If your circle stays unbroken, then you’re a lucky man
Because it never never never has for me.
In the palace of the virgin lies the chalice of your soul
And it’s likely you will find the answer there.
Not long ago, while on an outing with Melvin at work, something happened that reminded me that I wasn’t so different from Melvin who is way high up on the Autistic Spectrum. On this particular day, I took him out to one of his usual favourite places so he could buy old post cards, something he collects to the point of hoarding. But that’s not the issue here. What is the issue was that after he had bought a good number of post cards, had a really good lunch out and on the way back, I stopped at the supermarket so he could buy a beer to drink that night, once we were back home, he grumbled that he didn’t get something else he wanted. It didn’t matter that he never mentioned he wanted this thing whilst we were out, the fact that he didn’t get this thing spoiled the great day he had.
My first reaction was “You ungrateful git” although I never vocalized that and immediately, I remembered that sometimes Melvin can’t help it on account of his Asperger’s. Furthermore, it had me reflecting back to times in my childhood when I acted the same way.
Two memories of this happened when I was ten. One was when my family went to Florida. I had a great time because I got to go swimming outside in February and of course, I didn’t want to come back. A few months after the holiday, I commented to my mother that the only thing I was disappointed in was that I didn’t get to learn how to scuba dive. To this day, I can’t recall where that came from. I remember the lifeguard at the hotel pool making the offer for lessons but my mother told him we were checking out that day so, no. Furthermore, I don’t remember being disappointed over it on the day. I can only conclude that it was a manifestation of my own Asperger’s. Still, I felt guilty for voicing this “disappointment” to my mother.
However, there was another instance which upon reflection, really makes me out to be some spoiled brat. While visiting my grandparents at the New Jersey shore with some relatives who had never seen the ocean before, the family of relatives were going to the boardwalk in Atlantic City that evening. Naturally, I wanted to go and when told by my mother and step father we weren’t, I had a sulk and because it was my grandmother’s birthday, wished her a sad birthday. How I didn’t get slapped was beyond me. Still, it showed that I was being ungrateful.
In no way am I justifying mine or Melvin’s actions but what I do realize is that our experiences are linked to conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism and DAMP. It is very easy for people like Melvin and me to focus on the negative as opposed to the positive. We could have had a great day but one tiny thing happened that didn’t go our way and the whole day is spoiled. Fortunately, unlike Melvin, I have learned to focus on the good and not let one small mishap spoil things. As for Melvin, I know he will never be capable of the change so I must grin and bear it while giving him the support he needs.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Was-Weird-Publisher-Generation-Publishing/dp/B00SLVHRFG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531766744&sr=8-1&keywords=he+was+weird
Recently, I read an account where the author witnessed a man walking down the street, seemingly on drugs. When I challenged the author as to whether or not it was clear that the man was on drugs and not just mentally ill, the response was that the man was heading straight for the building where addicts are given free methadone. Okay, in this case, the man was more than likely on drugs.
While I freely admit that I was wrong in the above setting, this doesn’t effect my frustration at an accusation that is hurled with great speed at people who suffer from metal illnesses. That they must ‘obviously’ be on drugs. I know this to be true because I often had this accusation thrown at me, though it didn’t help that back in the intolerant times of 80s Regan America, I committed such fashion crimes like having long hair and wearing Native American moccasin boots. So in the eyes of most people, that, with my supposedly weird behaviour, I must have been on drugs.
Nowadays, the “that person must be on drugs” label is used to describe anyone who appears to be acting out of the normal. Conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, DAMP and other metal health related ones simply don’t enter into it. The conclusion is that person is simply on drugs and it is used as an excuse to ward off any arguments to the contrary.
Let me tell you people that all of the above conditions are real! Many people have them and it has been estimated that one quarter of the population have some sort of mental illness and many of them aren’t on drugs, at least illegal ones anyway. The ones they are on are prescribed by their doctor to try to counteract said illness or at least lessen the symptoms. So next time you are in a public place and see someone who is acting in a non-normal way, give that person the benefit of the doubt. Sure, they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol but there is more of a chance that they are suffering from a mental illness. Show them some compassion and be less quicker to judge.
