Five Points, Vol. 13 No. 2Fall 2010
From Glenn Patterson, “I came at the novel by a circuitous route, having attempted, in my early teens and early twenties, short stories, a screenplay, and even –God help me- a bit of poetry.”
Hopdance: An Extract
One day they said, It’s time you went to the gymnasium, Mr. Tosh. And so you go there, whistling even, a shanty of sorts. Trying to fancy yourself aboard ship along these long corridors with the curvy low ceilings, a male nurse in his white smock smiling past like a cabin steward. Polished floor, the right crutch sliding a little. Easy. On a real ship, on these things, with one bound you’d be on your arse. All at sea. There now, wordplay even. Of a sort. The boy is back in his mind again.
Tunnelling left, that might be the place, swing doors with portholes. Eases his right shoulder between the doors, bundling through in an awkward scuffle, the hospital gymnasium. Bars, ropes, curious engines. Nobody here yet. Heeling round to starboard…
a spectral stranger in the corner lurking there eyeing you out of a ragged thicket of dirty fair hair, lank blue jumper hanging limp on the bony shoulders, metal crutches clamping the forearms, fixing you with that glittering eye, transfixed, don’t look down…gross blue knot gangling in the vacant space where the left leg should be, pyjama knot, dangling from the blunt stump fat with its bandages, the one fat thing, gorged full on its own blood. First sight of it. First mirror.
Easy. As others see me. Scary ghost. Sad freak. No wonder they tried to make you wear their long tartan dressing gown, get a haircut, stay in the ward, spare the feelings of the healthy, no wonder, horrified eyes sliding sideways as they pass me in the corridor.
Motionless, holding the stare. For the slightest move, confirmed by the mirror, will force him at length to identify with that halt scarecrow which now at last stands there revealed to him after the months of living wholly inside that stricken mask. Caught.