(Narrator speaks in a strong Cork accent. We open to a close-up of the face of a Grandfather clock. The two hands move in accordance with the 'tick tock/tick talk' and the sound of ticking is amplified.)
A hero lies in every clock.
Listen to the...
But before he was a hero, he was cruelly mocked.
Listen to the...
Every magic depends on timing
Listen to the...
But the heavy hands we rely on can be binding.
Listen to the...
What was that you said?
The tick talk, tick talk, tick talk,
Oh he’s going red
The tick talk the t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-
(Zoom in on the face of the clock which transmutates itself into the face of a fourteen year old boy. He is addressing his own reflection in a bathroom mirror.)
Hi, I'm Ticker. I have always overcome my stutter with my t-t-t-t-typing speed. I type faster than most, simply put, because of need.
There’s only so many times that somebody can say s-s-sorry before the words begin to blur.
And if they’re forced to say sorry by a superior, it tends to l-l-land worse.
You hear me, w-w-w-w-w-w-w-worse.
The apology develops a stutter,
which is ironic as a stutter was the reason that the attack was aimed at the stutterer.
(Various vox pops of ‘Sorry’ are heard. All ages, all genders, some crying, some laughing. It ends with the speaker.)
The thing about stuttering the word sorry is sometimes people don’t notice that you’re stuttering because they think you’re s-s-saying ‘so’ a lot in order to emphasize your apology to them and that you’re so overcome w-w-with emotion that you’re short of breath. They think you’re apologizing m-m-more than you are. They think it’s because you c-c-c-care so much. The difference between the two interpretations is that they will f-f-forgive you for a lack of b-b-breath due to uncontrolled emotion but they will never forgive you for s-some uncontrolled w-w-words that you were born doing and you don’t know how to stop doing no matter how much they tell you that you n-n-need to. No matter how hard you t-t-try.
My whole life has been a little ironic. Because I am c-c-constantly put under a microscope and being made to apologize for my stutter. The irony of s-s-stuttering an apology for having a stutter and people thinking that you are s-s-saying that you are especially s-s-sorry and that apology being accepted due to the stutter being h-h-hidden behind a perceived lack of controlled emotion is a little b-b-bit unfair. It is a little bit unfair but m-m-most people are a little bit unfair. I f-f-find.
I have tried to improve on m-m-my impairment from the day it was birthed to me, whereas those who ridicule me have d-d-downgraded on many different traits that they were born with. Their p-p-patience, their attitude, their h-h-humility. The innocent childish inclination to accept people for who they are has been worn out of them due to h-h-hate and hardship or maybe just because they feel a little bit b-b-bored and have a little bit too much m-m-money. Or maybe because they can’t stand the sight of themselves. So they look for opportunities to look d-d-down on others who are missing something, anything at all that they have. And the ability to say s-s-sorry without a shivering syllable is something I can’t do that they can.
And, now, after trial and err-rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr-or, I have come to realize that I will never overcome my weakness, my c-c-cryptonite, my unwanted c.d. scratch, my verbal misdemeanor, my stutter.
Stutter. S-s-s-s-s-s-sorry for repeating myself, this time it was to emphasise the importance of the word.
I have put all of my f-f-focus into becoming supernaturally good at everything else that I can c-c-c-control. I have developed superpowers in every other area of my life to distract from my w-w-weakness. Like developing a hard, indestructible s-s-shell to protect the soft, fragile core that lies deep within, best kept h-h-hidden from the v-v-vultures that circle overhead.
If my accidental emphasis displeases those who h-h-harass me, on a daily basis, I will b-b-blind them with how well I can do everything else.
Then they’ll be s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-sorry.
Then they’ll be s-s-s-s-s-s-s-sorry.
So so sorry.
(The scene opens to a busy school playground. It starts with an aerial view, then descends in a circling motion, swooping close into running children, their cries enveloping the shot and the camera suddenly making a dramatic turn and entering a classroom. The class is quiet aside from the articulate voice of a well-dressed teacher in her twenties. The camera goes to her POV then moves steadily up the aisle, stopping and noting various students and ending on TICKER, who sits upright, completely absorbed with what the Teacher is saying and silently mouthing words along with her.)
That would be 4.568 Miss. If you were to r-r-r-r-r-round it to the nearest three decimal p-p-p-p-p-p-points.
