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Preface

I remember passing out of the womb like a bus from a terminal – quite late – and greeting the midwife with a firm handshake.

“Good show,” I praised her. She laughed a great, hearty laugh and together we spent my first evening sipping Prosecco out of a beaked cup, while she drunkenly explained why American prohibition would destroy the art of wheel throwing, and how I would never truly understand why until I was in my thirties. She was a passionate, fiery lady and our relationship would last the best part of the week before she was taken from me.

On lonesome nights I sometimes weep as I observe her name and portrait on the Register of Sex Offenders print-out that I keep in my ticket pocket, and think back to those wonderful times we shared. I learnt so early that love at an adolescent age (calculated in this case using a mean average) can be so naiive.

My sweet mother died shortly after giving birth to me. Regretfully the sound of popping corks drowned out her pained, rasping calls for attention, but the man we paid to take her body away said that there was probably not much we could have done for her anyway, moments after we’d handsomely tipped him. I do believe though, quite firmly, that my mother would not have been the sort to put her own health in the way of a celebration. That isn’t the Smacker way.

My father was a stoic man. He was a hard worker, having spent much of his youth toiling down in the coal mines. He regaled me with gruff tales, throbbing with masculinity, of how he would dangerously descend down a rickety mine-shaft with a dozen other men, plummeting toward hellish silence. The creaking of the pulley mechanism was all one could hear, unless they were that day accompanied by the soft whimpers of a young green-horn who’d been brought in to replace the last of them to die. 

Once they disembarked the mine lift, they would disperse into a network of open-floor cubicles and sell Vacation Ownership products over the phone to pensioners for eleven hours a day. My father’s eyes would glisten and his hands would visibly tremble as he told me of the impossibilities of their sales targets and the meagre retainer that kept them locked into service for decades and decades. He spoke of how the dusty shadows of the deep mine would tear many away from life with blackened lungs, and for those that survived; dirty their business shirts with a thick layer of soot that eroded the bearings on their washing machines, often leading to divorce.

But he lived strongly, my father. At the end of his life, he was a proud man with a moderate circle of friends and a healthy philosophy of hedonism. 

It was my father who told me of my destiny on a cold morning within the pews of the spectacularly-appointed Wimborne Minster.

“Baggy,” he said. The words puffed from his mouth along with a vapour of cheap whisky. “You’re meant for bigger things than I.”

“What do you mean father?”

“You’re not gonna work down the mines, like your old man. You’re gonna have it better.” He wiped at his eyes, hiding tears that had not had chance to form. “You’re gonna be a big shot. You’re gonna save people. You’re gonna take these lemons that life gives you, and you’re gonna rip ’em in half with your naked hands. And you’re gonna stick life to the ground, wrestle that vagabond to the ground, and push the lemons into life’s eyes. And then when life’s screaming in pain, you’re gonna pull your trousers down like this…” he pulled his trousers down to illustrate. “And then you’re gonna shit right into life’s mouth like this.”

Father then proceeded to defecate onto the hassock before him in the pew we were sitting at, careful to mask the sounds of his flatulence beneath the baritone speech of the Canon’s sermon.

Once Father had completed his movement and tidied up with a page of hymns, he returned to a seated position and looked me in the eye.

“Baggy, my son.”

“Yes, Father?”

“You’re going to be a Doctor.”

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