Shameless link to He Was Weird alert. Mark was aged ten to thirteen in the story and going from my own experiences, I wasn’t considered to be on drugs then, just weird. Therefore, the issue doesn’t feature in it. However, this doesn’t excuse those who tormented him or me on account of said weirdness.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1531213271&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird
As I’ve been treating you all to my latest literary work, thank you all for the ‘Likes’ and feedback, I haven’t been posting song lyrics. So, now you’ve read my recent work, here’s a quote from Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson. The song is “Born in 58” from his solo album, “Tattooed Millionaire.”
Justice and liberty, you can buy but you don’t get free
In this world of steel and glass, we bury our past.
Hopes were high in her mind that she had made the promenade along the seafront in Brighton safe for vulnerable people when Rochelle drove to Brighton the following week. That no gangs of youths would be there to harass anyone. As she parked her van outside of the chip shop, she had a glance across the road and seeing no menacing gangs, felt assured that she had made things safe for everybody. Therefore, she disembarked and began unloading the van.
“Excuse me miss,” a female voice called out from behind Rochelle.
She turned around to see two female police officers standing in front of her. The shorter blonde officer had asked the question while her taller, about the same height as Rochelle and dark haired colleague stood looking serious. Even though Rochelle could guess why the two officers were there, she still asked them, “Can I help you?”
The taller officer then spoke, “Do you come to this area every “Wednesday?”
“Yes, I make deliveries to this chip shop,” Rochelle confirmed pointing over her shoulder with her thumb.
The taller officer’s expression grew more serious, almost grim. “Were you involved in an incident involving some youths across the road?” She was pointing to the spot where Rochelle had confronted the gang.
Not wanting to trap herself, she carefully explained, “I did stop a gang of thugs from harassing and older couple and who had been also harassing a vulnerable young man.”
“In that case, we are arresting you on suspicion of assault and causing grievous bodily harm.”
A sudden sense of the surreal swept over her as Rochelle got into the back of the police car. “Surely, they know that this is a mistake,” she thought to herself and clung tightly to the hope that the officers would see sense. This surreal sense continued while she was questioned at the station. The two officers seemed to be totally deaf to her insistence she was acting in self-defence. When Rochelle told her account of what she told the boy who had pulled a knife on her, the shorter, blonde officer seized the chance and retorted, “It sounds like you goaded him into attacking you.”
“He had a knife on me! I was trying to get him to put the knife away and leave those old people alone,” Rochelle explained trying to hold back her anger at the apparent ignorance of the two officers. “What would you have done if they had pulled a knife on you?”
“It doesn’t matter what we would have done,” the taller officer interjected. “We have twelve statements from witnesses saying that you were clearly goading that young man into going for you. That you did so by insulting his masculinity. You might not have thrown the first punch but you wanted him to do so in order that you could show off your martial arts skills. Besides, we know who you are now, Rochelle Dibley or should we say ‘Rocket’ Rochelle Dibley, undefeated professional MMA fighter. You wanted to show these kids how tough you were.”
“No! I just wanted to stop those yobs from harassing innocent and vulnerable people. I phoned you twice to report was going on. If you had done your job, I wouldn’t have had to!”
She regretted saying the last bit even before the taller officer came back with, “So, you decided to take the law into your own hands.”
“I just wanted to help them,” was on the tip of Rochelle’s tongue but she drew it back, fearing that if she had said that, it would have landed her in more trouble. It would not have mattered much because right after, the two officers instructed her to wait while they left the room. After three quarters of an hour on her own, the two officers returned with a larger male officer, obviously a superior. With his rugby player like build and greying beard, cut very short, the officer stood across the table from Rochelle as if he was an animal displaying his dominance.
“You’re not from around here,” he began. When Rochelle nodded, he continued, “You don’t know the boy you assaulted, he’s the son of one of Brighton’s leading city councillors. You don’t realise how much trouble you could really be in. Fortunately for you, the parents aren’t pressing charges. Besides, the boy thinks it cool that he got knocked out by a professional cage fighter. If we did prosecute you, we’re afraid you would be made out to be some sort of hero in the eyes of the media and your chosen profession. We would be made to look like the bad guys and the Brighton Police does not need that sort of negative publicity. However, us not charging you comes with one condition, you don’t ever come back to Brighton.”