Well done Ticker, right again. Now, we’ll take somebody else for the next round, as we can’t just have one superstar student can we?
(She smiles appreciatively at TICKER. He looks down and smiles to himself. TICKER addresses the camera.)
I have always excelled with numbers. There’s something comforting about the fact that numbers are always there, in any language, in every language and they have the same meaning no matter what you say. They aren’t like words which can be misinterpreted or used against you. They also have a clear conclusion which is more than can be said about the various scattered, tumultuous and unpredictable interactions that I encounter daily in my life. You might be wondering, what am I doing having a conversation with myself in the middle of the classroom and why is nobody wondering am I off my head or what? And, more curiously than anything else, how am I speaking with such clear diction and ease and, confidence even? Well, that’s because this is a soliloquy and my stutter disappears in soliloquys, asides, notes to selfs and internal monologues. Sometimes hallucinations too. If I stay in the car too long on a sunny day or I eat too much sugar. My stutter only exists when I am speaking out to the world, so often I prefer to speak in, to myself.
(TICKER is snapped back to reality by a schoolbag banging against the back of his head.)
Class is over dufus. Get m-m-m-moving already cuckoo.
(Smiles politely at BULLSEYE, watches him go. Then turns to address the camera once more.)
He calls me cuckoo. I guess because a cuckoo says the same thing over and over and over again. But, I like to focus on the positive side. Cuckoos are reliable. Cuckoos control time, or at least they appear to. They predict it. And, I don't think that there is anything more important in this life than time and timing.
(The shrill school bell goes off, causing TICKER to leap out of his seat.)
C-c-cuckoo. C-c-c-cuckoo. Prefer to be a cuckoo than a tardy p-p-p-pig any day.
(Cut to TICKER's dinner table. His mother sits opposite him. She is a women with very high cheekbones and defined facial features. We watch her eat food for a while. She holds her cutlery so lightly, it's surprising that they don't fall. Her misappropriated over focus on her food makes it obvious that she feels awkward or cannot think of what to say. Eventually she looks up at TICKER and smiles a large smile. Her eyes are sad looking.)
(TICKER addresses the camera again.)
So my father left my mother for another woman when I was too young to even remember him living here. I have always known him to live away from me and I see him every second weekend. Himself and my mother don't see eye to eye, quite literally. When he comes over, Mom never looks up. She makes herself scarce, puts all her focus on me. She always does that when she feels awkward, she focuses on something she thinks that she can rely on. She's doing that more and more recently, like she's becoming more insecure about everything. Like eventually she won't think she can rely on anybody and she'll just go blind.
I guess she learned the hard way that she couldn't rely on my father and somewhere along the way she decided that she never wanted to look at him again.
It's weird like. My mother has very sad eyes. But, she is also very beautiful and has a career and a dog who she says she loves on instagram. So, when you see her eyes and how sad they are, you know that something happened once and you feel like saying, 'Tell me. Tell me what awful thing happened so I can make your eyes light up again.' But you never do, you never ask her because she seems so ethereal and sad that you're afraid if you make her any more sad, she might disappear. I know she would never disappear on purpose. She is the most reliable person I know. So reliable, it's like she's paranoid that if she slips up she will become a monster.
My mother has tiny, soft hands and she likes to touch my face when she is saying goodbye, instead of speaking. Like a gesture, to say, you can rely on me, without using words. My father's hands are huge and clumsy and you can't rely on them. Even though you kind of have to. You have to give him the benefit of the doubt because he's your Dad. But...it's like being bound into trusting somebody you know shouldn't be trusted.
(A sound clip from earlier monologue comes in right after he says this. Back to close-up of the face of the Grandfather clock, with the large hands ticking. One hand is pointed at the twelve, the other counts down from ten seconds to twelve.)
But the heavy hands we rely on can be binding.
(The hands come together on 'binding' and morph into his father's hands which clap loudly.)
Okiedoke, right you are Ticker. Grab your stuff, come on, best get in before the lunchtime crowd.
K-k-k-k, just gonna grab my b-b-b-bag.
(Addresses the camera, in soliloquy.)
Every now and then, to deviate from the usual fortnightly father-son weekend spent lounging, we go on a special adventure. This weekend, we are headed to Fota to admire all of the exotic animals that we admire unquestionably due to their appearance, not quite understanding what they are or what they spend their days doing. It's a bit shallow really.
