ell you know my name is, he started, but he didn’t know what came next. Simon, the nurse said. Nice to meet you, he said. No, she said, That’s your name you old fart. It didn’t sound familiar to him, but who was he to argue. He reached into the pocket of his bathrobe and pulled out a fistful of busted chalk. Give me that, the nurse said, and left him with nothing. Well. There were only whiteboards now anyway. Nothing to draw on. No way to leave an impression.
He took off his glasses and closed his eyes and imagined the darkness was just one long scroll of blackboard. He could draw anything on it. Only he didn’t know what. So he drew nothing and rolled the scroll back up tight instead.
Someone was tugging at his robe. He opened his eyes. A little boy, a brat. Somebody’s grandchild in for a visit. Somebody looking apologetically his way, pulling the little boy off.
He turned to look out the window at the old garden wall. The wood was falling to rot, but there was a workman out there on a ladder slopping white paint on it. As if that layer of skin could hold back the years.
What are you doing staring at that old thing, the nurse said, There’s nothing over it but a junkyard. I’m hot, he said. You’re nothing of the kind, she said. But she still jammed a mop handle under the door to prop it open.
When she focused her torment on someone else, he snuck out into the lane. The workman was doing a piss poor job of it.
What’s on the other side, he said, and the workman said, Nothing but an old junkyard. And he continued on with his piss poor job. Then he said, I need to piss, and went inside.
There were eleven steps, each one an odyssey. The ladder creaked and so did his bones. When he reached the top, he wasn’t tall enough to see over. He grabbed the top boards, his hands sticking to the paint, and stretched.
What can you see, a voice said. He looked back down. The brat, the little boy, was there at the bottom of the ladder.
Nothing, he said.
Oh, the little boy said. He kicked at the weeds in between the flagstones. It wouldn’t be long before he would be tall enough to look over his own garden walls at all the junkyards of the world.
Not nothing, he said, turning back again. And then the blackboard scroll inside him unrolled, roaring with colour and laughter and magic. All of everything. Dipping his tongue into the words and painting. And the little boy listened, letting the pictures take him, take him over.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.