That smug, pompous prick was on the telly again. Big, well-fed face beaming out at people, telling about how he, from humble beginnings, had become the success story of the century.
The dog normally barked at him, but not today.
‘For all we were poor,’ he was saying, ‘we had freedom of choice. I chose education, business school, which I got to on a scholarship.’
Yeah, yeah, freedom of choice. He chose business school on a scholarship and I got to work in a factory, taking home the money our parents needed to get by on, having spent all of theirs on the things he needed for his ‘free’ education. He didn’t see the damage his sort of freedom of choice did.
‘We could be anything we wanted to be. And you,’ he said, peering intently at the camera, ‘you can be anything you want to be.’
Not true, not when I was stuck with second choice. Maybe if I’d been as heartless as he was, maybe then I could have left the folks to sink or swim instead of staying to watch them get old and die. I picked at the hole in the knee of my jeans. Looked at him in his fancy suit. Thought about the accident and knocked on my plastic leg just to hear the hollow sound it made.
‘Pick a path and don’t look back!’
He certainly hadn’t. He moved down to London and we didn’t see him again other than in the newspaper and then on the telly. Broke my mam’s heart.
The dog was lying quietly in the corner. I was relieved at first when he stopped pestering me to go out for a walk but now he was starting to smell.
‘So think,’ Mr Motivational Speaker was telling me. ‘Think about what it is you want to be and take the first step towards it right now.’
I thought about it and I reached for the carrier bag by the side of my chair. I took out the bottle of vodka, unscrewed the top and threw it at the dog. A small cloud of flies puffed up from the matted fur, but soon settled down again, busy busy busy.
‘What do you want to be?’ he cried.
‘Pissed,’ I shouted back at the screen, putting the bottle to my mouth and taking a big swallow. I started coughing as it went down the wrong way, gasped in a lungful of air and got a whiff of the dog again.
Fucking dog. I wiped my nose on my sleeve. I’d sort the fucking dog out tomorrow. I raised the bottle to my mouth again. Today was going to be devoted to being what I wanted to be.