The band at the last minute had backed out of playing on the radio, only Rob remained to play with him, but only a bass player it wouldn’t have sounded right without the band so Dad advised him to stay behind and stay out of the way. This was his fight, not just for me but for Grace, Henry, Joey, Toni and Mum. The DOF were the greatest thorn he had ever had in his side, the energy around him swam and fizzed every time someone mentioned Lewis or his fucking psychotic party. The all encompassing writhing vines were digging their poisoned thorns into his character. Dad was anger personified, simmering and subtle, but livid all the same.
You couldn’t have guessed when he finished his interview with his newest song called come back around. I never understood the muse, or who he had written it for. There were elements of Mum in there, elements of Toni, but it was essentially as subtle yearning number about losing someone that you love. It wasn’t like my father to write a song that you couldn’t place firmly on a timeline of his life. Such was his writing, a lead heart upon a steel sleeve. But still his lyrics will stick with me forever, his high pained voice weeping promises, echoes and musings. I felt this song in a way I had never felt before, as he picked his acoustic, slapping harmonics. The first time I had heard him tune to drop D on his acoustic (whom he affectionately named Scarlet after the bright red finish).
I stood the other side of sound proof glass watching him softly pick his guitar, appreciating him in a way I had only ever heard Toni describe. I wanted to know the meaning of every single word, and understand what made this mysterious ballad flow straight from his tear ducts.
“I didn’t see you walking out, it all happened far too quickly for me to breathe. That is not a reason to back down.”
I watched his fingers as he intricately picked the melancholy intervals, and slid to those yearning notes. I could see why Toni fell in love with him through music. He sounded just like a young handsome heartbroken pauper that any woman would want to fix and wrap up in their arms. I smiled to myself, I was born with the same tools as this man. Neither of us essentially attractive, both of us tempestuous, the pair of us so fucking complicated, and physically invisible. But we change as we pick up a guitar and become anyone we want to be. It sounded so much that my father wanted to get a message out to someone. Perhaps anyone who was listening, perhaps a certain someone, perhaps himself.
“I don’t own enough to leave, I see you again and no one is that easy to read, the grounds frozen up my feet. No ice breaks that easily for me to leap.”
The song needed nothing more than his acoustic guitar, a drum, a bass, or a flute would have ruined it. Just my Dad and his guitar was all this song needed. Such intimacy, such meaning would only have been spoilt by adding cooks to the kitchen. I saw myself sat in the room playing a red guitar, eyes closed, stretching stiff fingers against the dark fret board.
“Another scene fate has to eat, and I can’t run to the cover of trees. I didn’t break enough to call. The fools that breed. I never thought I’d be the fool that leaves.”
For nearly five minutes the song bled and roiled from my father, the air stunned into silence, and I held my breath, as he sweetly drove the melancholia onward, I hardly noticed the lanky silhouette of Lewis as he sidled next to me. He grinned a toothy wide grin as I looked up at him. He placed his claw like hand upon my shoulder and squeezed it hard, a gesture I was unused to. This was new familiarity from him, one a week ago I craved, now this minute wanted to rip his arms from his shoulder and beat him to death with it. His very presence was a blemish on the song my Dad was crooning.
“Do you think this dirge was written for Toni or for your Mother?” As he spoke I wanted to push his ivory teeth down his slimy fucking throat. But my Dad had warned me that if Lewis wanted to speak to me, to continue to appear as though I am on his side still. He would be suspicious if I showed him any hostility whatsoever and that would ruin the element of surprise. So I faked a throaty chuckle and turned my eyes back to my father as he shook the hands of the DJ and walked out of the glass studio with his guitar. As my father passed the blinking desks and oversized microphones Lewis patted me on the back and moved to greet him from the studio doors.
“That was beautiful, very elegant and eloquent, simply wonderful abstract piece of music Simon. You really are talented.” I wondered how much of this false magnanimity my Dad would be able to stomach. Lewis smiled his wide charismatic smile, flashing his teeth in my father’s face.
“Haven’t you got some venom to spit at a microphone Lewis?” My Dad kept a light tone and mimicked Lewis’ own smile facetiously before pushing past him and making for the door. As Lewis entered the recording studio and sat down in a large leather chair he shook Andy’s hand. Andy the DJ was mid forties, graying beard and wearing a baseball cap with ACDC emblazoned across the forehead. The DJ who was full of smiles and humour with my father was suddenly stern faced and anxious. His beady sapphire eyes shifted from Lewis to the glass in which I hid behind, it was only as my father came up behind me that I realised that inside the studio this window was really a mirror.
