In Sleeping Beauty, it was said that the King faced a predicament. He had invited the whole town to celebrate the birth of his daughter with a grand feast. There were 10 fairy godmothers who lived in his town, and he wanted everyone to see his appreciation for them by providing them with golden plates to eat from. The predicament was that he only owned 9 gold plates. Worried about how people would perceive him, he decided to rather disinvite a fairy godmother so that 9 could eat from a gold plate.
Marcus Blaringdale was tossing fries in a metallic bowl, mixing them in with the spices. He slid the fries out of the bowl into a cardboard box, and folded the box closed. He looked at his reflection in the basin, then adjusted his hair net. He laid the box on the counter and pressed the bell. A waitress sauntered over and collected the box, smiling at him while she did it. He smiled back.
Marcus walked to the bus stop after his shift. He knew he could walk home, but his legs were tired. He tapped his card on the reader and found a seat at the back. He undid the knots in his earphones and then plugged them into his ears while his head leant against the pane of glass. He watched the cars and people go by.
The bus travelled past the turn-off to his old neighbourhood. He had only a second to see down the oak tree road before the bus was past it. Marcus had grown up thinking that his family was rich. His father was known as an entrepreneur, and had various different business ventures all going at once. He was envied at school because every other month his father would arrive in a new car to pick him up. Sometimes his father would take him with to big far-away cities where he did his business. Money never seemed to be a problem; it was always there on demand.
In the final year of Marcus’ schooling however, Marcus Senior went to jail for tax evasion. And then the banks contacted Patsy. Patsy had signed many documents over the duration of their marriage (she was Bonnie and he was Clyde) making her liable if Marcus Senior couldn’t pay off his bank loans. She knew she was in deep shit. The family, Patsy, Marcus, and young Sarah began to lose everything they owned.
Marcus entered through the front door and saw his sister sitting on the kitchen counter.
‘What are you doing on the table, I hope you’re being good. You found the chocolate didn’t you?’
‘Maybe,’ she squealed with laughter. He picked her up.
‘Don’t come crying to me when you have a tooth ache. Where’s Mum?’
Sarah whispered in his ear: ‘Sleeping… Don’t be angry.’
‘I’m not, I’m not. Okay I am a little bit…’
‘I can look after myself!’
‘I’m sure you can. Anyway, you know what would make me very happy?’
‘If you and I went to bed.’
‘No Mars!’ She covered her face with both hands and pouted her lips.
‘We can play tomorrow afternoon when I finish my shift.’
‘We’ll go to the lake.’
‘The lake? With James?’
‘Will he bring his dog?’
Marcus woke at 2am, cold. He let out a sigh, got out of bed, and walked to the kitchen. He boiled the kettle and filled a hot-water bottle. He tip-toed back into the room, and placed the bottle on the top bunk where Sarah slept.
‘Sarah,’ he whispered.
‘Take this.’ She clutched the hot-water bottle and drew it into her stomach. Marcus put a pair of woollen socks on and got back into bed.
Marcus woke up at 6am the next morning. He was looking down at his phone screen and chewing his toast, ‘fucks sake,’ he murmured. He had checked his work rota and today his sous-chef was newly-hired Hugo, a black teenager from the same neighbourhood as him. He didn’t like Hugo at all. In their previous shift together, Marcus arrived in the kitchen and saw the take-away boxes on the counter next to the bell.
‘What are the boxes doing here?’
‘I moved them there, thought it would be easier.’
‘Oh, we usually keep them in the drawer,’ said Marcus.
‘Well however you want it.’
‘Pack them back when you get a moment, thanks.’ Marcus brushed past him and went into the changing room. Who did this guy think he was? Reordering things in the kitchen on his first shift? Marcus thought.
Marcus finished his toast and left for work. He arrived twenty minutes early for his shift as per usual. The boxes were out again. He checked the rota to see who worked the previous evening and saw it was Hugo. He shook his head. He left the boxes there, deciding that he would make Hugo pack them back again when he arrived. So he got the bloody message.
Marcus changed out of his chefs apron, full of stains from cleaning the kitchen. He passed Hugo on his way out and said nothing. He arrived at the bus stop, he was thinking of talking to his manager about Hugo. Probably not a good idea, he thought. Might end up saying something I'd later regret.
The bus doors jolted open. He, along with a group of commuters, shuffled in. The doors shut, and the bus rolled forward.
The bus travelled a few hundred metres down a straight road and then stopped again. An old lady with a walking frame hobbled past the driver. She searched for a seat. Ahhh, here we go again! Marcus was looking at a black man who was standing in the way of a seat reserved for the elderly and disabled. The old lady stood behind the man waiting for him to notice her. The bus driver watched her from the rear view mirror with his foot hovering above the accelerator pedal. Marcus bolted forward, stepping between a few passengers and ripped the man’s earphones out.
