Monday, 13 August 2012

Stealing Moses

Pitched @ BAFTA (04, 2012)

I love him like he’s my brother.

When we first moved to Churchill Heights, Moses was just another little black kid who happened to live next door. I was fourteen years old and he was in another universe. Being four years younger than me was a chasm in my world.

We both had something in common - our fathers were long gone. His father had been hounded out of town by guilt and mine was everyman I ever passed in the street, or it could have been. 

Okay, I didn’t have a dad but I had a mother who loved me in her own way and who was a just as great at being a father . Perhaps this is what this story is all about: love. How people can love each other in the weirdest of ways. It has nothing to do with sex, it just that love can mean a million things and still be the best of everything. 

My mother spent most nights out in the streets looking for love and if it came with money left next to her bed then so much the better. It meant we could eat. 

Moses’ father had been a preacher in a baptist church in Wind Cotton Row, but one summer he had seen the light in a deaconess by the name of Tallulah and they disappeared for good into the wilderness.

His mother was scared that the struggle against Satan was only as good as that particular soul’s DNA and so if Moses was anything like his father then the devil would find him a walkover.

 So every night when Moses returned from his schooling and after being watered and fed (and having said his prayers), he would be put into his bedroom and the door locked against the forces of darkness. I’m not criticising his mother, this was how she showed her love by protecting her boy - by squeezing the very life force out of him. 

I know all this because his bedroom was through the wall from mine and every night,as I went to sleep, I could hear the poor kid weeping and calling for his father. After a while I got so used to it, that I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t hear him anymore. 

That was until one night while my mother had taken to the streets; I heard a scream from next door that made me think Moses was dying. It didn’t stop, in fact, if anything, it got worse making me get out of my bed and go to see what was wrong.

I knocked on their door but there was no reply. I looked through the main window and there were no lights showing, so I decided I had to do something and I charged the door with my shoulder.
 It didn’t move an inch. It was then I spotted a small side window open and without too much bother I managed to let myself in (I don’t want to give too many details away in case someone reads it and copies me).

Although I must have tripped over everything in my path, I found his bedroom - it was in the same place as mine but the other way around. Luckily there was a key in the door but so as not to frighten Moses further, I shouted.
“It’s me, Josh from next door.”
 I don’t think he heard me, or at least he didn’t care as he just kept on screaming.

When I opened that door I stumbled into the strangest bedroom - ever. There were pictures of angels and Jesus covering all the walls, it was enough to give me the shivers and there, in the middle of the floor, was a ten year old boy who was screaming his head off. I guess he’d just had enough. It happens to us all.

I’ve never been much good at hugging people but I felt that this was what was needed. I held the poor kid and tried to get him to calm down; after a half an hour or so, he began to cool it and I so I got him a fizzy drink from my place. 

Eventually Moses only let out the occasional sob and it was then I saw he was clutching at a postcard of some beach.
“It’s Hastings”, he said, apparently it’s where his father was from and get this - Moses had never seen the sea. His father had promised to take him one day. So this is the point where I promised the kid that I would take him to the beach the very next day,  when both our mothers were out doing other things. 

The following morning, after I heard Moses mother leave, I took some money from my mother’s bedside table (the money she got from her boyfriends to get her through the recession) and went next door. 

Once again, I had to break in – what is wrong with this woman?  Satan isn’t going to come knocking on her door, although I can see what you’re thinking – I could be the bogey man, but I’m not. 

Moses was sitting on the edge of his bed and he was all ready to go. Apparently he didn’t sleep at all because he was so excited. To tell you the truth I hadn’t noticed that there was no sobbing through the wall.

When we were on the train, he told me this was his first trip on one and I was totally blown away by this little guy’s excitement. When we finally reached Hastings, he ran all the way from the station to the beach and shouted and laughed and cried (all at the same time). 

He had me look for the exact spot that was shown on that postcard of his father’s and whether by luck or providence, we found the very spot and that was when the poor kid started to weep. To celebrate and cheer him up, I took Moses to an ice cream parlour – sure, he had had ice cream before but never walking along a sea front. I stole a look at him and he was a million miles away from that little boy in the bedroom. 

And then he did something that I’m sure was rarer than gold, he smiled - not just a grin but a full- on smile from ear to ear. It was then I knew I had done the right thing. 

Once we’d finished the ice cream, I asked Moses if he was still hungry and do you know what he said?
So we bought some fish and chips and as we ate them as we weaved our way through the fishing boats that sat on the beach. That’s the unusual thing about the trawlers down here - they launch them from the beach. 

