Tatter Jack - Books
Chapter 01 - Best day...
The day my mom died was the best day of my life.
I mean, like, it wasn't the only best day. Because there were some great days I was going to have, even if, like. I didn't know I was going to have them back then. But it was the best best day. Because if it hadn't been for that day, none of the other ones would have happened at all. And maybe it was the worst day as well, because even if it wasn’t, it led to the worst. But like my mom used to say – that’s just how it is. Because everything has a price. But even if it was the worst, it was still the best, because…
Fuck. This isn't making sense. And I need some fucking thing to make sense, because nothing else is. Not now. Not now everything's different. Not now I'm different.
Maybe I should start again.
The day my mom died was the best day of my life.
Don't get me wrong. Mom and me? We were great. Like, great. I mean, yeah. She was bat-shit crazy, but that didn't stop things being great.
Well. I thought she was crazy. Now? Things are different now. I'm... but no. We're not there yet. And I know we have to get there, and I know we will, and I know it will all happen again, like it has to happen again. But not now. Not yet.
So yeah. There was me, my bat-shit crazy mom – and We. Were. Great.
I say my mom and me, because that's how it was. Like, yeah. Some time there'd been my dad. Pretty unavoidable really. And I remember, like I remember everything now, because it's different now, and I'm different now, I remember how I was nine when I asked her. Asked mom. Asked her how if everyone else had a mom and a dad, where mine was? I mean, I knew some other kids didn't have one. A dad. But they'd had one once. Like Jennie Saunders, and it turned out her dad was dipping a bit more than his fingers into things he shouldn't have been dipping into at the office. And her mom found him one time at home, with one of the things he shouldn't have been dipping into, and it was, like, even in Jennie's bed, and then Jennie didn't have a dad any more. Or Freddie Blake, whose dad thought he knew how to fix things round the house, and found out the hard way you don't cut a gas pipe with a blow torch. They couldn't even find the bits of Freddie's dad, but Freddie and his mom got a new house from the insurance, and, like, Freddie said how the house was bigger and he got a room all of his own, and didn't have to share with his fuckwit brother anymore, so he thought it was a good trade. But he'd had a dad, even if it was just for a while. And I never had, so, like I said, I was nine, and I asked mom.
And mom sat me down, and we had The Talk. Not the birds and bees crap, which doesn't even have, like, a single bird or a single bee in it. Mom had done that one with me when I was eight. She said how I was an early developer, and stuff was going to start happening to me, and it was all going to be OK, in fact, it was going to be kind of fun, but she figured I'd better know some stuff early. So it wasn't that talk. It was The Talk. And my mom told me how she'd always known she wanted to have me, but she'd always known she wanted to have me, and not just any old me. And, like, some friends of hers had told her how to get me, and not just any old me. And they'd told her who it was who could give her me because, like, remember the talk we'd had when I was eight? So she'd gone and found the guy her friends had told her about and that was it. And she said how she didn't need him for anything after that, so she'd kicked his lame ass out of her bed and out of her life. Because it was going to be her and me. Or rather, and this was when we had the Other Talk, it was going to be her and me, but one day it was going to be just me. Because mom had places to go and things to do, and one day she'd have to go do them. And that's when she told me. Like, how, when it happened, when she was gone, I wasn't to worry, and I wasn't to get sad, and I wasn't to go to no fucking funeral. Because whatever was going to be at the funeral wasn't going to be mom, and mom was going to be with her friends. And that her friends were going to be my friends, because, like, I was special, and I wasn't ever to be afraid of the dark because it was only in the dark, well and the evening, sort of, that you could really see. See what was Real.
See what was Real. I could hear the fucking capitals. So like I told you. There was me, my mom – and my mom was bat-shit crazy. I knew that, because I was such a fucking smart kid, and it was OK, because it was my mom, and we were great. We were great.
Right. Smart. I was so fucking smart.
And I'd been eight, and I was nine – and then I was a whole lot of other years. And there was me, and there was mom, and it was great – and mom was right. I was never afraid of the dark.
And then I was twenty. I was twenty, and there wasn't me and mom any more. There was me, and mom was gone – and it was the best day of my life.
