Ten years ago I started writing a YA novel. I wrote a couple of pages on the first day. Then I wrote no more. No idea why. I suspect that I just jot distracted, and then forgot about it. It was called, or going to be called, An A-Zed of Richard’s Head. The idea was to write a novel in the form of an encyclopaedia, each chapter being a different entry. Anyway, ten years on, I stumbled across it, while clearing the crud out of my hard drive, I’ll never write the novel. But here it is, for anyone who wants to see what a dead end looks like.
A is for Aardvark
Because A is always for Aardvark, and here I am beginning at the beginning, getting everything down while there is still time.
A shuffling, snuffling grubber in antheaps and shitheaps. A lurking night creature. Pigsnouted, bat-eared. Beautiful not at all. Find beauty and then look in the exact opposite direction. If beauty is up, look down. If it is east, look west. There you will find aardvark. Earth pig it means. An ugly word in an ugly tongue. Nocturnal and solitary. They have no living relatives, no living friends. They run away zigzag style when chased, and if cornered will lash out feebly with claws and tail. But their main defence is digging; their chief hope to be ignored.
So here, at the outset, is Richard Head, the human aardvark. His goal (my goal, because he’s me), was to get through each day without being laughed at. Mockery was his leopard, stalking him remorselessly though the bush.
But, like the aardvark, Richard was good at one thing: knowing. Knowing was to Richard what digging is to the aardvark. His thing. His metier. Richard knows everything. Well, not everything. Only the stuff that doesn’t matter. He knows all the animals there are. He knows all the history there was. What he doesn’t know is how to make himself less of a joke.
An example. From school, of course. Back in Year 9. Rainy day PE. Usually that was good. It meant they didn’t have to go running across the fields being screamed at by the mentally unstable PE teacher, Mr Fricker. Indoor games meant sitting on the benches at one end of the gym listening to Fricker tell them about personal hygiene, whilst at the other end of the gym Mrs Hennegan advised the girls against teenage pregnancy and Chlamydia and vaginal warts, as if someone else had been telling them what a good idea they were. There was supposed to be a slide show to go with the Chlamydia and the warts, but there was no chance of that being shown in the gym, lest the boys see it and get all frothed up. If Mrs Hennegan was a horse you’d probably say she looked a lot like a human, but for a human she looked an awful lot like a horse.
Mr Fricker, on the other hand, looked like a naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) which is to say, and no offence is intended here (to penises or naked mole rats), that he looked a lot like a penis. That featureless domed head, the curious, fleshy wattle around his neck – you get the picture.
But that’s what normally would have been happening on an indoor gym day. On this day Mrs Hennegan wasn’t around for the Chlamydia chat and Mr Fricker was off having his head waxed, or his shaft buffed or some suchlike, so the class was in the less than capable hands of two junior members of staff who had the misfortune to be hanging around in the staffroom when the Deputy Head was prowling. First there was Mr Fung who’d been brought in to the school on some crazy whim to teach Mandarin. His Mandarin may have been great, but his English sucked. The other was Miss Kelly. Miss Kelly was looked like one of us, a teenager I mean, and she was as pretty as magnolia flowers before they go brown and rot.
And that’s as far as I got…