The middle-aged punk beside me was talking to nobody in particular, but served to explain what was going on for the benefit of all the rest of us baffled onlookers. “Johnny ‘The Horse’, that is”. Nobody had actually asked the guy to describe the scene, but clearly he was determined to offer a running commentary. “Might seem unlikely now, but back in school the teachers are thought he a great mind… Bright, he was. ‘Inquiring’, that was the word the Principal used.”
The man he was giving biographical information for looked like his mind was pretty far from great. For one thing, he was standing on the corner of a busy intersection yelling out absolute nonsense – as far as anybody could make out, that is – at everyone within earshot. Well…’Yelling’ is perhaps exaggerating somewhat. More like ‘talking out loud’…but too loud.
“I knew his family pretty well; they thought – well, they knew – that he’d go far…if he applied his time. That’s the rub, innit?” At this he turned his head to give a wry look and make knowing eye contact with another rubbernecker, but everybody studiously avoided his gaze. Apparently the mere admission of association with the unwell man in the street brought its own social ostracism.
Finding no individual of similar outlook, he ran a hand through his bedraggled, purple mohawk and continued. “But then he started out…well, doing this. Standing on corners. We asked him – everyone asked him, ya know – what the hell he was playin’ at. He said he couldn’t believe in himself…or the world…or anything he heard. Daft.”
“How long ago was that, then?” An elderly lady, octogenarian maybe, proffered this query. The punk’s face visibly lifted at the transformation of his monologue into a proper dialogue.
“Oooh…Seems a million years ago… He left his life behind; wife and child an’ everything. He said goodbye to them, didn’t just leave ’em in the lurch or nothin’. It was like Forrest Gump – ya know that scene where he just starts running for no reason?” At this he intensely stared, obviously expecting some kind of affirmative response, at the now hopelessly-embroiled woman.
“Oh, erm, I recognise the name…but er, not really-”
“-Well basically this bloke Gump starts running, he’s Tom Hanks ya see, I can’t remember why, but… Anyway, the Horse was a bit like that. Just started walking. Between Glasgow and London. Back and forth, back and forth…” Sighing, the purple-haired punk shook his head sadly. While he was deep in reverie, the lady made good her escape. Her absence was not noticed, as he rambled on.
“Then, one hot summer, he forgot his name. Completely! ‘Just like tha’, as Tommy Cooper used to say. Uh…” Suddenly, like a spell had been cast, the punk looked confused. He blinked a few times, and looked intently at his own feet.
“Can you remember his name?”
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…