The League sample chapter...unedited.
The freezing cold rock felt like welcome shelter to the small boy who hid there from the wind and the constantly falling snow. He had no idea how he had become lost out in the storm. He wasn’t even dressed to go outside in this kind of weather.
Andy looked down at his cold wet left hand, and wondered why he couldn’t feel his fingertips. He had been out here long enough to be freezing cold, but why was he even out here? Did he run away from home again? Was Dad angry with him again? Dad was often angry with him; the things he did, the choices he made.
Had Dad come to find him? Or was there something else out here with him in the storm?
Andy looked about frantically. Peering as hard as he could with his stinging eyes through the swirling grey. Dark, murky grey was all Andy could make out before having to squeeze his eyes shut to hide them from the icy wind.
There! Again a sound, out in the dark.
Then Andy put a picture to the sound. It was a clanging or twanging, that only one thing could possibly make. A guitar, a broken guitar.
Andy looked around the side of the rock he was pressed against, in search of somewhere else he could hide, or somewhere to run to. His father had found the broken guitar. His broken guitar. The one Andy had broken.
Andy had found it in his Dad’s study and had wanted to impress him by playing a song his Dad would recognize. Like one of those cool Black Sabbath songs or that catchy one about the hotel in California. He had managed to bring the guitar through the house and was heading through the sliding glass door out to the patio where he could strum away in the fresh air like the musicians in the videos Dad puts on.
It was at this point that Perky, the family cat decided to spring one of his famous surprise attacks.
He leaped up onto Andy’s chest, then sprang off nearly knocking Andy to the ground. Andy was only six years old, and Perky was old enough to know better, but he gave Andy the fright of his life for the third time that week. Only this time Andy had been holding Dad’s beloved guitar in his hand. It was the good one that Dad had usually kept in a case high up on the wardrobe.
Andy’s little fingers had let go of the precious guitar to fend off the fluffy grey monstrosity that had come out of nowhere.
The guitar fell hard against the doorframe, before clattering across the concrete pavers near the barbeque.
Perky not only had succeeded in his mission, but had been terrified out of his wits too by the sound of the acoustic guitar as it hit the ground, it was worse than when Mum used the vacuum cleaner. He disappeared under the hedge near the fence at the side of the house and looked back with wide eyes at the scene of the crime.
Andy stood still, unable to move, frozen.
The guitar’s body looked battered. There were splinters of wood and a broken string and there was something wrong with the neck. His model making glue wouldn’t fix this, it barely worked on paper.
Andy was stepping down onto the pavers when he was grabbed by the back of his dark green jumper and pulled back. He had no time to turn or pull away, before a heavy hand belted the right side of his head. His head hit the doorway with the weight of the impact.
It was Dad. Andy’s head swam and his ears rang after the blow. He was too afraid to turn around to look at his father’s angry face. He wasn’t afraid of his father and his father didn’t often hit him, but today Andy had done something terrible, he had smashed his Dad’s treasure. He loved the guitar, He wasn’t great at playing it, but he loved it, Andy knew this He wanted to impress his Dad, not break his treasure.
The world blurred into a kaleidoscope of colour. His uncontrollable tears made it impossible to see and he was too ashamed to let out a sob. He was so ashamed.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Andy choked. He couldn’t answer. It felt as if he had swallowed a sock, like it was stuck in his throat, and all he could do was try and breathe again.
“I said, what the hell do you think you are doing?”
He couldn’t look at Dad, and he couldn’t speak. So he broke free from his father’s grip and ran. He didn’t stop running.
Andy had run down to the picnic ground at the other end of their street. It was his special place. Mum and Dad took him there at least once a week to let him play on the big swing set, and collect grasshoppers.
The rock was where Andy would hide when he knew his Mum would call ‘home time’.
Andy examined the edge of the slick brown rock that shielded him from the unrelenting wind. This was the side he would peek from to see if Mum had guessed his hiding place. This was his rock. This was his park. But it was so cold! Why was it so cold?!
“Hello?” called a man’s voice in the dark.
A man, but not his Dad. Had some other man found Dad’s broken Guitar? Did Dad call the police? It was his favourite thing, maybe he would go to jail for breaking it. He deserved it for what he had done.
