…the miraculous ray of light which shines down from the heavens and inspires a person with something to talk about, write about or take advantage of
That Oscar was completely without inspiration, that he had nothing to write about, rarely anything of interest to talk about, cannot be held up as proof that he had nothing to say. It’s just that there is nothing to say. Not that everything that could be said has been said. Because there was nothing to talk about in the first place. There never was anything to talk about. Never, in the recorded history of the world, was there something said which had any value over and above the value you could attribute to the statements “Pass the salt.” “The angles of any triangle add up to one-hundred and eighty degrees.” or “Get the hell out of here, there’s a lion behind that tree.”
Towards a proof of this – that Oscar, and not only Oscar but every other character, had nothing to talk about – can be offered an observation of the four main characters: Oscar, Helen, Henry and Smith, who could be found to be sitting in the living room of Number 25 Railway Street, saying nothing to each other for almost half an hour.
It wasn’t that any of them was occupied in any particular way. No one was reading a newspaper, book or a television schedule. The television, as has been previously described on a number of occasions, was broken – it wasn’t “not working”, it was actually broken, hundreds of cracks radiating from the centre of the screen where Smith’s heel had previously come sharply into contact with it. There was nothing to look at, including themselves, which they hadn’t all seen so very many times before, such that their familiarity with the same was bordering on contempt.
“There’s nothing to say!” was the only comment passed in the last half an hour, and that was said just now by Oscar, the pain he felt registered on his face for each of the other three to see, should they have bothered to look at him.
It was at this point that the heavens opened – the clouds which had been obscuring the sun now parted and the sun’s rays hit the large window’s Venetian blinds full on, warming them up and firing through their cracks and faults rays of light which illuminated the room and which lit up the white hair and sallow face of Smith causing him to utter the following words.
“If we were in a novel we’d be speaking.” These words were uttered one at a time, with a lengthy pause between each one, lending them a strange quality, as though they were being passed down by a heavenly power. Smith now stood up. “We’d be talking about something. Something.” Smith adopted the tone of a television preacher. “There’d be a murder or a crumbling dam or a nuclear catastrophe – there’d be something.”
Henry calmly replied to this outburst. “There’s bits in novels that are quiet… there’s quiet bits – whole passages of description and stuff like that. Just look at Dickens or Hardy.”
“Your life’s too full of quiet bits… of description and stuff like that,” Smith countered.
Henry, as though hit by the very same inspiring beam of light, the beam of light which had sparked off Smith, took the floor, his hands in his pockets and offered the following statement – “Well, it’s a school night.” And promptly left the room, the house and the street, doing nothing else worthy of comment, though he did feel a sharp urge to make explicit the joke he had just made – it was light out, it was day time, and he said it was a school night, that it was night.
“Take Henry for example,” Smith went on, the other two having little choice but to listen owing to the nature of sound and our sensitivity to it in contrast to that of light which we can choose to block out if its intensity or colour or the collection of shapes it is bouncing off becomes too unpleasant. “We could turn his life into a novel.”
“But something would have to happen,” Oscar smiled, relieved that a conversation had finally risen out of the boredom of an empty existence, and he smiled despite his initial reluctance to become entwined in it, this conversation, a conversation about nothing. Relief had exceeded reluctance and buried regret – a thought which just then threw Oscar into a brief reverie.
“We could make something happen.” Helen smiled, glad to be distracted from her own weighty thoughts, though they were deemed unworthy of comment by the narrator.
“There’s so much that could happen,” Smith said.
“But never does,” Oscar countered.
“We could cut his brakes, kidnap him, report him to the police, persuade him to take part in a robbery, burn down his house, invite his parents over…” Smith looked around the room for inspiration, into the faces of Helen and Oscar, into the rays of sunlight streaming through the window which had fired like lightening into his mind moments before. “We could get him addicted to heroin, paint his car white… what happens in novels?”
The other two looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.
Oscar managed the words “war” and “peace”.
Helen managed the words “love” and “revenge”.
“Who could love this man?” Smith demanded of the world around him.
“Julia Madden, the manly gym teacher,” Oscar replied.
“Who could hate this man?” Smith was into more fertile territory.
“Well there’s…” Helen began what seemed likely to be an extensive list of people, animals and inanimate objects which would have harboured some animosity towards Henry Bridgewater, but quickly realised that it would be an entirely pointless activity: to begin a list with an infinite number of items.
But she was interrupted by Oscar shouting out “Mrs R P Merryweather,” the name of the last person to fire him and who was very likely to fire Henry, the headmistress of Didsbury Girls’ Grammar School, the possessor of an ample bosom, an ample portion of venom and an ample propensity to hate.
“Intriguing.” Smith adopted the look of someone who was intrigued.
Helen and Oscar looked at each other and seemed content to leave the whole business there – their looks communicated the fact that they were both of the opinion that this particular piece of idle talk should be left to go to sleep and never wake up.
Helen therefore retreated to her room upstairs. A moment later the sound of Helen locking her door with her padlock was to be heard.
“You know Helen might just have a few incidents for a novel jostling around her,” Smith confided to Oscar.
“There’s this woman…” Smith looks at an imaginary novel held up by both his hands. “She’s teetering on the edge. She has no real friends or family. She’s hanging on by her fingertips. She exhibits many anti-social traits – she dislikes women, she dislikes men. She has nothing to offer the world. She is addicted to lying. She’s been living in one room for the last year, padlocked in every night, never has any friends calling over, apart from the odd gentleman caller (Smith grins childishly), she jumps from one job to the next followed by disaster – she’s a mystery! That’s what you need for a novel – a mystery.”
“So what your proposing… let me get this right now.” Oscar takes the imaginary novel from Smith’s hands and holds it up above them both, the empty space still the focus of their attention. “You’re proposing ruining Henry’s life in order to give us something to talk about, and maybe provide material for a novella, and to follow Helen around in order to get some more material.”
“That’s just the beginning Oscar… there’s a whole world out there. A whole world!”