions of dominoes, each knocking over billions more, setting off trillions of actions every second. A butterfly flaps its wings in Africa and my brother in Luton thinks he can fly. The child nodded. A piano might fall on your head, he said, but it also might not. And in the meantime you never know. Something nice might happen.
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Where's your dog?" Peter's voice came from within the gushing stream of water. Justin thought he must have misheard. "Pardon?" "Your dog." "Yes?" "Isn't he with you today?" Justin looked at Peter. "Ha bloody ha." Peter stuck his head out of the stream of water, features dripping. He smiled shyly. "I love greyhounds." Justin stared. "My dog is imaginary." "Oh." Peter looked interested. "That's unusual." Justin put his head under the water. When he emerged, Peter was still looking at him. "Less work, " Peter offered, cheerily. "If the dog's imaginary, I mean. Not so much grooming, feeding, et cetera.
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He was a peculiar sight. Tears rolling down his face, shouting to drown the sound of the singing rabbit; he said he needed help, pointed to a chicken, handed over some money, grabbed his parcel and bolted out the door in panic. Boys, thought the butcher. Drugs, thought the woman. Justin Case, thought Dorothea.
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I hate you, I thought, I hate you with your bloody nature-boy airs and your bloody forced-march voyage of bloody discovery. I wondered then if Finn's personality worked on everyone, or whether I had just the the right sort of mentality to fall in step with a self-centered hermit-boy crab murderer.
Look, I say. You can't just let your thoughts float around in the ether and hope eventually they'll connect with something. It's absurd. No, it's not, Gil says. Lots of good things happen that way. Penicillin. Teflon. Smart dust. Something happens that you weren't expecting and it shifts the outcome completely. You have to be open to it. When I open my brain, I tell him, things bounce around and fall out. They don't connect with anything. Maybe I haven't got enough points of reference stored up yet. You're young, he says, that's probably it. When I let my thoughts float around, I trust that they'll latch on to something useful in the end or make an association I wouldn't necessarily have predicted. I'm trusting that they'll find the right thought to complete, all by themselves. The right bit of fact to ping. You have to trust your brain sometimes.
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On the warm stone walls, climbing roses were just coming into bloom and great twisted branches of honeysuckle and clematis wrestled each other as they tumbled up and over the top of the wall. Against another wall were white apple blossoms on branches cut into sharp crucifixes and forced to lie flat against the stone. Below, the huge frilled lips of giant tulips in shades of white and cream nodded in their beds. They were almost finished now, spread open too far, splayed, exposing obscene black centers. I've never had my own garden but I suddenly recognized something in the tangle of this one that wasn't beauty. Passion, maybe. And something else. Rage.
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And still the brain continues to yearn, continues to burn, foolishly, with desire. My old man's brain is mocked by a body that still longs to stretch in the sun and form a beautiful shape in someone else's gaze, to lie under a blue sky and dream of helpless, selfless love, to behold itself, illuminated, in the golden light of another's eyes.
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But I would like to make an important point before this goes any further and that is if anyone feels like arresting me for corrupting an innocent kid then all I can say is that Edmond was not corruptible. Some people are just like that and if you don't believe me it just means you've never met one of them yourself. Which is your loss.
but all I could think was in New York that kid would have been stuck in a straitjacket practically from birth and dangled over a tank full of Educational Consultants and Remedial Experts all snapping at his ankles for the next twenty years arguing about his Special Needs and getting paid plenty for it.
I love you. I'm madly in love with you. Well, madly obviously, given I'm mad as a mudlark. But you saved my life. I'd be dead without you. And you're so good to me. And you love me too. How lucky is that? Amazing! Amazingly lucky. I can't live without you. You're my lucky charm." She felt a sudden desire to kill Justin's well-meaning friend.
The facts of his existence are plain. I know that he will never silence those unspeakable voices. He heard how people killed, and how they died and their voices infected him, coursed through his body, poisoned him. He didn't know how to turn off the noise, or turn the hate back out onto the world like the rest of us. He turned it on himself. You could see that from the scars on him.