As we reached the old car park, the seagulls started to dive bomb us, I guess they pass this little piece of wisdom from seagull to seagull, that if you annoy the tourists enough they’ll drop their fish and chips and leave a banquet for the birds. 

It was then I saw her - Moses’ mother and a posse of folks I took were from the baptist church, the God Squad were on our tail. She must have known he’d pick this place to disappear to, and she probably thought that if the devil ever took a trip anywhere, it would be to Hastings to corrupt ten year old boys. 

I was sure she hadn’t seen us but just in case I made Moses run, telling him that the gulls were coming in for an attack. He seemed to believe my story and so we ran into the nearest toilet which stood at the end of the car park. 

I told Moses to be quiet while I listened for marauding church people but it seemed all clear. Moses then decided he needed a pee but that  he wasn’t prepared to use the urinal, he wanted to use the cubicle and could I stand by the cubicle door just in case. 

If it made him pee a little easier then there was no problem with me.
While he was in the cubicle, he kept asking was I still there, I’d tell him yes and he’d go back to whistling. Then he passed a newspaper cutting under the cubicle door.
“What’s this?” I asked him.
“Read it.”
So I did. It was all about this guy who stood in the high street of a town preaching the gospels for as long as there was daylight. He’d made the more sensational papers and they’d dubbed him The Jesus of Bromley – an area in south London.
“That’s him, that’s my father” he whispered under the door. 

I read on and it seems to get back in God’s good books, after running from his family, he’d taken it upon himself to steer the people of  Bromley back to a more religious path. The ‘newspapers made out he was crazy. To be honest, I liked the look of the guy, he seemed to be just an older version of Moses. Same smile, same kindness.

“I miss my Dad” he whispered.
When Moses had finished up and his hands were washed, I decided we should make a run for it. Where to, I hadn’t decided yet but we couldn’t stay in the toilet.

As we ran out of the building, it was like that final scene from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. They were all there waiting on us - the police, the social workers and the baptist posse led by an angry version of Moses’ mother. 

What can I tell you about the outcome? Moses was returned home and I was told to appear in front of a panel of old people who would sit and judge me.
And they did.
Because I hadn’t forced Moses to come to the seaside, I was put on probation,  or more accurately, I was bound over to my grandmother on the condition that if I absconded from her, I would be sent to a young offenders’ institution until my 18th birthday – no questions and no appeals. 

So I moved in with my grandmother and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I know my mother loves me but my grandmother was at least home most of the time.

One night, I sat outside my grandmother’s house in the garden. I’d never lived in a house with one of those before and I loved it. Looking after the garden was my grandmother’s hobby, although looking after me seemed to be up there with it.

I loved living with her, although I did still miss my mother and even Moses in a funny sort of way.  Then one night, my grandmother was on the ‘phone talking to one of her friends and they were discussing a boy.

“And he hasn’t been seen?, just completely disappeared?”Asked my astonished grandmother.

It seems that Moses hadn’t been seen, even at school and I knew right away what the problem was.

I guess Moses’ mother thought that I was the devil or the nearest thing to it and to keep him safe, she’d locked him permanently in that room of his. Poor Moses would be going insane.

I had to do something and I knew it was going to hurt me very badly but I couldn’t leave my friend, my brother Moses stuck in that room, it would finish him off. I wasn’t angry at his mother -  it was a sort of love, that all she wanted to do was keep him protected. 

If I went to get him and they caught me, I would go to prison but the other side of the argument was that Moses was already in one.

So the next morning while my grandmother was having a bath, I took her rent money from the box underneath her television. I knew this was wrong but sometimes you’ve got to do a thing even if you don’t like it.

I waited outside Moses’ house until his mother went out and then I went in and got him. It wasn’t so easy this time, nothing was lying open, so I had to smash a window.

When I eventually broke into his bedroom, he was lying on the floor in the foetal position. When he saw me, he got up and threw his arms around me. Someone needed me and it felt good.

We managed to catch the Bromley bus but I didn’t tell Moses where we were going.
We stood at the bottom of Bromley High Street and there, at the top, was his father preaching to a crowd of maybe six or seven people. The moment Moses saw his father, he flew up that hill and threw his arms around him.

I smiled, as I walked back down towards the bus station.
I knew I was leaving and not coming back, but for the first time I had done something good and it filled me with hope.

Josh, aged 14.

                            Thanks to Stellar Network for their hard work and encouragement. :-)

bobby stevenson 2012

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