Callum B. Downes

Month: July, 2017

‘Statue Boy’ redefines himself

I’ve reached the 20 000 word milestone! Thanks for all the support thus far. Here’s a rough draft of what I wrote tonight. It captures the moment when Billy redefines his identity for the first time.

He reached the school about ten minutes late, so he made up an excuse about delivering a pot plant for the musical and Mr C didn’t question it. All morning, Billy plotted the various practical jokes he was going to pull during the day with his new disguise and freezing talents. The possibilities were endless. He decided to scribble a list of plausible pranks instead of doing his handwriting. Everyone knew handwriting was a waste of time anyway, especially Mr C, who often didn’t have a clue how to execute the various joins of cursive himself. The list looked like this:

1 . Lock Daniel Norman in the toilets and throw soggy toilet paper at him

  1. Throw water bombs at the principal during assembly
  2. Super glue the teacher’s coffee mugs to their desks
  3. Ring the bell early for recess, lunch and home time
  4. Tip bins over when classes are walking in lines
  5. Fart in the library. Very loudly.
  6. Place firecrackers in the teacher’s pigeon holes
  7. Turn everyone’s bags inside out
  8. Go in the girls toilets
  9. Ruin the school musical by pulling Livy’s…

“Billy! You should know this. Could you share with the class what you think?” Requested Mr C.

The eyes of the entire class were on him and he froze up… Again. A few of them started to giggle under their breath.

“Why so stuck, Billy?” Jeered Daniel Norman. Everybody burst out in laughter. Even Mr C found it hard to hold back a smile.

“May I go to the toilet, sir?” Asked Billy politely as ever.

“Off you go then, be quick.”

It was almost lunch time and Billy was surprised Mr C had let him go. He had timed it perfectly to strike number one off his list of gags. He had placed the pot plant inside the boy’s toilets when he arrived to school earlier and had hidden a pile of sopping wet toilet paper within the suit. He slipped the suit on when he got there, waiting expectantly for Daniel Norman. Without fail, Daniel Norman would run straight to the toilets as soon as the bell rang, leaving a two or three minute window for Billy to commit his crime.

The bell clanged right on time and Billy began to slide his feet back and forth in nervous anticipation. He’d never sought revenge on anyone before and the thought of it sent his hairs up in the air like meerkats preparing for an invasion from a pack of Hyenas. His eyes were like a meerkat’s too. Wide and alert.

Daniel Norman burst through the doorway and Billy hoped he’d stopped shuffling his feet in time. It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as the big bully was already in full stream, emptying the contents of his bladder over everything apart from the toilet bowl itself.

It was time to attack. Billy reached out from under the plant costume and began unleashing a barrage of mushy projectiles over the cubicle wall. The profanities, swear words and cries for Mummy escaping Daniel Norman’s lungs would have been sweet enough for Billy, but the best part was yet to come. Frozen in the guise of a pot plant in the corner of the boy’s toilet, Billy watched as Daniel Norman’s reputation was flushed down the toilet along with a small percentage of his urine.

The bully flung the cubicle door open in rage and scoped out the room in search of the culprit.

Harvey Taylor from the year below was the unfortunate sod who walked in at this very moment.

“You!” Roared Daniel Norman, pointing an accusing finger in Harvey’s direction.

Harvey wasn’t sure what to do. Did he laugh and run, or did he scream and run, or did he just run and worry about the other bits later? He didn’t know, because the sight he beheld was something quite extraordinary. There in front of him was a figure, who sounded like Daniel Norman, but looked like a giant snowman. From head to toe, he was covered in dripping wet bog rolls. Some had landed directly in his gob, so that he was sort of chewing on them in hilarious dissatisfaction, like a cow.

Billy couldn’t hold it in any longer. He let out an unmistakable laugh. He clamped a hand over his mouth quickly, but it was too late. Both Harvey and Daniel were glaring directly at the pot plant and Billy could hear confused thoughts spilling out loudly from their brains. Harvey used this distraction as a chance to make for the doorway. Daniel Norman snapped out of his stupor and charged on out after him. The hot pursuit that followed went down in Barley Bay Public’s history books. Tales of Daniel, ‘the sodden snowman’, chasing ‘heroic Harvey’ around the schoolyard, were shared years later. But there was one key detail that went unexplained all those years. Who threw the toilet paper in the first place? It was a juicy twist in the narrative to which only one was privy. Billy Baker, ‘boy statue’, thrower of sticky, spongy saturated snow. The hidden protagonist in this tiny school’s greatest mystery.