‘Are you blind?’
‘Are you blind? She needs a seat!’
‘What’s your problem man?’
‘Fuck you, she needs a seat.’
'I didn't notice... sorry'
Marcus noticed his right fist was clenched. He decided to leave. He got out at that same stop, and started walking home.
His phone vibrated. James had sent him a message asking if they were still meeting at the lake that afternoon. Marcus typed,
<Ya, see you in an hour mate. Need some fresh air>
<You alright?> Marcus saw the square windows of the flat shining in the sun. Sarah was probably looking through, waiting for him.
<Okay, well we can chat at the lake. See you shortly> Marcus pulled his phone toward his mouth, and tapped the voicenote symbol.
“They know we can’t say anything because we’ll get into trouble. But fuck it, I’ll say it. I haven’t met one good black in my whole life! Not one.” He pulled his thumb from the screen, and a seven-second voicenote was sent to James.
Marcus arrived at the lake. He ordered Sarah to search for the flattest stones around the water while they waited for James. James did not show that afternoon. Marcus tried to call him, but it went straight to voicemail. He thought it to be unusual, but he walked around the lake and skipped stones anyway.
He was in the kitchen eating chicken and rice. He logged into his Facebook account on his phone. He scooped up some rice in his spoon and sucked it down. He saw forty notifications, and twenty-three messages. What happened? He thought. He learnt that James had posted his seven-second voicenote to Facebook, and underneath wrote:
<Marcus has been my friend since I was eight years old, but I simply cannot condone his behaviour and I think people should know about it and who they are dealing with if they meet him. I cannot be his friend anymore. I won’t speak to him.> Marcus scrolled down and began reading the comments.
<This is really sad, I can’t believe people can still be like this.> It came from an old friend from school.
<Totally the right decision James, it must have been hard to do what you did. I respect that.>
<So, so disappointed to hear this. Wow.> From Marcus’ ex-girlfriend.
<Never trusted him!> And the comments continued to load.
He clicked on his inbox, and clicked on the message at the top. <You’re a pathetic redneck. You’ll be next door to your daddy in jail soon enough.> He clicked on the arrow and tapped on the log out button.
James’ post was shared three-hundred-and-twenty-six times during the weekend. As Marcus prepared to go to work on Monday, he received a text message from his manager.
<Hi Marcus, it appears you have broken our code of conduct here at Mon Burgers with a racist remark. I have no choice but to let you go. You will receive payment for last weeks shifts on Thursday. Joe.>
He sat in his room for the whole morning. In the afternoon, he decided to go to Mon burgers and collect his clothes that he left in the change room.
‘You should have told me you were coming!’ Joe hissed, when Marcus appeared inside the restaurant. Joe ushered him out. He lead Marcus to the back of the restaurant and told him to wait. Joe returned with a bundle of clothes and handed them over. He turned his back and marched away.
‘Joe!’ Marcus called. Joe turned his head. Marcus looked at him, tears were flowing down his face and dripping off his chin. Joe regarded him for a second and then continued away.
Marcus returned home and heard crying coming from Patsy’s room. Her door was open.
‘What’s wrong?’ He arrived at her bedside. She shook her head and turned away. ‘Mum, what’s wrong?!’
‘There’s talk I might be fired at the hotel, they’re worried that the local guests will know I’m your mum.’ She put her hands over her face and cried into them.
Marcus pulled the blanket over his face. Patsy was calling him. Thud…thud…thud… she knocked on the door. He stumbled to the door, and turned the key. She pushed the door open.
‘There is someone you need to meet,’ she said.
‘I’m not going anywhere.’ Marcus noticed that her hair was down instead of in a bun.
‘You don’t have to, he’s here.’ She walked to his cupboard and pulled a T-shirt out. She laid it on his bed. She pulled the drawer open and took a few pairs of jeans out, and searched for the pair which looked best with the T-shirt.
Marcus walked into the kitchen with his mother. A man stood next to the fridge. He stretched his arm out, and called himself Bill. Marcus shook his hand. The three of them spoke about unimportant things for a while. Patsy admitted to Marcus that Bill was her first boyfriend and then giggled. Marcus started thinking of how he could excuse himself.
‘So Marcus,’ Bill announced, ‘I heard you’re rather good with your hands, can fix and build just about anything-’
‘Marcus is brilliant with his hands, it’s a God-given talent really, if there’s anything that doesn’t work in the house, he fixes it.’ Patsy interjected. House? This is flat. Marcus thought.
‘I’m alright,’ Marcus responded.
