Larf is Lark a Box o' Cho-co-lates
By Ken Mulholland
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'Has the jury come to a verdict?'
'We have, Your Honour.'
'Foreman of the jury, you may read the verdict.'
'Your Honour, we the jury find the defendant...'
'Before they find anything, I should tell you how it started. Oh, it was a
long time ago. Such a long time. You don't seem to notice how time gets away
from you, what with one thing and another. Especially if you're enjoying
life and what you do. In life, I mean.
So there I was, a small child, scribbling away in my childish hand, in my
childish books: colouring in, drawing, forming simple words, looking long
and hard at the words, at the big, round formations of the letters. Sounding
the words on my breath as I wrote them, and savoured them, and locked them
away in my secret mind of secrets.
Yes, I was happy then, discovering the beginnings of the lonely, yet
fulfilling world of painting, and illustrating the words of wonder that
sprang, almost unbidden before my eyes, as if my hand conjured them from
somewhere beyond my mind.
I never really got over that, I suppose.
Never really. Perhaps because of the reinforcement of my imagination: where
it could take me, travelling within my mind.
The chariot of the mind. I like that.
Yes. I must write that down
Anyway. It was around that time that it all began. I can recall my mother
They used to take the pencils and the crayons and the pastels away. They
shooed me outside, "to play in the fresh air." Said it was "good for me". I
didn't want to, but they made me.
At school, the teachers kept me at their tasks, and I had no time, no time.
No time of my own.
It was only when I could sneak off, you know, that I could find time.
Funny that, time isn't lost, and yet you can find time; or borrow it, at
Under the big basket-willow in the back garden on bright, crisp autumn days,
or up in the loft or beneath the stairs on winter's days, I would seek
And I would write.
I got to be pretty pleased with myself when I finished a little story. Of
course I often drew some pictures to go with it. They gave the story a kind
of solid feel, as if it was an actual thing, and not just a collection of
letters assembled in an order that was readable.
Yes. I experienced my very own satisfaction at that. At completing some
small project that began as thought in my head, and became a tale all
decorated with pictures.
At school too, as I grew up through childhood into the gangly world of
pimpled youth, I began to catch the eye of a sympathetic teacher or two.
They would read my stories and nod patronisingly. "You should keep up with
this. It's very good for your mind. And you should read as well. Young
people such as yourself need encouragement with your letters. Don't forget
to get involved with other activities though. Healthy mind in a healthy
Other activities? What else was there but the school magazine?
I mean, really!
At fourteen I was reading Feodor Dostoevski: well not completely
understanding him, but, you know, getting through.
At fifteen I became a regular contributor to the school magazine, and by
sixteen I was the editor.
My parents and relatives and family friends and the butcher and the baker
all said that I had "a real talent there".
"Yep, sure. You could get into real estate, writin' them adverts. Even maybe
real Advertising, writin' jingles and such. You got the knack fer it
Insult, insult, insult!
Others said, "It's a lovely hobby, but soon you have to get out into the
real world. Best think about what you'll be doing as an adult. You have your
working life just ahead. Time to get serious."
I got serious.
I became a librarian. Not all at once, mind. It took some time and effort,
especially in a small town like mine, but I finally got there. I love books,
always have, all my life.
And I love writing
What I didn't love were the snide comments that I sometimes overheard.
"Wants to become writer."
"Writer of what? Do you mean a teacher?"
"No. A writer. Like one of them ones that gets paid for stories and the
"Do tell? Whatever for?"
"Who knows? Just one of them fool fancies. The kind that you get over. You
know, a fad."
'And there were the rejections.
Not the rejections of those who knew me. No. These were real rejections.
From publishers. They hurt. And they kept on hurting.
But there were also the unspoken rejections. The ones from those who did
They didn't come in an envelope that contained a single page of dismissal.
They came as an unspoken avoidance of the subject. A look-away, glazed eye,
change-the-conversation look, that told me that I was alone in this. That
whatever fool thing I was involved with, was no concern of theirs. Best
ignore it. Pretend it wasn't happening and it would go away. You know. That
kind of look. The look you get from family and friends that you thought all
along were family and friends.
And then you find the loneliness.
Not that I minded so much. I had my writing. And I kept it up, working late
nights, trying to find something that might catch some readers' eye in some
publishing house out there.
I sent my stories out like pigeons with little markers on them, saying
"Here, look here. I can write. I want to tell you a story that you will
like. That you can print, and others will like.
All I ever received were rejections.
I didn't let that crush the life out of me.
Through the years, as a librarian, I kept doggedly on, in a little town in a
little void, in a very large, inhospitable environment. That is, if you
aspired to become a "real" writer.
Until that day.
The day at the top of the stairs on the second floor of the library.
The pitch of the stairs was deceiving, at least that's what my defence
lawyer said on my behalf. A person could trip or stumble and once that
happened, the momentum and the incline and all, well you know. There would
be no stopping till you hit bottom.
I think it was the pat of approval on my hand that finally did it. The kind
of pat that condescendingly says, "You're just a librarian. What a pity
you've spent a great deal of your life trying to be something you never will
be. Oh yes, you could have been a teacher and used your talents to
advantage, but you chose to waste your life amongst books and sitting up
into the early hours scratching away, drawing little pictures and writing
little tales. And expecting all of us to make a fuss, and ohh and ah over
you like some jumped up creature of importance. Well, never mind. We're all
your friends. We forgive you these trifles, these funny little foibles.
Fancy thinking writing could be any more than a hobby. Should have taken up
a diary to begin with. Remember, it's never too late to stop playing the
Never too late.
Oh, there's the verdict. Just as I expected. What a welcome outcome. I am so
pleased. Now I can get on with my writing without the bother of the last few
months. That is a relief to me.
Of course the verdict might have been otherwise if not for the witness. I
might well have been acquitted, and then what should I have done? Back to
the same dreary monotony of my life in a nondescript library in a
nondescript town. I could have pleaded guilty, but then would any one have
taken me seriously? Would they have considered me capable of pushing my own
mother down those stairs?
No. There would have been the same condescension, the same patronising
attitudes. "You mustn't blame yourself for her death. It was just a terrible
accident. Go back to obscurity. Back to your pitiful pretences."
Now, on the other hand, they know I did it. I have been found guilty and I
will go to prison for a long while.
I think I shall begin my stay with a whimsical tale about a librarian, who
commits manslaughter in a fit of pique and is found not guilty by a jury
comprised of sadomasochists and published writers.