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Billy’s search for answers (re-edit)

Between heaving breaths, he started muttering to himself. He pounded against the feet of the sculpture and began screaming for old man statue to show himself. Anger possessed him again and he wished more than anything that he could just disappear without anybody noticing. He looked up into the eyes of the first ANZAC and that’s when something remarkable happened. The statue winked at him.

Billy stood up quickly in fright.

“What’s the matter, Bill?” Asked a voice from behind him. “Never seen a winking statue before?”

Billy turned around and was quite relieved when he realised who the voice belonged to.

“Well, have you?” Asked old man statue, a second time.

“Of course I haven’t,” whimpered Billy nervously. “Is he a real person too?”

“Don’t ask me,” said old man statue, nodding his head behind Billy.

When Billy turned back around, he was utterly speechless.

“I’m as real as they come,” smiled the first soldier.

“Me too!” Yelled the second. “But the wounds to my head and chest are fake, thankfully.”

It was like he’d travelled back in time to the trenches of the Great War. Both of the ANZACs, whom just seconds ago were frozen solid, were now walking and talking, and the sun was still setting, and Billy was still catching his breath back, and, and, and…

“So why’d ya come back, Billy?” Asked old man statue calmly.

“How do you know my name?” Yelled Billy. He yelled because he didn’t trust this bearded stranger.

“We’ll get to that later. So as I was saying, what are ya doing back here? Searching for something? Maybe someone?”

“I want to know how you do it. How they do it.” Billy pointed at the young ANZACs, who were back in their usual position as statues.

“Well only you hold the answer to that question, kiddo.”

“What total non-sense!” Spat Billy.

Old man statue chuckled slowly for quite a while, stroking his beard and tucking his army shirt back into his trousers.

“Fine! If you won’t tell me, then I’m out of here. Dinner will be cold and Dave will be waiting to kill me when I get home, and…”

“You mean your Father?” The old man interrupted.

“What did you say?”

“You didn’t say my Father, you said Dave.”

“How do you know Dave Baker?” Asked Billy, his mistrust growing with every inquiry.

“I told you, we’ll get to all that later.” The old man paused briefly, as if to discover a greater wisdom from somewhere deep within, before speaking again. “So, do you believe me when I say you hold all the answers?”

Billy took a giant gulp. “Yes…”

“Good. What is your greatest fear? That one thing that sends your dreams into terrible, spiralling nightmares?”

Without a second thought Billy answered. “The ocean.”

“Well, there you have it,” the old man shouted. “That’s the answer. Every time you want to freeze completely still, think of the ocean. Whenever you wish to pose as a statue, imagine you are being dumped by terrible waves. You must harness your fear and use it as your greatest weapon.”

“But my teacher says love is my greatest weapon.”

“And he is right. But we’ll get to all that later.”

For the next thirty minutes or so, the old man explained the greatest secrets of every human statue to Billy in great detail. From maintaining your focus through ancient breathing techniques, to hiding costumes and body paint in secret spots near your performance space, Billy was given a beginners tutorial in the basics of the trade. Apparently there was an entire community of human statues out there, all mastering the art of stillness. Some, like old man statue, did it for money. Others, like the two ANZACS behind them, did it for therapeutic reasons, trying to overcome their inner demons. Whatever their reasons, there were millions more like them. In fact, most of the world’s statues are actually real people. Even Michelangelo’s sculpture of David is just a random naked guy, who replaced another naked guy who died a long time ago, who replaced another naked guy who died even longer before that, and so it goes for years and years. Centuries of freezing cold nakedness. That’s the other thing he learnt. Humans have been posing as statues for thousands of years. The earliest account of a human statue was recorded in 100 B.C. during the days of the Roman Empire, when a centurion soldier posed as a statue behind enemy lines to spy on them, before reporting back to his commanding officers with their plans of attack. The story goes that when he attempted the same espionage a second time, he let out an outrageous fart, alerting the enemy to his humanness and as a result he was tortured and hanged for his trickery.