“If that fool keeps looking at this window he’ll give the bloody game away.” My Dad breathed as if trying not to break a silence. In truth Lewis was didactically preaching about the safety of the streets and how they were paramount to the DOF. I saw my father smile in the ghostly reflection of the glass as Lewis mentioned a “Disturbance in the sleepy community of Gretton, where young thugs impeached the peace by trespassing violently upon the property of Bernstein,” whom Lewis was very sorry couldn’t be here to discuss the actions of the DOF, and debate their effective methods of keeping the borough of Corby safe. It was here that Andy introduced a commercial break and my Dad left my side inhaling deeply and cracking his knuckles. Dad opened the studio door and sat down the opposite side of the microphone to Lewis.
The look on Lewis’ face was beyond priceless. At first he was confused and looked toward Andy for clarification. As Andy looked down to the desk hiding his eyes, Lewis looked toward my Dad. As Simon grinned an imitation of Lewis’ own slippery smile, you could feel the realisation clicking into place deep in Lewis’ mind. The smile on my Dad said so much, but the wider he smiled, the more it said “Fuck you”. As Andy ended the adverts, Lewis’ eyes had turned to ice, and if he could, he would have stabbed my father through the heart with them.
“Hello listeners, we are back with our interview, in the absence of Gerard Bernstein, Simon Wood has opted to sit in and discuss the DOF with Lewis Harris, hello again Simon.” Andy’s voice unwavering cool radio voice betrayed the beads of sweat slipping down his crinkled face.
“Hello again Andy, thank you for allowing me back in. Thank you Corby for tolerating me today.” Dad leaned back in his chair locking gazes with Lewis.
“Welcome back also to Lewis Harris, leader of the DOF, the first political party based here in Corby, also the local governing party.” Andy dared not even flicker his eye away from the mirror, making it look like he was directly looking at me. I could see the fear in his eyes. Perhaps it took some courage for Andy to have pulled this surprise stunt too.
“Thank you Andy, pleasure to be sat here with one of our own boroughs minor celebrities.” At the word minor you could see a flicker of mirth reach his eyes. My Dad smiled back at him acknowledging that the gloves were off.
“Simon would you like to begin with your questions for Lewis Harris?” Andy closed his eyes and placed a thick paper hand over his eyes.
“Certainly Andy, and thank you. Hi Lewis, I was listening to your didactic speech prior to my entrance and I must admit to be surprised by the story of the attack in Gretton this week. There has been little no press coverage of this event and, obviously with the information you hold you would be cooperating with your police, but also what exactly happened and how did you come to find out about it all.” I loved the acting; my father had a way of sounding so oblivious and innocent, whilst twisting a conversation and steering it to his own end. Lewis eyed my father momentarily realising that he would have choose his own words carefully. His eyes flickered to the glass and met mine for a brief minute. It felt like that he could see through and straight into me.
“Well I am sure the more scrutinising and interested readers would have noticed the article midweek about the poor attack on the home of Gerard Bernstein, it was to this I was simply denoting the need for stricter policing.” Lewis’ words seemed to slither from his mouth to the microphone in front of him.
“So the scrutinising readers would be able to tell me exactly what happened to Gerard Bernstein then, as obviously terrible it was since you had cause to highlight the situation in ear shot of your entire constituency sir, and since because he was so traumatised by this attack he , couldn’t be here today. As it’s only you and I here, perhaps you could fill me in Lewis?” My Dad remained his easy slouch on the chair as he spoke, still in the innocent inquisitive tone of a man seeking simple information. He was careful to ensure that there was no combat in his timbre, nothing that Lewis could jump on and accuse my father of provoking him. Not yet at least.
“Well his home was invaded and trespassed upon by a couple of young thugs this week, and as far as I am aware he has sustained some injury that has prevented his coming here today, of course it is a shame, I would so have loved to have crossed swords with an intellectual equal.” My Dad grinned as Lewis got that last cheap shot in at him. This is how Lewis fought with his back to the wall. The veiled insult did not even pierce my father’s skin. He was equal to the task, probably counting blows.
“Well perhaps you can Lewis for Gerard Bernstein is sat in Nottingham listening to the show online and has promised to call in when I began speaking with you today. Andy is Mr Bernstein on the phone as yet?” My Dad spoke a little faster, he was excited about how quickly he pulled the conversation around so easily.
“Yes Mr Bernstein is on air as we speak. Good afternoon Gerard.” Andy pressed a button as he spoke allowing the sound of the call to filter out into the studio.
“Ah good afternoon Andy, I apologise for my absence. I am currently in Nottingham, safe behind the jurisdiction of a Conservative Party controlled police state, I suppose as you were expecting me on the show that you would like some clarification as to why.” It wasn’t a question, more of a rhetorical statement. Bernstein, in the same vain as my father, kept a cool and matter of fact air about his voice.
“Yes please Mr Bernstein, and I hope you are well.” Lewis had such audacity, coolly keeping the sarcasm from his voice.
