…the falling away, losing, disappearing of this and that
“Never forget!” most of the banners read. Some of them read other things. One of the banners read “It’s right now!” Oscar noted that down.
Oscar noted many things down in his notebook, bring a notebook the sub-editor had said, so he had brought a notebook, and he noted things down, noted lots of things down, the number of people in the demonstration, a lot, the colour of the sky, a dark grey with flecks of a lighter grey and subtly altering shades on the horizon between the rise of buildings in the city centre, the cold, it was cold, the rain, it had stopped, the police standing idly by, they chatted idly about second-hand caravans and caffeine free tea, the traffic, it had disappeared, the noise, it was hushed, there were no shouted slogans or songs, it was a sombre demonstration, Oscar wrote that down, sombre, all that could be heard were the shuffling feet of the demonstrators, and the idle chatting of the police men on duty, and the distant sound of heavy traffic, and the sound of the wind caught in the chimneys and alleys, and the soughing of the few trees either side of the street. His notebook was nearly full.
A sombre demonstration about never forgetting – there had to be more to it than that. There was more to everything, Oscar reminded himself. The sub-editor had told him – look beneath, behind, in between. Oscar would do as he was told – he walked down one of the narrow alleyways which turned off the main street. In between rusted fire escape ladders and piles of stinking rubbish. Oscar made his way. He made it to the next main street without uncovering anything. So he was missing something. He had been distracted. He quickly returned to where everything was happening, the centre of significance, the sombre demonstration, which still reproached him about forgetting. He wouldn’t forget.
Making his way to the back of the crowd of demonstrators, Oscar looked at the ground beneath their feet – it was wet. It had been raining. The dark grey rain laden clouds had now past, but there was still no sign of the sun in the lighter greyness above them. The tips of some umbrellas trailed along the ground, but most tapped in time to the steps of the slowly moving demonstration.
“A passion for truth,” The Chief had spoken of that morning in briefing, Oscar’s first briefing, and what would turn out to be his last. And Oscar knew that passion was important, so he was passionate, particularly about the truth. Bearing this passion in mind he fell in at the back of the demonstration, and with notebook in hand he began to interview people, any person, a person wearing a grey raincoat, about what was happening today.
“It is important that we should never forget,” this person said.
“Why?” Oscar asked. He would get to the bottom of this.
However, instead of an answer the person in the grey raincoat turned away and made a pointed attempt to ignore him.
Oscar moved to the side of the street, the better to take in the whole of the demonstration, which stretched for some twenty yards, all the way from the large banner held by those at the front walking together in a straight line, to the stragglers at the back who proved to be so uncommunicative and lacking in insightful comments. This was news he told himself. He had a passion for it. For truth. For justice. For all of that stuff. He was full of passion. He remembered each of The Chief’s words, each word engrained in his mind, like they were written down there, in large letters, like they were written by a thick black marker pen, or with a paint brush, the kind used for painting fences or floors – thick, with a wide girth, which soaked up a lot of paint and thickly smeared it across the fence. Always paint with the grain.
Just then, all of a sudden, with no warning, completely out of the blue, just like that, a person ran out of the crowd towards Oscar and tripped over the edge of the footpath. Oscar immediately helped him to his feet. As soon as the man thanked him, Oscar was quick to ask a searching question – he would get to the bottom of all of this. Uncover something. Get underneath the surface.
“I’m a reporter you fool,” was the reply.
By the time the demonstration had reached the Town Hall Oscar had filled up his notebook – there had only been six pages left when he started and now each of those pages was filled with wild handwriting. But Oscar was comforted by the fact that each word was weighted with significance. Every word. Even the prepositions. So many words – the importance of what he had written gave Oscar a brief thrill, which he could feel all down his legs and arms. His words meant something now. He was a writer. A writer of words which people would read. Real words.
It was at this point that the story really got going. And Oscar wouldn’t be found wanting. He fished a free newspaper out of the bin and started noting down his observations on the thin margins and any other areas which were free of newsprint. A counter demonstration appeared out of nowhere, he wrote. It was clear that there was going to be trouble. The first demonstration turned to face the newcomers who were usurping their moment in the news. They were more than a little perturbed by what they saw – upwards of a dozen large banners proclaiming “Forget!” and “Nothing Happened!” and “Remember what?”. What was moments before a peaceful and hushed demonstration was changing before my very eyes. Rumbles of anger sounded. Shouts of hatred and protest filled the square. There was going to be a collision of ideas as well as of people. The atmosphere was thick with menace. There was going to be…
…but Oscar couldn’t find any more empty space. Half the newspaper he was writing on, which he had fished out of the bin, was sodden because of the rain, and couldn’t be written on. Oscar was momentarily at a loss. But caught up as he was in the moment, his determination carrying him ever forward, Oscar rose to new heights, to this new challenge and began writing on his hand, his arm, his return tram ticket: the first missile was thrown by those from the counter demonstration. Violence would no doubt ensue. The police stopped idly chatting and assessed the situation, before making a tactical retreat. Shoppers who strayed into this tumult were quick to run one way or another. Clash of ideas at Albert Square, Oscar wrote on his return tram ticket.
The words “Oscar MacSweeny – how the hell are you?” threw him for a moment. It was Tommy Kilpatrick.
“You know…” was all that Oscar could manage.
“I wouldn’t write any of this down if I were you. It’s all a whole lot of nothing important.” Tommy Kilpatrick gave what could only be described as a lingering evil smile. “Funny, you ending up working as a reporter. Never had you down for one of them. Thought you had a bit more reserve. Know what’s what.”
“I know what’s what,” Oscar was quick to rebuff such a slight. “Truth and justice. The truth will come out. And all that.” Oscar was unashamed of using such big and weighty words. They were his words now.
“We’ll see,” replied Tommy Kilpatrick as he walked back into the now heaving crowd.
“We’ll see what?” Oscar called after him, feeling somehow defeated. He fished around in his pants pocket for a receipt or a chocolate wrapper to note down the concluding paragraph, but couldn’t find anything.