He loved this walk but it was around mid-June when it became something magical, the hill rose in front of him, and the sun danced through the leaves, like a million suns, he smiled, humming the song this put into his mind.

The trees leaned towards each other forming a verdant tunnel, vibrant and beckoning. He listened to the app he was using to try and learn dutch, he hoped to connect to an ancient ancestry he didn’t know but felt at the core of his DNA, he had the name but never the words, it had always left him feeling disconnected, a sense of not belonging to any one place.

As he entered the chlorophyll subway he was thrown back in time, another tunnel, but this one did not beckon, it threatened. Two lines of children, his own age, formed the “tunnel of death.” He was forced into it and the children chanted and chucked their favorite insults for him. “Monkey face.” “Jagger lips.”* They kicked, scratched, spat, and punched him as he staggered to the end and lay sprawling and crying on the pavement. He had gone through the knee of his trousers again, the new trousers that his parents couldn’t afford and had already patched up once. He could hear his Mother’s irritated voice. “You just need to be less careless with them.”**

*Years later as he stepped onto the stage in front of a thousand people, proudly wearing his Stones t-shirt he would remember this childhood taunt, and wonder where all the bullies were now, maybe some of them were in the crowd, he thought to himself wryly, “yes I do look a bit like Mick Jagger and I am so fucking pleased about it.”

**When he had his own children, and his own financial worries, the ghost of his mother’s voice took on another tone, irritation filtered through stress and anxiety that the bills wouldn’t get paid at the end of the month.

Copyright John de Gruyther 2022

Excerpt from a longer piece, a work in progress called Twenty Gigs.

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