Friday, 4 October 2013

Sword or Tongue? Which is sharper?

In one of the town's where I grew up, local kids both feared but teased a huge brick wall of a man wearing the overalls of a council street sweeper. "Zorro" had earned his name because he often did battle with leaves after they were blown into the air. Then, he would sprint down the street after them, brandishing his brush like a sword while roaring like a lion. Kids would hide his dustcart or deliberately kick up leaves to get him started.  His face was terrible, not helped by thick bottle-bottom glasses.

There was also "Sir Walter Raleigh" who walked around carrying a Raleigh bicycle over his head. You could often see him walking around the town centre and causing havoc. He never once rode his bike but had huge arm muscles.

Or, "Hi Ya" who only knew one greeting but followed people around until they acknowledged him, sometimes following them home to their front doors and then shouting it through their letter box. I never heard him say anything else.

What happened to them? What I remember of Zorro and any of these strange characters is that you never knew what was going on inside their heads and it was very unsettling. They challenged normality but I must admit that after listening to some of the so-called sensible people of everyday life, I often wonder who is stranger?

Zorro had his brush and could terrify anyone but was never a real danger. It is not the likes of Zorro I think of when writing one of my stranger characters. People too interested in what others are doing or loudly voicing blinkered opinions over garden fences are the real definition of "strange."

The most dangerous part of the human anatomy is the tongue and often people use it as their Zorro's sword chasing fictitious leaves of their own creation; Walter Mittys with a flare for trying to create an interesting life out of a mundane existence.

As a writer, I create leaves of a book and to do so often look at various swords being wielded but I can decide who brandishes them and how. The pen is after all, mightier than the sword.

Other times, I look at the leaves people are chasing and can instantly see what makes them tick. Whether they are slicing the air with tongues, carrying around a burden and not thinking to place it down or using loud voices to gain acknowledgement, what would their lives be like if they stopped doing it?

Sword or tongue - which is sharper?