Playing The Fool

Entry by: jaguar

28th April 2016

The first time my sixth sense kicked in was nearly sixty years ago. I was behind you in the queue in Mrs Jarrett's sweet shop on the corner. I was six years old, had only moved to the area the week before. I looked at the softness of your neck and I knew. I knew you might be a boy but you were soft and sweet all the way through.

Not like marshmallow - something stronger and more flexible - like a toffee. We can't eat toffees now - don't have the teeth for them. ‘Shall we do this?’ I put the paper in front of your face and watch as you droop towards it. ‘There can’t be many people with more combined memories than us.’ It was an article about a local history they’re compiling on our area.

Today my sixth sense has gone into overdrive. Earlier, in the park, we’d walked past a couple on a bench. They were rowing, she was trying to end it. I saw how his eyes lingered on her neck as if he’d rather break her than let her go.

I wanted to warn her but you said I’d sound silly. You said I was too sweet now, trying to make up for how cruel I’d been as a kid. We laughed and moved on but I kept looking back. I don’t know what I thought we could do, we’re one hundred and fifty between us. I've never really seen you angry but I suspect you could hold your own if pushed.

You flap the article away but I can smell your fear. I know you’re frightened of some kind of exposure. I sit upright, surprised. Is there something I don’t know about you, after all these years? Did you lock a door against me long ago and decide you wouldn’t share? Did you keep something from me from the first day in the sweetshop? The emotion that boy on the bench showed, that feral need, is it in you too?

‘We were so cruel back then.’ I say. ‘Do you remember when the tarmac melted in summer? How we’d beg Mrs Jarrett for old lollipop sticks, cover them in tarmac and then entice the poor bees with honey so they stuck on?’ Your head shake is imperceptible. What else have you forgotten because it doesn’t suit your later persona? What have you buried because it was too awful to recall?

‘Don’t remember that,’ you mutter, ‘Are you sure I was there?’ That old joke. It was always you and me right the way through. Yet, recently, I’ve felt you withdrawing. I wonder if you regret how much and how long we’ve shared.

Yesterday I came into the sitting room and you shuffled something under your bottom. When you went to the loo I shook the cushion free. There were piles and piles of toffees, probably enough to see us both out. Why are you hoarding sweets? You stopped liking them about the time of the murder.

Someone killed poor Mrs Jarrett. They bludgeoned her to death in her garden. Then they ransacked the shop and threw the sweet jars on the floor. The police finger-printed all the local men but they never found her killer. They found your prints on the jars but you used to work there on Saturdays. You're staring at me now. I need to say something before this stretched silence twangs back in my face.

‘That wasn’t the worst of it. You told me that the shiny, more glassy bees couldn’t sting.’

‘Sorry,’ you say, ‘I guess I didn't think about your feelings.It was just a joke.’

Only it wasn’t you who said that about the bees, it was me. You were stung five times before you realised I was lying. You said I had a beehive hairdo and a bee-sting sense of fun. You said I was too dangerous to leave me playing the fool and you had better marry me to keep the other boys safe.

So you’re not afraid of something terrible being discovered, you're scared of how many ordinary things you’ve forgotten. You keep on buying toffees you no longer eat. It feels worse than the awful thing I’d been imagining. It seems I'm still cruel and selfish. I would rather you had confessed to killing the sweet lady than have to watch you fade away.