“I am very well thanking you for asking Harris. Well this week like the esteemed politician in your midst correctly stated I was subject to an horrific attack by a trio of young citizens, but thankfully the intervention of Simon Wood prevented any serious injury to my person. However the attack was not merely a random attack by three young hoodlums, no it was political and these young children were carrying a message.” Mr Bernstein artfully left the pause for someone to fill. He led all the listeners of the radio, and the people in the studio all to ask the same question. It was my father who asked it simply. “What was this message Gerard?”.
“The trio of youngsters were sent by Lewis Harris, first and foremost to make entirely sure that I would not be able to make it to the radio interview. He was so adamant about this fact that he handed one of them a pistol and a stolen car. The gun was loaded too…” Lewis cut him off absolutely and definitively with an explosive ejaculation.
“Preposterous notion. Such conspiracy theory” Lewis was turning a bright red and squirming uncomfortably.
“I would that it were conspiracy and preposterous Harris, however we both know…” Bernstein was cut off again.
“This is utterly nonsensical, which youths would I employ to perform such a task.” I held my breath momentarily. This was the moment I was dreading. My father had planned this with Bernstein, at some point Lewis would ask this question to back my father into a corner. In Lewis’ mind my dad wouldn’t dare continue the point for fear of having me arrested, when forced to name me my father would have no option but to back down. But my Dad understood a little of the politics of the day, the very state controlled police force that Lewis controlled could be turned to control Lewis.
“You gave a pistol to my son Cameron Wood with the instruction to kill Gerard Bernstein for daring to challenge your authority with seditious libel. You handed him and his friends a free pass to commit murder for you, because you didn’t like being opposed.” You could hear the silence across the airwaves. Lewis’ red turned to stark white, his shocked face smoothed out by horror.
“Then if you are saying that your son was in possession of a firearm then I am honour bound obviously to report this to the police, unless you can think of a good reason why I shouldn’t.” Lewis regained his cool incredibly quickly, but by offering my father a way out, he offered my father more ammunition.
“I know you won’t allow the police to pull himself or I into the police station, for the moment that my son mentions, in front of an appointed Lawyer, that the DOF were culpable for arming him and setting him on the way to murder, the National Police Force would be called in to investigate, and all investigative jurisdiction would be taken out of DOF police jurisdiction and investigated by the Conservative party police in London. Imagine what your greatest opponents would think of investigating the uprising dictatorial DOF?” My Dad had dropped his cool demeanour now and had begun spitting his lines with fury. In the momentary silence you could hear Bernstein utter a stoic “Hear hear” before Lewis responded explosively.
“Dictatorial? We are a nationalist party. We are a Socialist party. We are by no means a fascist party, and nor would we wish to be. This is a slanderous accusation.” The problem with Lewis when he was caught wrong footed, was that his wrong hit hot water very quickly.
“Nationalist? Socialist? Do you remember a famous party in the deep bowels of history that once claimed to be nationalist and socialist? Does it ring any bells, a party leader that killed over six million Jews? A megalomaniac who…”
“Megalomaniac who turned perfectly healthy nationalism into something much more sinister, but that is nothing like what we are trying to achieve in Corby.” Lewis blurted hurriedly evading a history lesson and a pile of more accusations.
“What is it you are trying to achieve by arming the police with visible weaponry? What is it you are trying to achieve by your weekly gatherings of the teenagers of Corby? What are you achieving by giving a fifteen year old boy whose mother was brutally murdered by one of your own entourage less than a decade ago?” My Dad was at the microphone, his tongue almost touching distance from the black sponge, glaring fiercely into the microphone.
“This is a waste of time, what do you expect to achieve without any concrete proof of this alleged foul play Simon? It is wild accusation at best, what exactly are you attempting to do?” Lewis scoffed nervously. I noticed for he first time that Lewis was being betrayed by his right hand shaking on the desk in front of him. My dad sighed and again sat back in his chair.
“Unfortunately this accomplishes nothing except the fact that rapt listeners of Corby Radio will decide amongst themselves what exactly they believe. If anything suspicious happens to a member of my family, they will question what they believe. If anything happens to Bernstein or Andy the DJ, or the parents or families of the other two youths involved, they will question what they believe. When this interview is over, some people will question what they believe. If enough people question what they believe by the time your sorry party is up for election again, then this will have accomplished a lot.” The acidic monologue must have silenced Corby, even Lewis was stunned into silence. A few long moments later Andy announced a commercial break. As the jingles started my Dad stood up, Lewis rose to meet him, Andy stood behind my Dad and I got ready to run into the studio in the eventuality of violence. It was my Dad who broke the silence.
“Not as clever as you think are you Harris? Use my family as a pawn again and I will not stop at a radio interview.” With that my Dad punched Lewis square in the jaw sinking him back into his seat with a sickening crunch accompanied by a girls shrill shriek. “It’s fucking on bitch,” my Dad spat and left a stunned room in silence.