The facts and figures seemed endless and by the time old man statue had finished talking, it was almost dark. Billy bid the bearded man farewell and left. Django was too tired to go on, so Billy swept him up into his arms and set off with the waning moonlight shining upon his back. The fleeting promise of his dreams was now a dull glow of fading purple light, haunting the horizon. Maybe it was time to reach for the stars instead?

Billy’s search for answers

It was time to ride this wave of adrenaline and do something he would almost certainly regret later. Without a second thought for the countless risks he was about to take, he climbed back up on the chair, removed the old book from the top-right corner and watched intently, as the entire book-case began to turn  easily, as if it were one of those rotating doors you see at the front of skyscrapers on Hollywood movies. As soon as it shut on the other side, a circular button upon the wall flashed the letter B for Basement and the little closet began to descend past two floors. A few seconds later, it came to a crashing halt, sliding open its doors with all kinds of squeaking, mechanical noises, and revealing the train-set wonderland before Billy’s eyes once more.

It was in this moment, taking in the details of the model city, that Billy was swept up into another one of his daydreams. There before him, once again, was his Grandfather. This time, he was showing a four-year-old Billy how to drive the trains along the tracks. Every time little Billy would de-rail and crash the train, his Poppy would laugh with patient eyes. He placed his hand on Billy’s shoulder and when Billy reached up to hold one of his old fingers, he was gone, leaving Billy with nothing but a palpable sense of his presence. A sense of familiarity. Like this was a place he’d been before. The feeling was unnerving and Billy shook it off by blowing anxious air through flapping lips. He set off across the floor, scaled up the Parisian cityscape with greater care than before and slipped through the open window with elegant composure, ensuring his escape would go completely unnoticed.

In a flash, he hooked Django up to his leash, took off through the gate and down the narrow driveway to freedom. The sun had just gone down behind the hills of the Barley Bay hinterland and Billy knew it wouldn’t be long before the Parker’s would be serving up dinner. He tumbled toward the town hall in tow of Django, who tore ahead into the fading twilight, its beauty beckoning them to dream beyond those rugged foothills, to a place deep within. A place of winding paths, carving true calling and identity into the most courageous facets of Billy’s heart. And his heart was pumping. Faster, harder, loud enough to hear. His throat was dry from the frosty air being sucked up into greedy lungs. But he didn’t notice. Sheer elation blinded him to the restraints of fatigue.

Upon reaching the town hall, he remained blind to the disappointment he should have felt. No old man statue to be seen. Only the solid sculpture of some famous explorer, whom Billy always forgot the name of, but who apparently first colonised the town of Barley Bay in 1818.

Onwards they charged, heading for the church to find their answers. But Jesus didn’t welcome them when they arrived. The crucifix, from which the old man statue would usually hang, stood lonely in the fading sunlight.

That left one last place to look. It would be a push to get there and back to dinner in time, but Billy was still blind with the buzz of anticipation. So he powered on once more, now with Django in tow, toward the R.S.L club and the brave young ANZACs.

When he arrived, he was disappointed yet again and this time he felt it punch him in the guts. There was no sign of the old bearded captain. Just two clean-shaven soldiers. Billy collapsed onto the foot of the structure, the reality of his exhaustion finally catching up with him.

Between heaving breaths, he started muttering to himself. He pounded against the feet of the sculpture and began screaming for old man statue to show himself. Anger possessed him again and he wished more than anything that he could just disappear without anybody noticing. He looked up into the eyes of the first ANZAC and that’s when he noticed something remarkable. Right there, carved out into the soldier’s cheek like a tattoo, was a message. By the look of things, it had been scribbled in haste, as if the messenger was in grave peril when they scrawled it. It read:

I MUST LEAVE FOR MELBOURNE. NO MONEY HERE. SINCERELY W.B.

There was no time to ponder on who wrote it or why. Dinner was probably getting cold and they’d have discovered Billy’s escape by now.

Django was too tired to go on, so Billy swept him up into his arms and set off with the waning moonlight shining upon his back. The fleeting promise of his dreams was now a dull glow of fading purple light, haunting the horizon. Maybe it was time to reach for the stars instead?

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