“There you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you Andy.”
Andy looked up nervously at the scruffy man holding Dad’s guitar. He was wearing a dark suit and tie and didn’t look very happy. “Are you the police?” Andy choked as he looked at the damaged guitar in the man’s hand.
“Me? No, I’m just a guy taking a walk.”
Andy looked confused.
“So, is this baby yours? I have a couple at home. Better nick though.”
“It’s Dad’s. It broke.”
“Well, laying around in all this snow is no good for the wood you know? But this one looks like it’s taken a beating.”
Andy shut his eyes hard to stop the stinging cold, and to avoid looking at the man who knew about guitars. He could tell the man blamed him for breaking it. He wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go. The storm was thick and swirled like a grey ocean around the solitary rock. He couldn’t see the swing set or the picnic table Mum and Dad always sat at.
The guitar thumped into the snow in front of Andy. Which caused him to look up at the stranger who brought it.
The man sat himself down and leaned his back against the rock beside him.
“You will get snow on your nice clothes.” Andy warned. Plus, he didn’t really want the company.
“Oh, I’m not fussed about that here.” The man said as he gazed out into the constant snow.
“Who are you? How did you find me?” Andy whimpered.
“It’s easy to find someone when you know what to look for.”
“It’s Dad’s. It broke.” Andy snapped defensively.
“So you keep saying. Did you break that Guitar Andy? Is that why you are hiding?”
“Dad was angry at me. He smacked me. I didn’t mean to do it!”
“I’m sure it was an accident, wasn’t it Andy?” The man said looking into the boy’s tear filled eyes.
“Yes.” Andy choked, but felt some relief, saying the words.
“So Dad wasn’t happy then? But your Dad loved you. You know that right?”
Andy was about to protest, and put his hand to the sore ear he had. Dad hadn’t smacked his face before, but he did love Andy. He had said “Bye, bye son” every morning when he dropped him at school. And he had taught him to ride a bike, the little blue one Grandma had got him for Christmas. Andy sighed.
“Yes. Daddy loves me.”
“So why are you hiding? You broke the guitar. That’s not a great thing to do, but that can’t be it.”
Andy looked blankly out at the swirling snow.
“There is something else. Deeper. Why are you hiding?” the man persisted.
Andy shook his head. “ I’m sorry I broke Daddy’s treasure! I didn’t mean it!”
“No Andy. There’s something else here. We aren’t sitting out in a snow storm because you broke a guitar Andy.”
The man looked hard at Andy. It made him uncomfortable, like when Mum was asking him about the chocolate that was missing from her ‘treats’ cupboard. His head began to ache and he began to hold his head in his hands.
“Dad loved you. He gave you a hug when you came home. You said you were sorry, and you cried.”
He did. Dad hugged me when I came home in the dark. He was worried and he said sorry for smacking me. But how does the man know? And how do I know it has happened yet? Andy was confused. This can’t have happened! He was here now!
“Andy, deeper! You don’t stay out here when someone forgives you. You did something else. You may not remember it, but I know you did it.”
Andy’s eyes were as wide as he dared, the cold wind stung his tear-streaked cheeks.
“I didn’t!” Andy sobbed.
“What have you done Andy?” the man raised his voice.
Andy shook his head and began to cry. There was nothing else he could say.
“Listen to me! This doesn’t go away until you fix it. Think deeper.”
The boy looked around to find the reason for the man’s prying questions. Why was he behind his rock? And why was he being mean? Andy looked at the broken guitar lying in front of them, slowly being buried by the falling snow. He didn’t mean to break it. He had said sorry.
“Secrets, Andy. You are only hiding something from yourself! What have you got buried!”
The boy ran across the yard almost tripping on the corner of the sand pit. The world was a blur through the fog of his tears. They burned his eyes and streaked down his cheeks. Dad didn’t follow him, he knew. Dad knew that Andy would have to come inside at sometime, and Dad never chased him, even for fun.
There was a rustle to his left that made him stumble back.
Andy used his shaking knuckles to rub his eyes so that he could clear some of the burning fog. It was the Mum’s honeysuckle hedge, and the rustle came from beneath it. It was Perky. Fluffy, grey, Perky. The cat that loved to jump out and give everyone a fright, then run away.
