William, a homeless man in his forties, is often to be found, should anyone seek him, in the library. He likes it there because it’s full of stories and it’s warm come the embers of the year. He sits there to listen unobserved, write undisturbed and read the papers unimpressed. Today he reads about Black Friday deals and wonders will he ever still afford these things reduced in price as he’s reduced to food banks? He learns that Black Friday is 23rd November when deals can make a difference, though dates are unimportant to a man whose days are all the same. In the background, somewhere beyond the shelves that make his study, he listens to a toddlers’ group singing songs.
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands…
Nearer-by he sees two pensioners whispering hellos.
“How are you?” asks the first.
“Not so good,” replies the second, “my Grandson took his own life last week.”
The first man says nothing, not because he is being rude but because though there are millions on the shelves around him, he can’t find the right words. Awkwardly he searches for inspiration, wishing he could borrow a dictionary to fill the void.
“24 years old,” mournfully adds the second man, “Funeral’s on 23rd. Black Friday.”
And then they move on, so that’s all William hears, a tragic blurb that as a writer gets him wanting the rest of the story but as a human-being wanting to know what’s wrong with this world the singing little children will grow up with?
As they continue to warble “If you’re happy and you know it…” he wonders what drove the 24-year-old to suicide? What made a man with the years stretching out in front of him end his days? What kind of deal did the young man get? What can be done about this state of affairs where the suicide rate seemingly continues to rise?
William is suddenly woken by a member of staff. “I’m afraid you’re not allowed to go to sleep,” she says. Apologising profusely, William gathers his things, shuffles out into the cold ember day and claps his hands, not because he’s happy but because he wants to keep them warm.