Thursday, 26 September 2013

Energy to go

La Child and I are out having lunch. "I wish," I say, "that I had just a bit of your energy." 

"You can," she says.

"Can I?"

"Yes." She looks around furtively. Turns back, satisfied no one is listening. "Yes, you can."

I ask her how. "Well, my friend and her mum told me all about it today. Do you know how to get to Australia?"

Australia? "Erm..."

"I mean, which direction would you go in order to get there?"

"Doesn't really matter," I say, "it's on the other side of the planet. Any direction will do." 

"But I need to know a direction so I can, er, direct you when you get there."

"I see," I say, even though I'm not sure I do. "Just pick one."

"Would you go North?"

"North works," I say, "North will do."

"OK," she says, "so head North, and when you get to Australia find North Lane."

"North Lane?"

"North Lane."

"And where in Australia is North Lane?"

"It's by the coast. Well, no, not by the coast. It's about half a mile, actually EXACTLY half a mile from the coast."


"And when you get to North Lane you have to find the house. It looks like an abandoned house, but it's not really."

"Just a moment," I say, "I'd still like to clarify: precisely where in Australia is this North Lane? Australia is a very big place."

She sighs. I'm clearly not very bright. "Look," she says, and pulls a small plate towards her. "If this is Australia..."


"...then this," she points to a random spot on the plate, about a centimetre in from the edge, "is North Lane."

"I see," I say again, once again not seeing at all, "but..."

She's exasperated. "It's the bit on the coast of Australia that's closest to England," she says. "This bit, see?"

"Ah," I say, "yes, I see. Thank you."

"Good," she says. "Now, when you find the house -"

"At the end of North Lane?"

"Yes, at the end of North Lane. When you find the house, climb up the drainpipe to the first floor and then climb in through the window on your right."

"The drainpipe?"

"The drainpipe."

"Why the drainpipe?"

"Because it's meant to be abandoned! You can't very well go in the front door, can you?"

"Clearly not," I say. "Please go on."

"When you've climbed in through the window, walk down the corridor and then there'll be a door, this time on your left. Go in there."


"And he'll be waiting for you."

"Who will?"

"The man who'll give you the energy."

"Oh, right," I say. 

"But wait," she says, "you have to remember to take me." 

"Do I?" I say, " But I'm there now. Do I have to come all the way back? It's very expensive to get to Australia."

"No, silly, you have to remember to take me with you before you go. I have to come with."

"Why's that?" I say.

"Because I have to be there to give you my energy. It's very clever how he does it."

"The man?"

"Yes, the man. He has a machine. Very complicated, very clever. You're not scared of injections, are you?"

"No," I say, "I'm fine with injections."

"Good," she says, "because that's how he does it. By giving you an injection of my energy."

"I thought he used the machine?" I say.

Another sigh. "Yes, but it uses injections."

"What does energy look like?" I ask, suddenly intrigued. I imagine blue electricity fizzing and sparkling like electrons around a Faraday Cage.

"It's green," she says. "Just green."

"Oh," I say, and immediately she senses my disappointment.

"But it also crackles a bit," she says. 

"Tell me about the man," I say, "what does he charge for this?" I rub thumb and forefinger together. "How much mullah?"

"Oh, it's free," she says, "he doesn't make you pay."

"Really," I say, "that's very generous. Why not?"

She looks around again. Glances over my shoulder at the waitress behind. Lowers her voice. "He's a ghost," she says. 

"A ghost?"

"A ghost."

"I see."

"He learned how to give people energy in Ghostland, and now he does it because he's good."

"A good ghost?"


"What," I say, "did he die of? What was it that did the poor fellow in?"

"Just old age, I think," she says, "that's all."

"How old was he?"

"Oh," she says, "80 or 90 or so. Died in the 1800s, I think. No. No, not the 1800s, 1952."

"That's very specific," I say. 

"Yes," she says, "his wife died first. He didn't mind, though. She wasn't very nice. She was nasty. She just went in the ground."

"How unfortunate. What did she do?"

"I don't know. But she didn't go to Ghostland like he did. He was there a while before he came to the house. About thirty years."

"That's a long time," I say.

"Yes," she says, "but it takes a long time to get used to Ghostland."

"Clearly," I say. "What's it like?"



She fixes me with a stare. I am an idiot. "I don't know, I'm not a ghost." 

I am chastened. Dinner arrives. We eat.