By Michael Morgan
Common speech, (if you can call speech common) whatever that may mean, often uses the name of a creature or an animal to describe a human quality, and generally as a class they are warm, active, sensitive, and have redeeming features – but not always. How often you have an intuitive gut feeling that some one or something is a bit “off.” Such is the case with someone I met in my late teens. One of the few people that I could say disturbed me from the first introduction was Henry Snape Jukes (a pseudonym). I still shudder when I think of him.
Henry had a passion for Snails. He was deaf, more like a bird than a human, or the molluscs that he omnivorously devoted his time to. If you saw Henry in the day, his darting, jerking movements would draw your attention to him for an instant then you would forget him in about the same time, but a shadow image of him would surface back into your mind at the most importune moments. A presence kept returning like a dream image never to be erased. Henry, if you ever met him at night, seemed to change. Gone was the spasmodic twitch, the dry lips and the visually obvious dry, raspy tongue. The best way to illustrate this change would be to say that Henry “became moist.” A strange way to describe a person, I suppose, but the best way to convey the truth. He researched gastropods, drawing spiral shells, flat shells, rounded shells into one of his hundreds of notebooks. This he did every evening and then he would go wandering into the wetlands. He was secretly thrilled that one area was called Helix Park, such apt synchronisation. This haunt gave him order and contentment. A box hedge coiling to the right. Dextral, that was when talking about shells. Sinistral when going counter clockwise. Such terms made Henry feel important. He knew what they meant, he had his own agenda.
Winter was his time to escape, summer to sleep and spring made him restless when hunger and anxiety ruled. Eating filled a void. Compulsion was the force that drove him and to stop his tremors the only game he played was aiming darts at a target above his pond.
Springtime, ah sweet springtime! Henry gorged himself with half cooked meat, such was his desire. His greatcoat pockets used to be stuffed with snacks that he ate on his nocturnal wanderings. He adored Ravioli thawed by his body warmth, to be sucked, licked and slurped.
I can still see that old mouldy coat covered in lascivious dribblings which would be the right term for what was another part of Henry’s nature, only too readily revealed.
Bimbo, that was her real name (a homage to the artist, Paul Klee’s cat) used to run in Helix Park, sometimes not sure if she was running to a destination or escaping from one.
Anyway, Henry was walking to his destination when he smelt the atmosphere, a scent of flowers in his nostrils. He shook his head and quivered. He saw the girl and it was like a dream, IT took himself out of himself and then he was left empty, depleted and changed. His eyes ran tears, his palm was sweaty and his stomach ached. He squashed the food in his pockets and covered his hands in glutinous gravy. He lurched towards Bimbo, not the object of desire but a specimen to be investigated. He thought of his favourite univalves. A force outside Henry, despite his epicene nature, excited him. He had to touch something, but like the song “Too Close For Comfort” as a popular songster warbled, he could not be in proximity with another human’s flesh. His filthy hands pulled out of his pocket his favourite sporting items, fixed pointed objects of twenty grams weight, a handful of them. He lined them up on the ground like a surgeon setting up instruments, a ritual before procedure. He saw flashes of light and sparks emanate from each one. His scotoma vision was superb. Time for controlled action. A parabolic curve generated by a point hit the target. A rale from Bimbo.
The moon came out, a pearl in a pewter bowl to illuminate the scene.
© Michael Morgan