I guess I'm still not making much sense, am I? But stick with me. We'll get there.
So my mom was dead. My mom was dead, and everybody expected me to go to her funeral. To put her in the cold ground, and say some stuff I didn't mean, because the stuff I did mean wasn't any of their fucking business, and I'd told mom the stuff I did mean while she was still around to hear it. And I remembered what mom had told me, about not going to any funeral, but I figured I'd have to go and to do it, just to get it done.
And then I got the letter.
I should have known something was happening. I think now I probably did, but back then I wasn't really thinking much. Mom was gone, and there'd been all sorts of shit to get sorted out and arranged. Like, some guy had turned up claiming to be my dad, and saying the house was his. I told him I didn't give a shit if he'd been the one who did the dipping to make me happen, or if he wasn't. Mom had left me the house, and I didn't have a dad, and he might have better lawyers, but I knew some people who didn't really use lawyers. More, like, bike chains and switchblades. And if he didn't get his lame ass out of the house, like mom had kicked it out of her bed, I'd make sure the people I knew wanted to talk to him. Or, if he got my drift, not so much talk as get their points across. He left, which saved me having to call Billy and owe him. I saw a news report later about how some guy had jumped off the multi-storey parking lot in town that evening. The report said he didn't have a thing on him, like, a wallet or anything, and did anybody know who he was? The picture they showed was a bit mashed up – a three floor jump can do that. But I knew wasn't going to have to worry about lame ass. And I'd had to arrange for the funeral mom told me not to go to, so it looked like I was going to have to go to anyway.
But the day of the funeral I wake up kind of early, just as the sun’s lifting up over the horizon. The shadows in my room are crawling back towards the walls, getting ready to spend the day scrunched up under the sun. And I wake up. I wake up, and I have this kind of gut feel there's something I have to do, and I know it isn’t the funeral thing. So I get up, and I go downstairs, and I have no idea what I’m going to do next, because as I'm passing the front door on my way to the kitchen, there's a knock at the door. Like, it's fuck-I-should-be-in-bed o'clock in the morning, and someone's knocking at the door! So I open the door, which shows I'm not really thinking because I'm buck-naked, with a morning hard-on. And I'm standing there, and it's lucky it's fuck o'clock, because there's nobody around. And I mean nobody, and whoever knocked should still be somewhere I can see them. Which I can't, because the only thing I can see is the letter on the mat. A letter with no address on it, but it’s got my name. And my name's hand written, and I know the hand that wrote it, because it's the hand that picked me up every time I fell down growing up, and the hand that smacked me upside my head every time I needed that too. So I pick it up, and I run my finger over the name on the letter, like, just to remember who wrote it some more – and that's when I know something's going on. Because the ink fucking smudges. It smudges, and my finger's covered in black ink, because the ink's not even dry. It's not dry, and it's wet, and then it's not wet at all, mostly because it's not there. It fades away, and it's gone, like a shadow under the noon sun, and all I've got is a blank envelope.
So I tear it open, the blank envelop in my hand, and there's no letter in it. There's no letter, but there's a plane ticket to Vancouver, and a ticket for an auto service to Whistler. And a ski pass. A ski pass! And I look at it, and I'm thinking, like, the nearest I'd ever been to fucking skis is when I got my hand under both the Dunajski twins' cheerleader skirts when I was fifteen. But Miss Baker came along before the three of us could go 'ski-ing' together, and that ski-ing wasn't this skiing, and what the fuck am I going to do with a ski pass?
And then it happens. Because I look at the ski pass, and I pick it up – and as soon as I touch it, I know. I know I know how. How to fucking ski, and it doesn't involve either Karolina or Agata, never mind both of them. And I look at my finger, where the black ink that couldn't be wet couldn't have smudged, and for sure couldn't be gone already if it had, and I know I'm not going to any funeral tomorrow. Because either my bat-shit mother wasn't so bat-shit, or maybe I am, and I'm not really standing where I think I'm standing because I'm still in bed asleep, or I'm in a room with nice padded walls and a nice tight jacket I can't get off. But I think, like, maybe I'm in bed, or maybe I'm in that room, or maybe - just maybe – mom wasn't as bat-shit crazy as I thought after all, and maybe I'm not bat-shit crazy either. And maybe, just maybe I have a plane to catch. So I go upstairs, and I grab a T and some jeans.