“You! You did it!” Andy hissed at the family cat that sat poised to spring from within the bush.
“You!” The cat backed up a little, it knew it had been seen, there was no fun without the surprise.
“Why did you do it?” Andy stumbled back onto the ground and looked about where his hands were in the new garden bed his mother had been putting together. His little right hand wrapped around half a brick that was being used as edging.
“You!” Andy hissed once more as he thrust the chunk of old red brick into the hedge at the cat.
The sound of the brick hitting the cat on the head was the worst sound Andy had ever heard, like the sound of someone dropping an apple onto a tiled floor, but more final.
The cat had its head down. It looked sorry, but it had broken Daddy’s guitar. It was Perky’s fault. Andy crawled into the hedge, still sobbing and hissing through his teeth. He grabbed the cat by its front paw and pulled it free of the bushes. It could have been dead, but it squirmed a little. He couldn’t let it run away. He looked at the blood pooling in the cats ear and its red eye. Mum would see, Perky always ran to Mum. Mum would hate him too if she knew.
“No.” Andy muttered. He would not let the cat steal his family.
He reached deep into the bush and found the piece of brick. He held it tightly in his fist, and then brought it down again onto Perky’s head. Perky’s back leg twitched and it felt like He was going to run, so he hit the cat again. This time Perky’s body went limp, floppy, like a warm stuffed toy.
Andy picked up the cat by its back feet and snatched Mum’s little hand trowel from the unfinished garden bed.
He knew where he could hide Perky, and himself forever.
Andy began to breathe quickly and sharply. He was choking again. The icy cold stung his eyes and throat.
“No, no, no, no…”
“Ah, you’ve remembered something…” the man probed.
“I didn’t do it, I didn’t.” And tried to curl up facing the other way so that he couldn’t see the man in the suit next to him. He gazed out at the snow-covered leaves on the ground, realizing he didn’t notice leaves before, just snow. Then something among the leaves caught his eye. He began to panic. Why is that here? His Mum’s little garden trowel lay protruding from beneath the leaves. He began to shuffle back against the man beside him, to escape the scene that was quickly unfolding in his mind.
His hands pressed into the soil beneath him. It was soft, like turned soil. This was where he had buried Perky. They were both sitting on the grave of the family cat. The boy jumped to his feet quickly and began to scream.
The man followed and grabbed Andy by the shoulders and smiled. “It’s ok mate”
“What?” Andy whimpered.
“Andy we all have things buried somewhere. It takes courage to face them.”
“I killed our cat! I killed him with a rock!” the boy yelled back.
“And you will live with that. But you will live. Time to go.”
“But we can’t see…!”
“But we can’t…”
Andy looked around the room lit by fluorescent lights. He sat up slowly and his head swam. There were curtains or screens around his bed, which he realized was very uncomfortable.
“Hello?” Andy croaked with a dry throat.
“Oh wow! Mister Campbell! You are awake! We will get your wife on the phone right now! Ellie! Contact Mr Campbell’s wife immediately! How are you feeling? You’ll need some water, and I’ll get you a little jelly if you are up to it.”
“What? Why am I…?”
“Ok. Andrew Campbell, you have been in an accident. You have been unconscious for eight days.”
“We honestly could not tell whether you were going to be here for a lot longer. You must have heard your brother’s voice! Amazing!”
“Brother? I don’t have a brother. You mean someone was here? Who was it? You can’t let anyone in here!” Andy’s vision began to swim again, so he tried to calm himself down. “So, what did he look like?”
“Umm…sorry. Ellie and I were sure he was your brother…”
“Sorry. He was about six foot I guess. Bit scruffy, kinda nice looking and he was in a black suit with a thin tie.”
“A suit?” Andy Campbell looked over at the visitor’s chair next to the bed. “But you will live”, the man in the suit had said in his dream. Or was it a dream?
“Mister Campbell? Are you sure you didn’t know that man?”
“Maybe I did…” Andy trailed off as he began to notice an open window at the other end of the hospital suite. It was sunny outside, a blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds.
“Time to go…” Andy muttered.