I do not often give trigger warnings – This story needs one – contains suicide.
I read “The Catcher in the Rye” many years ago. Infamous because of John Lennon’s killer. Seeing it in the bookcase the other day I knew it was time for a second read and much appreciated Salinger’s confident and non-conformist style of writing.
I was pondering over the book whilst walking to the shops along the lovely path in the header photo. Thinking that all the lad in the story needed was a mentor. Someone to guide him – then I wrote this.
Catch the Catcher
Le’me start at the beginning.
Mum was from a right posh ol family and married this regular geezer, Dad, from the East end of London. Love, you see. Can do strange things to ya – so they say. Anyways, she was always right as rein with him. Her brother, me Uncle, was a bit of a loner. I used to stay with him during the school ‘olidays. Nice man. Gay, like. Taught me to play chess. You see I gotta bit of a good brain and he loved the fact that in no time at all I was beatin him.
When I’d just finished school, he died. Real shame but in his will he’d left me tons of dough. Mum said it was a good job as I had no ambition, not a clue what I wanted to do with me life. So I hopped on a plane and went round those Greek islands for a bit. Even lived in one of them caves on Crete. Suited me. Simple life.
After about 4 years or so I ‘ad to go home. Mum was ill. She died, like. Dad just took to sitting in the arm chair. All day, everyday. Staring. His ‘eart was broke, no doubt about it. I gave him some of me cash and hot footed it out to the country side. After Greece I couldn’t bare to be cooped up in the city, like a bleedin battery hen. Bought a tent and went down to the coast. Found a nice little spot by the sea and I got to pitch up on some farm land. Which was really ‘andy as it had a shop too. The farmer, a fresh faced, young guy, said I could stay as long as I wanted.
To tell ya the truth I didn’t know ‘ow long I’d stay. Wasn’t feeling too clever after Mum died.
A pubic footpath ran right through the field and went down to the cliff. I’d spend hours just looking out at the horizon. No purpose you see. A man’s gotta ‘av a purpose. One morning the sun was just coming up when I ‘eard someone walk past me tent. “Strange,” I thought. I threw me jacket on – something in me gut said I needed to follow.
It was a young girl. Long red hair right down to ‘er bum. It was glowin in the sunlight of the new day. She reached the cliff edge and in that moment I knew what she was goin to do. Still a little way behind I wouldn’t be able to catch ‘er, so I yelled out,
Turning she looked at me and with out averting her gaze she stepped off the edge.
I ran and looked over the side. It was a ‘ell of a way down. A speck on the rocks below.
I spoke to the farmer who explained it was a bit of a spot for, you know, suicide. It took me right bad. Felt lost. Kinda shell shocked. First Mum, then this. I retreated inside me tent and didn’t leave for about a week. No kiddin. But, out of the blue, one night, I had this dream. There were all these lemmings runnin to the edge of the cliff and I had to catch em’ – save ’em. I woke up in a right ol sweat but knew I finally had a purpose.
Every day I would hang out along the cliff path and if I saw any likely candidates I’d make a cup of tea, with me little primus stove, and sit down to talk with them. I ain’t no counsellor, but like I said I got a good brain, and these poor souls just need someone to listen and per’aps a bit of mentoring. To guide them, you know. I don’t spend a lot of time around people but I do know one thing, the jumpers have given up ‘ope. They think their lives can’t give ’em what they need, and so they don’t hear the voice in their heads that says STOP. In their mind they’ve already fallen off that cliff. I have to be the voice. I’m the catcher. I have to catch ’em before they fall.
And I got a hundred percent caught rate, you know. I missed one when I went home to visit Dad. So told him if he wanted to see me he’d ‘ave to come to the tent. He’s in an old people’s home now. Smart one though.
Some guys just seem to wanna come and chat and are not too serious about the jumping bit. I got one a while back though who was. Came in the middle of the night. But didn’t realise I’m such a light sleeper. Followed him down and literally caught his arm, pulled ‘im back. Then you know what he did? He smacked me in the mouth. Cheeky git. Lip started bleeding all down me chin. Was a right ol ta-do. Anyway, he apologised profusely and of course we got talking. Sid was his name. He’d lost his job. Family to feed. Got in debt. I always have quite a few quid on me. Often if someone is serious about jumping the ain’t got no cash with ’em. I think it is part of me job as the catcher to give them enough to at least get a cab home.
So back to Sid. We talked for hours. By the time I’d got him to listen to the sensible voice in his ‘ead it was nearly morning. I gave him a few hundred. Four to be precise. That paid his debt off. He got a summer picking job on a local farm and all ended fine and dandy. How do I know? Well he came back a few months after with his wife. To give me the cash back, like. I told him go buy something for the kiddies with it. The silly ol sod hugged me. Said I’d saved his life. Well he was right there. Felt good though, to ‘ear the words.
Yeah. Got a bit of a reputation. This artist guy came down for a few days last month. Wanted to do my portrait. Now that is proper. He had a showing in the local museum and offered to pay. I told ‘im I had more than enough dosh and to put some in a charity box. When he’d finished he showed it to me. I couldn’t believe it. The guy looking back was about 70. Was I that old? Never looked in the mirror. But come to think of it the farmer was gray haired and wrinkled now too.
Once the painting was in the gallery more people would come down to the cliff, just to say hi, like. Get a look at he crazy old catcher dude, I suppose.
Then yesterday it was a real cold night. Minus two. The farmer lets me sleep in the barn when it’s like that. He popped in with a few bits. That’s when he told me. He’d had to sell up. His son wasn’t interested in farming and the bleedin counsel made him an offer. Wanted to buy him out. Build some houses. Prime coastal land you see. He shook me hand and said it had been a pleasure knowing me and that the world would be a better place if there were more catchers willing to listen to people in trouble.
So today is Sunday. The sun has just risen and the rays are glittering on the frosted field. I grab me hat. You know the type, fur bits over the ears, and head down to the cliff. I’ve been lucky with me life. Not everyone has a vocation, a purpose. As I walk all the faces of the people I’ve saved flash in front of me eyes. Now I’m on the edge looking down. One foot forward is all it takes, and as I start to fall my last thought is – there’s never anyone there to catch the catcher.
I wrote something else in a cockney accent last year – it is much more cheery than this tale.