…that which comes last, at the end and around about the finish
Oscar was filled with the importance of it. Brimming over with it. Oscar had something to say. Something to write about. He had something. This was what a writer was – someone with something to write about. That’s what had been missing all these years – a subject. More than a subject, things actually happening. One thing after another. People doing things. In secret. Demonstrations. Ideas. Struggles. Could it get any better than this? Not only was Oscar a writer, he now had words to write. Words. And people would read them; they would want to read them – who wouldn’t want to read whole paragraphs about an anarchist in our midst, an anarchist in our children’s classrooms, a man whose sworn aim is to undermine everything we hold dear. People wouldn’t be able to put it down. It’s compulsive.
Oscar thought for a moment about what people hold dear: family, money, sex, food, children, truth – all of these things Tommy Kilpatrick was against. He was against children, he dismissed the truth, undermined family, didn’t have sex, didn’t eat. He was a monster: Monster in our Midst. Oscar wrote that down in his notebook. Oscar had bought a new notebook. It had one hundred thinly lined pages. The random person sitting next to him on the tram was looking down at what he was writing. On registering this almost surreptitious interest, Oscar realised that he should be careful. This was hot, big, massive, great. This was news. And it wasn’t even made up.
The sub-editor shouting “Where the hell have you been?” didn’t throw Oscar, not in the slightest. Nor did Oscar attempt to tone down the full grin that he spread across his face. The sub-editor’s “What the hell are you laughing at?” was merely an invitation to pass on the good news. “I’ve got one hell of a story,” Oscar eventually countered. “One hell of a story.”
Having exhausted any possible effect of shouting at Oscar, the sub-editor decided to simply turn away and dismiss his existence, at least partly, as much as turning his back towards him would bring his existence to a close. He might continue talking, giving out brief yeses and nos, he would try to confine himself to yeses and nos, yeses and nos to no one in particular, yeses and nos to the void, but facing Oscar, accepting his continued existence, legitimising his physical presence and giving credence to whatever reason he had for being smug was just asking too much of him.
“I was at that demonstration yesterday, you know “Never forget” and all of that? It was pretty small actually. Not much to write about.”
“No.” Trying to load one word with sufficient sarcasm and caustic wit was really stretching the sub-editor, whose natural tendency would have been to turn around and strangle Oscar, who had stopped existing twenty seconds ago. But he restrained himself. Restraint, for some reason, was the order of the day.
“But then there was this counter-demonstration. Just came out of nowhere. Though it was only a couple of people too. Looking at the whole thing in Albert Square… well, it didn’t look like front page, hold the press stuff.”
“Yes.” The sub-editor was grinding his teeth and tearing the paper in a zigzag pattern beneath his pen.
“That counter demonstration though, it was only the tip of the iceberg.” Oscar sat himself on the sub-editor’s desk, impinging upon his peripheral vision, forcing his substantiality onto his universe. But the sub-editor couldn’t bring himself to look up at him. “This is huge. It’s unbelievable.”
“If I don’t believe it,” the sub-editor couldn’t stop himself from commenting, “then you’re in trouble.” He looked up at Oscar. He could barely stop himself from giving Oscar a full blast of his anger. It was a struggle.
“But the best stories are unbelievable. So unbelievable you think – I don’t believe that. That can’t be true. But it’s so amazing, so unbelievable you just think it must be true. Of course it’s true. You realise how stupid you were all along. How had you not seen it?”
“What?” Anger was more clearly marking his face now. The mock quizzical look he contorted his face into was clearly marked with the deep lines of a deeply felt rage.
“You know, I knew this guy for like a year. He worked at the school I worked at. Teaches history. He’s still there. Turns out he once organised some kind of strike. A work to rule. And on some ridiculous grounds. Trumped up. And he’s been perverting the kids’ minds there for years. Has them all turned into little anarchists. Hundreds of little anarchists. Been teaching that history doesn’t exist. That we can’t know it. We weren’t there. What does King Henry the twenty-fifth know about our lives, what it means to be you?”
“But that’s just it. This same guy is in our own files. Has a history in this kind of thing. He’s an agitator. He’s a known instigator of… he’s a monster. He’s…
“Who?” Had Oscar succeeded in catching the interest of the sub-editor or merely in confusing him.
“Tommy Kilpatrick… also known as Bill Simmons… he’s up to something. He’s criminally insane. He’s orchestrating all the subversives in the city. He’s sowing the seeds of dissent. Revolution. There’s going to be a revolution. This is huge.”
“A revolution?” the note of derision in the sub-editor’s voice was sharp, but wasn’t noticed by Oscar.
“So I was thinking: Monster in our Midst. Because, well… he’s in our midst. He’s teaching our kids for god’s sake. And he’s a monster.”
“Yes a monster. Inhuman. He’s got no feeling for his fellow man. He has no values. He’s twisted. He’s different. He’s not like you and me.”
“You and me?”
“You and me. We’re just the same. We get up for work, work all day, brush our teeth, get out of bed, eat our dinner, watch the football. You and me. People. We’re people. Regular people. We have cats and dogs. Have homes. Televisions. Read newspapers. Walk to the corner shop on a sunny Saturday morning to get the paper. Drink tea. Sleep with the windows wide open on a summer’s night. Have parents. Dream. We dream. And when we dream we begin to understand. And when we wake up, we live. And when the lights are turned out, and we’re lying in bed alone, because we then realise, no matter what, that we’re alone, lying there in bed, just as we’re about to go to sleep, just at that point we know what it means to be you and me.”
“Are you fucking crazy?”
This stopped Oscar for a moment, long enough for him to think clearly for a moment, perhaps long enough for him to note the derision weighing down those words, the derision explicit in these words – a moment. And in this moment, Oscar must have seen himself, or rather, heard himself. Must have seen the two of them standing there – they were both standing up now, stood against the dull open light from the window, in profile, standing facing each other on the horizon, working, discussing the story. And he must have seen tomorrow’s newspaper. The story on the front page. The sub-editor standing over it, looking down at it. Seen the whole office standing around it. Oscar holding it. Everyone looking over his shoulder: “It will be beautiful.”