• It is a bedroom.
• It is a fastidiously clean bedroom with pens aligned on the desk exactly 7mm apart. Regimented like soldiers.
• The crusty plaster walls are sprayed with glow-in-the-dark stars that look like garish honey drops in the evening sun.
• A boy lies down-turned on the bed with his face scrunching into the pillow. His fists are clenched around something; something that’s hurting him.
• He is nearly twelve years old.
• His name is Daniel Waters.
• He likes space and stars and planets. He’s mesmerised by the fact that everything is moving so fast but doesn’t seem to be moving at all.
• He also likes maps; he likes letting his eyes trace over all the place names and then his mind conjuring up imaginations of those places. He likes the way the roads all knot together unexpectedly so that you can only realise the logic behind them when you see the big picture.
• He has treasured a small obsession with Star Wars for much of his short life and the film script that his parents found online is the most loved item in his prestigiously – almost sacredly – tidy room. It is the least pristine item on the bookshelf adjacent to his bed; perhaps if thumbed book pages and broken spines could be fixed then The Boy Called Daniel’s would be.
A SHORT NOTE
It is not cool or clever to like stars, maps or film scripts when you are male and 11 years, 10 months and 29 days old.
• The Boy Called Daniel punches his pillow repeatedly, 7 times actually, and then stands. His face stares angrily back at him from the mirror.
• The room is small around him – tight, angry.
• He taps the bookshelf 7 times to calm himself.
• The door opens.
Dad: (Kindly, teasingly) There you are; think you can rush right into the house without saying hello?
Daniel: Hello, Dad.
Dad: What’s the matter?
(He studies his son)
Dad: (Dropping the gentle tease) What’s that in your hand? Oh Daniel, what have you done? You’ve broken them.
(He takes the splintered Star Wars Figure from his son’s clenching hands)
Daniel: I didn’t want them.
Dad: What’s the matter Danny?
Danny: I didn’t want them.
Dad: No Danny. What’s happened?
Danny: (Talking very fast) Josh gave them back to me. He said only children play with plastic toys. He said he didn’t want them. I crushed them up with my trainers on the pavement outside his house. He said I acted like a child. I asked if he wanted to do a secret project with me in the holidays. He said only babies wanted to spend the summer making moon charts – even though he did it with me last year. He said he was going to learn to skateboard instead.
(He is crying by now but trying very hard not to)
Danny: I crushed them up with my trainers on the pavement outside his house. He had them for four years.
Dad: Sometimes people do very stupid things when they’re trying to be grown up.
• The door shuts.
• The Boy Called Daniel sits back on the bed and the covers erode and crumble around him. Craters shift and reform and the blue cotton rolls into contours as if it is the sea.
• He props the broken figures up against the head board and then stares at the ceiling so that he doesn’t have to look at them. Battle-torn and wounded, their painted-plastic expressions give the appearance of extreme shellshock. He refuses to see them and let his heart get caught on the spines and blades of broken plastic.
• Plastic, plastic, plastic. He has to tell himself. They’re plastic and pathetic. He keeps telling himself that until he’s half way to believing it.
• On his ceiling are maps of the constellations – like those join-the-dot puzzles from colouring books. Like someone got bored of randomness and started doodling in the sky.
• His Sister Jasmine helped him. His Sister Jasmine is tall enough to blue-tack posters to the ceiling. His Sister Jasmine is clever enough to align them above him sort-of-near where they actually would be in the sky.
• The Boy Called Daniel thinks about constellations.
• He thinks out loud.
Danny: Sometimes I think the rest of my family are like constellations.
Danny: I mean, not actually like collections of gasses and heat but like… like… I don’t know.
Danny: Like, we all belong together but we never quite touch. We seem to make patterns but only when the dots are joined up in the right way. We look like we’re OK and actually there is all this pent-up energy and fear – like, like a coiled spring – because they all know that at some point I will explode or possibly become a Black Hole and swallow them all up.
Danny: You’re not very sympathetic.
Danny: At least you don’t try to interrupt me. Not that my family do or anything, but some people aren’t as good at being quiet as you are. My family are always too worried, too sympathetic. They just shine down on me all the time in this special Just-For-Danny way that is 60% protective and 40% patronising. Or perhaps 40% protective and 60% patronising – it depends on the day. Even Jasmine. Especially Jasmine.
Danny: Jasmine’s the worst but the best at the same time. Is that possible?
Dad: (calling from the next room) Are you on the phone, Danny Boy?
Danny: Yes, but the ceiling isn’t picking up.