There's probably some really clever advertising slogan about Whistler. Like, 'Whistler – where there's no business like snow business'. OK. So that's not clever. If it was, somebody would be paying me a lot more than anyone does pay me to make up dumb shit about places I've never been. And Whistler? If I was making a slogan about Whistler, it would be more like 'Whistler – Australia 2.0'. Because for one thing, every other voice you hear is Australian. Like, why? I mean, Australia. Kangaroos, and rocks called Alice. And who the fuck gives a rock a name anyway? Snow? Not so much. Or that's what I thought. Turns out, Australia has mountains too, and they get snow, and Australians love skiing. Like, who knew? Or maybe 'Whistler – where my jacket cost more than your car'. Because every ski-bar you go into, every slope, there's someone, or more likely a whole bunch of someones, sitting round in nylon and gabardine which, they'll be delighted to tell you, cost more than it costs me to eat for a year. I know that because this girl I ask for directions? That’s what she does. She gives me the up look, and the down look, and the ‘oh my fucking god’ look. Then she giggles to her boyfriend. I mean, what the fuck's a 'gapper'? Apparently, I am. But whatever it is, I find out where my pass lets me go, and I go see what it takes to hire some skis.
So I find this place, and I can tell the guy who's hiring skis out isn’t happy with me. I can tell he thinks I'm going to be another number on a report somewhere, saying how I broke my neck. So he gives me the stuff, and he doesn't say a fucking word about how to put it on, and just stands there with this look on his face that says 'so now what you gonna do, dipshit?' And he should be right, and the look should be right, and, like, it's getting late and evening's falling and I should be turning round and going home.
But I don't.
I don't because somehow, even though there's lights in the guy's store, it's like there aren't enough of them. And the lights are, like, shifting, and the store's filled with flickering, twisting shadows. And I feel somehow dizzy, and I think I black out, but nobody shouts and nobody screams, and I don't fall down. Then my eyes open, or the black goes away, and I have all the stuff on, and, like, the guy's not giving me the 'dipshit' look any more. So I grab the skis, and I grab my poles, and I head for the slope, and I put my skis on, though fuck knows how I do it, and I dig in my poles.
You ever been on a roller-coaster? Well, skiing isn't anything like that. But don't ask me what it is like. I have no fucking idea. I have no idea because I’ve got my eyes closed, and the only reason I'm not screaming is I can't actually open my mouth, I'm so scared. And the wind's rushing, and I'm rushing, and if I can't scream out loud, I'm screaming in my head and wondering why people do this.
And then I'm not.
I'm not because somehow I'm stopped. I'm stopped, and I've no idea how I did it. And I’m not screaming in my head anymore because mostly what's going on in my head is 'fuck, those are great legs.' And I'm saying it because there's this big snow drift, and this snow drift has exactly that. It has really, really great fucking legs, and they're stuck up in the air out of the snow drift. And the thing with these legs? The thing with these legs is, whether it's OK to ski in jeans or not, apparently it's absolutely fine to ski in a skirt. And I figure even if it's not fine, it is for absolutely sure OK by me, especially if whoever is doing it is going to end up upside down in a snow drift.
So the muffled sounds I can hear coming from the snow drift make me think whoever the legs belong to doesn't actually want to be in the drift. And the legs make me think I maybe want to help whoever owns them out of the drift. Because, like, it's going to be kind of hard to get whoever owns the legs out without me and those great legs getting pretty up close and, given the whole skirt thing, pretty personal. Which doesn't strike me as a bad idea at all. So I shout how I'm, like, here, and how, like, I'm going to try to get the legs, I mean, the legs' owner, out of the drift. I take a whole ski off one foot, and a broken ski off the other, And I grab hold of the legs, and I start pulling. And yes, I have to grab a bit more than the legs as I get you out, and no, I don't mind one little bit. And yes, I say you. I get you out. Because that's how it happens, right? How we meet.