“What about my job?” was all she could think about.
“Well, I’m afraid that it’s a case of your job or you facing prison time. If you are seen in Brighton, you will be arrested.”
Although she felt the whole thing was a cover up, Rochelle felt that she had no other choice than to agree to the terms. The trip home seemed even longer and she was just glad that her final delivery of the day accepted her explanation of being so late was down to traffic in Brighton. The entire time she was extremely worried over how the whole affair was going to affect her.
Things took a fortunate turn for Rochelle when she told her boss about what had happened in Brighton. The boss did not want to lose a good delivery driver and he liked the fact that he had a ‘celebrity’ working for him. Furthermore, he said he was getting a little stir crazy in the office so he thought a trip one day out along the coast would be a good break. Therefore, he happily took over Rochelle’s Wednesday delivery route while she stayed in the office to do administrative duties.
Upon his return from his first Wednesday deliveries, the boss informed Rochelle, “It’s good you didn’t go to Brighton, there was police car parked by that chip shop and they were watching me. They left after ten minutes. They were probably just making sure it wasn’t you.”
Rochelle shrugged, “It’s great the police can spare a car to watch in case I came back to Brighton but they couldn’t spare any to stop those yobs harassing people.”
Eventually, thoughts about her experience in Brighton began to dim although they would never completely vanish. One positive was those thoughts spurred her on at her next fight, she knocked her opponent out in ninety seconds.
Six weeks later, returning from his delivery to Brighton, the boss relayed an observation from his trip. “I saw a gang of kids on the sea front promenade, yobbos or what? They threw a disabled man off of his mobility scooter and took turns joyriding on it while the man lay there. It was disgusting, I should have called the police.”
“They wouldn’t have come,” Rochelle consoled him. “And if you tried to do anything yourself, it would have been you being arrested.”
The boss nodded in agreement, nothing would have been done.
Arriving in Brighton the following week, Rochelle wondered if history would continue to repeat itself. Like the weeks before, she made her delivery and began to eat her lunch from her usual vantage point to see if things would happen as before. At first, it looked quite possible. The gang of youths were still loitering about the area unchallenged. At times she could overhear some of the foul language coming from their direction. However, after twenty minutes of observing and finishing her lunch, there was no sign of the vulnerable young man. Satisfied nothing was going to happen, she got up to leave although a thought occurred to her that it was a shame that the young man was not able to come around on account of these hooligans.
With her lunch break nearly over and content that she might have stopped this gang from harassing the weak, she got up to go. As she was doing so, something suddenly caught her eye. She spied an elderly couple walking towards the gang. A few seconds later, while she watched, her instincts proved to be right. The alpha-male and several others with him approached them. From where she stood, it seemed from the way the alpha-male was jumping up and down, they were being as aggressive to this harmless old couple as they had been to the vulnerable young man. Her first thought was to ring the police again but by now, she knew that would be pointless. Therefore, she decided to take matters upon herself.
Even before she had reached that decision in her mind, she was halfway across the road and like a shot was over to confront the gang. Before she even got there, she could hear the alpha-male bellowing, “You might have fought in the war but you still have to pay our toll to go past!” The fact that the elderly man was trying to stand his ground impressed her. After all, seventy-five years earlier, he had done the same against the Germans. However, his wife was advising him to hand over some money and not create a fuss. This couple needed saving!
Full of anger and determination, Rochelle stepped in between the couple and the alpha-male, slightly surprised and relieved that no one in the gang tried to confront her. Concluding she had the element of surprise, she balked, “Why don’t you leave these people alone!”
“What’s it to you? Bitch!” the alpha-male snapped. “You better walk away now or we’re going to fuck you up.”
Pushing aside her bemusement that this young man had seen too many films or television shows, she immediately squared up to him, sizing up her opponent in the process. She could now see that he was Five feet ten, three inches taller than she was and looked about seventeen or eighteen. His loose fitting clothes hid his true physique but that did not matter much to her. Rochelle had taken down larger opponents.