(TICKER returns with his bag and his father pats him awkwardly on the top of his head, resting his heavy hand on him momentarily.)
God, I have been looking forward to this lad, I can tell you that much.
(Addresses the camera, in soliloquy.)
I like animals, a lot. They don't understand words or mouth language so they never judge me for being different. They rely on body language, which I am fluent in.
(Cuts to Fota Wildlife Park. TICKER is flexing aggressively in the direction of the howler monkeys. One of the monkeys screams extremely loudly, TICKER appears elated and lets out a reciprocative roar. Cut to scene where TICKER embodies an Ape.)
I am fluent in body language. I have spent my life working it out, observing. I am more agile than even the most Agile of Gibbons. Just like my Gibbon friends, I never have my feet on the ground. I stay high above the rest with my superhuman ability. Using numbers and writing and music and books and video games, I can stay high up and far away from my cryptonite so that I will never hit the g-g-g-g-g-g-ground. I will never hit the g-g-ground.
(Cut to Fota gift shop. Audio clip of howler monkeys screaming comes on. A masked man brandishes a gun and screams loudly.)
DOWN! Get down on the ground NOW!
(TICKER lies flat on the floor. He turns his head and addresses the camera in soliloquy.)
You never expect to be held at gunpoint in the gift shop of an animal sanctuary.
I guess that's kind of a stupid thing to say...
You never expect to be held at gunpoint anywhere...unless you are the criminal and you deliberately expose your identity to a lot of gun wielding authority figures.
Still, though, I would argue that a small gift shop in an animal sanctuary is slightly more surprising than even the most surprising of daylight robberies.
You all have ten seconds to get down or I'm gonna start shooting. TEN...NINE...EIGHT...
(Amplified ticking plays over his countdown. A lot of the customers look bewildered and frankly, quite annoyed to be interrupted on their weekend out. Some hesitantly lower themselves. One woman looks around, tuts loudly, removes her coat and lays it out like a beach towel before neatly sitting on it.)
(The Robber cocks the gun and at that moment in bursts a young English couple, laughing and chattering loudly.)
FEMALE IN COUPLE
What's this? Oh my God, is this a flash mob?
MALE IN COUPLE
There's nothing more important in this life than time and timing.
(The ROBBER turns angrily towards the couple. He points the gun at the FEMALE.)
I warned you. Guess, you're going to have to be the head on a stick for the others.
(TICKER who lies very close nearby, kicks the ROBBER full force in the shins, causing him to drop the gun and scream in agony. TICKER kicks the nearby gun far away from the ROBBER and a Store Assistant picks it up.)
STORE ASSISTANT 1
Everybody stay down. SANDRA, call security this instant.
(It emerges that SANDRA is the woman who was using her coat as a beach towel. She looks quite annoyed to be interrupted from her snooze and huffs loudly as she pulls herself off the ground. TICKER feels large hands squeeze his shoulder.)
(TICKER turns around to find that it's not his father after all, but a beaming STORE ASSISTANT.)
STORE ASSISTANT 2
Well done boy. You saved us all, you're a hero, so you are. A fecking hero.
Thank you. That m-m-means a lot. I'm sure anybody would have d-d-done it.
I thought you were my D-D-Dad.
(Scans the shop eagerly.)
Have you seen my Dad? He's w-w-wearing a red c-c-cap and Liverpool jersey?
(Lowers his eyes.)
Oh. Yes...yes. That man. I saw him sneak out the back just as the thief arrived. He was so quiet, he just about got away with it.
Yes, son. I'm afraid, he's gone.
(Amplified ticking is heard. TICKER addresses the camera in soliloquy.)
You know when something you were expecting to happen but didn't want to happen surprises you when it finally does happen...because the sensation is so...uncomfortable. Well...that's what it's like with my Dad and the things he does. You think he won't and then his inner self will pop out to reveal itself once more. Every time. Like clockwork.
(Back to close up of face of Grandfather clock. The amplified ticking continues. A click louder than usual is heard and out jumps a cuckoo.)
Valerie is a professionally trained writer. She specialized in Advanced Writing at Trinity College, Dublin and achieved a 1.1. She has had work produced/presented with Tribeca Performing Arts Centre, The Galway Fringe Festival, The Dionysian Literary Journal, The Venus Adonis Festival, DU Shakespeare Festival and DU Players. She recently completed writing Series One of NOTIONS.