‘Well I run a car repair shop downtown, we need an assistant mechanic.’ Marcus snuck a glance at his mother. A total stitch-up, he thought.
‘I can help,’ said Marcus.
‘Okay great, come round on Monday, see how you do.’
Marcus worked at the repair shop part-time for a few months before he was promoted to mechanic. When his mother heard news of his promotion, she insisted that they celebrate at the local pub. Marcus did not want to be seen in public, but Patsy insisted. Marcus and Bill were sitting at a table when Patsy walked in with Sarah. They had a few rounds of drinks, Sarah had three glasses of orange juice, and then Patsy went to bar and paid the tab. Marcus and Bill stayed for another round after the girls left.
‘Can’t believe that the small fits you,’ Bill said.
‘The shirt.’ Marcus had been given a black T-shirt with ‘MECHANIC’ in big letters on the back.
‘Oh yes… what size do you wear?’
‘All my shirts are custom made,’ they both laughed. Bill was a big man, no one denied it. Marcus excused himself. On his way to the loo, he noticed a man watching him from the bar. The man grinned at him; he had an almost invisible top lip and a hooked nose.
Bill and Marcus left together, Bill mounted his Harley and drove away and Marcus started down the road. He heard footsteps behind him a quarter way down. He turned around. It was the same man from the bar.
‘I don’t wanna hurt you,’ he shouted. ‘Will you allow me a moment? Just for a chat?’
‘I don’t know if trust that.’ The man put his hand on his heart and grinned.
‘My name is Noah, I know who you are, and I want to know if you wanna come to a meeting with me this evening.’
‘A meeting, we have one every week. Oh and also, there’ll be more booze.’
‘Thanks for offer but I got work tomorrow-’
‘You had three pints mate, didn’t even finish the last!’
‘Are you planning to hurt me?’
‘You’re life can’t get much worse Marcus, so hurting you would be pointless. It would be like… adding a bucket of water to the lake.’ He chuckled, and Marcus laughed, and then Noah broke into hysterical laughter.
Patsy was sitting in a small office overlooking the hotel parking lot. Her phone rang…
‘Hello Patsy speaking,’ she swivelled on her chair and faced the door.
‘Hi there, dear, it’s Miss Eastgate, it’s Tuesday today so…’
‘Sorry, I don’t understand.’
‘What’s the problem Miss Eastgate?’
‘Aftercare goes until four today, it’s five and no one has come to get Sarah. Sorry I wasn’t clear.’
‘Oh! I will call you back in a minute.’
‘Will you come-’
‘Just a minute!’ Patsy dialled Marcus’ number. It went straight to voicemail, ‘Marcus where are you? How can you forget to pick your sister up?! Again?’ She told a colleague that she was leaving the office momentarily.
She was driving home with Sarah in the passenger seat. Sarah had drawn patterns on her forehead with a sharpie, and Patsy was eager to get home so she could scrub them off. She turned the volume up to hear the news, “local boy James Fletcher was beaten up and his dog killed at the lake today.” The reporter then provided more specific information about the incident. “He is said to be in good health despite suffering from a few fractured ribs, and currently cooperating with the local police to find the assailant.”
‘Who’s dog died?’ Sarah asked. Patsy turned the volume down until it was inaudible.
She saw Marcus walking on the pavement. She slowed and he got in the car.
‘Oh sorry! I completely forgot,’ he said, noticing Sarah in the passenger seat.
‘It’s fine, but I have to go back to work after I drop you both off, will you scrub her face please?’
‘Did you hear about your old friend?’
‘What about him? He write something else about me on Facebook?’
‘Apparently he was assaulted.’
‘He’s speaking to police now, they’re trying to find the attacker...’ She parked the car on the driveway.
‘Well I hope they find whoever it was. C’mon Sarah, lets get your face cleaned up.’
Patsy was distracted at work over the days that followed. She was aware that most people in town suspected her son to be responsible for the attack. Violence rarely occurred in the town, and there was simply no one else around with a motive to attack James Fletcher. In her mind, it was just a matter of time before her son was arrested. She had tried to bring it up in a conversation with him, but he chose to change the subject instead.
The police sketch of the assailant was leaked just short of a week after the incident. Patsy studied the sketch during her lunch break at work. She saw no resemblance to Marcus. The sketch showed a man with a hooked nose and bags under his eyes, his estimated height was six-foot-six. Her Marcus wasn't short, but he was not that tall.
Patsy was woken at three in the morning on Monday. Sarah stood by her bedside.
‘Why are you crying?’ Patsy reached out and touched Sarah’s face. She smelt cigarette smoke.
‘Breathe honey, breathe.’
‘Because Marcus shouted at me to go to bed.’
‘Where is he?’ Patsy got out of bed, and slid into her slippers. She strode down the passageway into the kitchen.