“What, you need a gang? You can’t take one woman on your own?” she chided in retort.
Her question was answered with a chorus of “Ooooh’s” from the gang with one male in the crowd stating, “I think she wants to fight you.”
Shrugging off the last comment while reaching into his pocket, the alpha male suddenly produced a shiny silver object and growled, “I’ll fucking stanley you!”
“What? Now you need to use a knife on me,” Rochelle answered back while taking a fighting stance in case he used the blade.
“Oooh, she thinks she’s real hard,” another male voice added sarcastically.
A female voice then rang out, “Just thump her one, she won’t be so brave then.”
Emboldened by his cheering section, the alpha male put his blade back in his pocket, then suddenly lashed out with a wild right. Seeing it coming all the way, Rochelle easily blocked it. More ‘oooh’s’ from the crowd encouraged him to strike out with his left but his target side-stepped causing him to miss badly. Seizing her chance, just like she had done with Amazon Glenda, Rochelle stepped in and hit pay dirt with a right to the young man’s temple and like her previous opponent, he too fell to the ground not to get up again.
Seeing their champion flat on his back, unconscious, indecision now gripped the gang. One boy proclaimed, “Fucking hell, she knocked him out!” Some thought they should avenge their fallen comrade while others sought to flee. Seeing Rochelle in a fighting stance, bouncing on the balls of her feet and looking full of adrenaline, from her quick victory, the gang chose the latter option and hastily withdrew leaving their defeated friend behind. However, once at a safe distance, a girl from the group shouted to Rochelle, “We’ll get you, you fucking bitch!”
The elderly couple could not thank Rochelle enough for her heroic actions but they were just as serious in advising her to leave as soon as possible. She did so but only after she was fully assured the couple were now going to be safe.
In the week between trips to Brighton, something in her mind told Rochelle to store the information she had written down on her mobile phone. She had the feeling she might need it when she went back there the following week. Sure enough, she was glad she had because when she finished the delivery, the same gang was across the road. The loud swearing by some of them emphasising their presence.
Right on cue, the vulnerable young man came along. However, this time he was accompanied by another young man. Rochelle hoped that this other man would be a carer. However, as she watched the events unfold, it was evident that the other young man was just as vulnerable as the first one.
She watched as two of the boys in the gang began shoving the newcomer back and forth. Meanwhile, the alpha male approached the original victim with a menacing stance. It looked to Rochelle that the aggressor might actually punch his vulnerable target. Without further confrontation, the vulnerable young man followed protocol and reached into his pocket to give the alpha male his leave me alone fee. However, handing over the protection money did not completely free the pair from further torment. As they tried to leave, they were forced to endure more shoves and what sounded like some unsavoury comments from the gang. Before the victims were ten feet past where their ordeal had taken place, Rochelle’s mobile was out and she was speed dialling the number the police had given her the previous week.
“Police, help line,” a male voice this time responded.
“Yes,” Rochelle began, fighting to quell her building anxiety. “Last week, I reported a group of youths by the sea front harassing and exploiting a vulnerable young man. Well, it just happened again but this time there were two victims.”
“You say this happened at the sea front, just now?” the voice probed.
“About how many youths were involved would you say?”
“I’d say about fifteen.”
“When you say there were harassing these two people, what do you mean exactly?”
“These kids shout, push, hit, kick and threatened these two young men who can’t defend themselves. Then they got them to hand over money so they could be left alone.”
“Okay” was the only response. Then the voice added, “We’ll send a car to the area to see what is happening.” After the phone conversation ended, Rochelle hung around to see if a police car would turn up, none did. After an hour, Rochelle realised she needed to go to her next delivery so she left. She had given up hope that any police would come.
Memories begin to fade over time but it was not long enough for Rochelle’s memory of the incident in Brighton. It was still in the forefront of her mind when she returned to the city to make her delivery the following week. She was hoping that what happened the previous week was a one-off but after she had made her delivery, she looked across the road and sure enough, the same gang of kids were hanging around. A few minutes later, she spied the same vulnerable young man from the previous week making his way towards the group. She continued to observe, curious to see what would happen next.
