A song for a blind man? Haven’t ye a note or two for this tired old soul? The busker falls silent as I pass, my infirmities deadening to his mellifluous conjurations. The decrepitude of my cells penetrates the air like the choke of burning plastic. I never wanted to be the bearer of an all-conquering silence. It was neither my way nor want, but such is the turn of the world. They put the screws on me, wore me down. All you see now is this ramshackle shell. I am a carrier of the broken, the discarded. Neither am I the sum of my parts. What’s more, for me, there is no end, only the perpetual air of lost moments.
Doesn’t it permeate your skin already, the reek of my wretchedness? No matter how much I scrub my wrinkly arse the stink just won’t come off me. The smell of shit can be dealt with but the hum of decay is resolute. Flee, ye who would approach! Come not near my corrosive husk. Decay’s gravity is immense.
I sit at a distance. Life stops and starts in my wake, and when I have moved on, the busker is reinvigorated, the stink of my atrophy now gone from his nose. He strikes up a song, a dirge from a gone auld time. I can tell by the singing of him he’s been infected with my hum. It’s in him still, the aura of my rot accelerating his euphonic deterioration. And his death shanties will in turn hasten the degeneration of all those who hear.
Perhaps you will think me a fatalist. Melancholic. A malignant old sot? Ha! There is much that amuses me. Take this hoary, shrivelled organ between my legs, for instance. Heehee… I only need take it out and I’m filled with rampant mirth. I can swing it about in delight, shake it at horrified innocents – that’s what makes me shriek with glee. But when I do that, they lock me up and feed me manure for days. There is no mirth in a cell – who can you shake your willy at, sir? There is no shocking a stone wall. So I go to the park in the afternoon when it’s too hot for the children and I shake it at the pigeons, and chase them around with my waggling worm. I am the deviant, the old pervert. What joy is there left for an old man but the delight in his perversions? Sometimes, I prod the old ladies in the bum with this walking stick of mine. Up ye! I shout. Up yer wrinkled auld chuff!
The old women have no perversions, that is why they hoard; the more they hoard, the more miserable they become. Me, I hoard nothing. I lie on a mattress in a single room, my only possessions a kettle and a piss-bucket, and, need I say, my perpetual hum of decrepitude. This, too, is a possession, as I have cultivated it over many years, clung to it, so that it has come to define me. Possessions end up owning one, don’t you know?
The dirge finishes, a cloud appears overhead. Truly Shakespearean. My bodily confluences now determine the weather. One man can change the world. You won’t be surprised to learn that I was an actor. Yes, thespian me, and isn’t it a fitting ending perhaps, that now I roam the streets in my dirty brown overcoat, amusing or upsetting people?
Heeding the call of nature, I get up and go to the wall, next to a drinks dispensing unit. I unbutton my beaten pants and pull out my hoary worm to squeeze out a pish. Old men can pish anywhere. An old crone scuttles by. I turn to see her scowl and I grin. I spin around to flash her my piddler and she squeals. Heehee. Away, you auld bint.
Squeezing one out, I put him away before the law shows. I take my stick and away to the park.
The clouds clear, the busker starts up again. Behind me, life resumes.
‘The Death of Song’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.