Marcus was sitting at the dining table with another man, a bottle of whisky in between them. The man noticed her first and then indicated it to Marcus. Marcus got up, and Patsy led him to her room. ‘What are you doing having someone over at three in the morning? Haven’t you got work tomorrow?’ He shook his head.
‘Alright miss perfect.’
‘You pretend like you never put a foot wrong, but you fucked us over big time.’
‘Marcus, I’m serious now. Please tell your friend to leave and we can talk-’
‘You think I did it don’t you? Of course you do! Mother of the year, suspecting her own son, shows the faith you have in me.’ Marcus pulled a picture from the wall and threw it as hard as he could against the floor. ‘I didn’t even know he did it,’ he murmured as he marched out of the room. Sarah was crying. Patsy ran to the door and locked it.
Patsy received a call from Bill at eleven in the morning. Marcus did not show up to work, he said. Patsy told him that Marcus had fallen ill in the morning and that it had been her responsibility to inform him but she had forgotten to. She apologised profusely, and Bill accepted it. She tried to contact her son, but her calls were unanswered. She arrived home with Sarah. Patsy was unpacking groceries into the fridge. She heard a loud scream, and a jar of chickpeas dropped out of her hands and splattered on the floor.
‘What’s going on?!’ Patsy shouted, as she ran into the room. Sarah was staring at a mattress. Patsy noticed the poster-less walls. She pulled Marcus’ closet open. His clothes were gone. Everything he owned was gone.
Patsy waited in her car. She watched school students spill out from the gates. It had been a year since she heard anything from Marcus. She assumed he had left town for good. Patsy noticed some of Sarah’s friends sitting on the steps, then she searched for Sarah. She had a chicken in the oven that needed to be taken out in fifteen minutes. She got out of the car, and walked into the building. Miss Eastgate was sitting at the desk in the classroom.
‘Oh, Mrs Blaringdale’
‘Is Sarah in detention?’
‘Why do you look so confused?’
‘Oh, I’m sorry Mrs Blaringdale, but Marcus came an hour ago to get her.’
‘I knew I hadn’t seen him in a while but he told me everything was okay, that he was sent to pick her up.’
Patsy called the police on her way out of the school building. She got inside her car, she was sobbing at the steering wheel, unsure where to drive. A blue light flashed in her eyes. A police car had gone past her. She started her car and drove after it. The police car was joined by three other police vehicles on the main road. Patsy had her foot flat on the peddle. The cars slowed, and one by one turned off into Buchanan Square. She turned off after them, questioning if this was really happening, or if it was a nightmare from which she would soon wake up from. There were more police cars clustered in the middle of the square. An officer put his hand up to her, indicating to stop her car. She stopped, got out, and started running to the police van. She was begging the officer to tell her what happened. She noticed Sarah sitting in the back seat of the van. Sarah opened the door and came running towards her. She had blood on her school shirt, and on her legs.
‘What happened?’ Patsy hugged her. She said nothing. ‘What happened?!’ Patsy turned to the officer. ‘I’m her mother for god’s sake! I need to know!’
‘A man took her with him to a restaurant and stabbed the manager and some other staff members. He tried to use the girl to stop him from being shot at, but he tripped and she got away.’
‘Is he dead?’ The officer took a moment, and then nodded.
The grand feast commenced. After dessert was cleared, and the peoples bellies’ were full, the fairy godmothers formed a line. The fairy godmother at the front stepped forward and bestowed the new-born princess with the gift of beauty. The next came forward and granted her the most beautiful singing voice. The well wishing continued, and the town’s people toasted after every one of them. Suddenly, the uninvited fairy godmother appeared. She stepped forward and cursed the new-born princess. ‘She will prick her finger on a spindle and die at the age of sixteen,’ she hissed.
Shaming is prevalent in modern society. People do it without thinking twice. It’s obvious that a great many people become angered when a person says something offensive, especially people who the insult is aimed at. It’s easy, and it can feel good to express your anger towards a person like Marcus. However, expressing your anger and outrage towards the person is ineffective in changing their views.
There are other people who shame for different reasons to the former. Vanity: some people think that if they can make a person look bad publicly, then they will be making themselves look good. Fear: some people worry that people will associate them with the person who said something offensive, so they shame to show publicly that they will not still be a friend of the person.
The point is that the current manner in which we deal with people like Marcus fails in tackling his problem. It separates him from us, and pushes him to search for love and acceptance elsewhere. If we continue to behave like this, we will continue to raise enemies toward society and peace in society will forever be out of reach.
- Authors note
By writing this story I am not saying that this is what happens to people when they are shamed. I am simply exploring what could happen. If you would like to give me your opinion there is a message box below which you can write in.