Almost immediately, a girl from the group went over to the young man, waving her hands in front of his face, making out she was going to slap him. Instinctively, the victim stepped back but the tormenting female stepped nearer, continuing her taunt. Her hands got too close to him so the young man pushed them away.
“He slapped my hand!” the young girl squealed.
Needing no further self-justification, the alpha male leader came to the girl’s rescue. He gave the young man a forceful shove, nearly causing him to lose his balance. “So, you like slapping girls!” the alpha male bellowed. He gave another shove and this time his target fell back onto his bottom. Rochelle could not make out what was being said by the alpha male who was standing over the young man while he tried to get back on his feet but she could tell that it was intimidating and the vulnerable man looked frightened. Once he managed to get to his feet, the victim reached into his pocket and handed something over to the aggressor. Obviously money in Rochelle’s mind. It was only after that the young man was allowed to pass but not before the girl who had instigated it all gave one last kick up the bottom.
In Rochelle’s mind, this was too much. Incensed, she pulled out her mobile phone and immediately dialled 999 and asked to speak to the police.
“Brighton Police, what is your emergency,” inquired a female voice on the end of the line.
“I have just witnessed a group of youths intimidate and rob a vulnerable young man,” Rochelle reported, her combined anger and eagerness to the right thing making her huff and puff between words.
“Where did this happen?”
“On the sea front, across the road from Fish n Pie’s Chip Shop.”
“And how long ago did the incident occur?”
“Literally, just a minute ago.”
The voice on the other end of the line pressed for more details, such as numbers and descriptions which Rochelle provided with a fair amount of confidence. When she concluded her report, the voice assured her that the matter would be looked into. Rochelle briefly had to scramble for a pen and paper so she could take down the phone number given to her in the event that she could provide more information. When it was all over, Rochelle hoped that it would be dealt with, at least for the young man’s sake.
Here is the next installment if my short story:
It was because she was still virtually unknown in professional MMA, Rochelle still had to rely on her day job delivering supplies to fish and chip shops up and down the east coast of England from her home town of Skegness. However, she did like her job a lot, especially on a Wednesday because it involved a lot of driving making deliveries to Clacton-on-Sea and Brighton. That gave her time to reflect back on her last fight and begin mentally preparing for the next while all the time, taking in the views of the sea.
The coastal drive had taken the entire morning, so she was glad for the break after the shop in Brighton took delivery. That shop happened to be right on the sea front, so she took her sandwiches and bought a bottle of orange juice and went to go sit in the sand to enjoy her lunch and the view. Her plan was briefly disrupted when she heard the shop owner remark, “I wish those feral delinquents wouldn’t come around here.”
She looked in the direction the owner was indicating. Across the road, near the beach, about ten to fifteen youths, all looking between the ages of 16-20, were standing about. Everything about them confirmed the owner’s label of the group in her mind. She thought, “What a bunch of chavs!” Half of them were in hoodies despite the warmer weather and most of them were smoking. The coarse language could be clearly heard even from where Rochelle was standing. Suddenly, the gang’s attention turned to one young man who happened to be walking past them. This young man was around the same age as the group, possibly a few years older. Right away, she could see that he was vulnerable, probably having special needs.
Four of the group quickly surrounded the young man while the rest took positions where they could best view the upcoming spectacle. One lad, wearing a New York Knicks basketball top and three-quarter length trousers assumed the role of leader. While Rochelle could not quite make out everything that was being said, it was obvious he was being threatening to his victim. The self-proclaimed leader was now in the young, vulnerable man’s face. After several shoves from him and some of his cohorts, the young man handed something over to his chief tormentor, obviously money in Rochelle’s mind. After the leader accepted the tribute, the young man was allowed to pass but not before one of the girls in the group kicked him in the bottom, bringing loud laughter to the rest of the group.
She had to use every ounce of her resolve in order to prevent herself from going over to the gang and slapping everyone of them senseless. What they had just done was wrong but she knew that if she had confronted the gang, her MMA skills would not have helped her against such numbers. At the same time, she wanted to go comfort the victim but he had quickly disappeared. Instead, she went back to her original plan of eating her lunch on the beach before making the drive home. However, she could not get the incident she had witnessed out of her mind.